Home > Interview > ‘I know how the mind ticks in this part of the world’ : Dav Whatmore

‘I know how the mind ticks in this part of the world’ : Dav Whatmore

Dav Whatmore’s last stint as international coach ended on a high, with Bangladesh making a splash in the World Cup. Then, following a period of uncertainty during which he was variously said to be a contender for the national coach’s role in India, West Indies and Pakistan, he was appointed Director of Operations at India’s National Cricket Academy (NCA) – a job he spoke about at length to Cricinfo.

 

“Level 1, 2 and 3 doesn’t necessarily make you a great coach. It’s the body of knowledge, what you do with it, that counts later” Nagraj Gollapudi

How did your appointment come about?
It originated from a conversation I had with Ravi Shastri not long after he was appointed chairman at NCA. He knew what he wanted to do and he had the confidence in me to deliver it, and it moved on fairly quickly from that point on.

What was the challenge in taking up the offer?
It’s another country for me to work in and make a success of. The timing was very good. Immediately after the World Cup I was keen on taking up the Indian coach job, but that didn’t happen. After that I had a good break, having spent a bit of time with the family, so all those factors put together worked out well for me. Job-wise it’s different in the sense it’s not a team, but the important part is you’re working on the development of younger cricketers into being more ready players who can accept the challenge of high levels of cricket. So it’ll be a good little thing for me to have a slight change, with younger guys who’ve got tremendous talent and potential, and for me to help those boys realise their potential and become good players for India.

What’s your role going to be, specifically?
The title is Director, Operations, which means it’s more setting directions, making sure the programme is a good one and applicable to what is required by Indian cricketers – which may be a little bit different to what is required in other countries. So being able to identify what is required and provide it to the players. The BCCI is very keen for NCA to be recognised at a very high level, high enough to eventually to take overseas students – but that’s in the future.

My appointment runs for three years and I will be commencing my work as soon as possible because it’s something that needs to be nutted out and the structured set down as firm as it can possibly be. We need to staff certain positions. We need to give some thought into who the scholarship holders are, if indeed that’s the way the BCCI and the selectors want to go.

Have you in the past been involved with a finishing school?
My first job was with Victoria Institute of Sport, which was way back at the beginning of my coaching career. An institute type of programme is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn to do. I thought it would be easy, but it’s very difficult to understand and structure something over an annual calendar, to plan for the individuals in a group. But the things that I learned in those four years were invaluable, principally in applying in my international career as a coach.

So will it be difficult or easy for you, going the other way, from an international coach to an academy head coach?
There’s always an advantage if you’ve been able to have some sort of success as an international cricket coach. You are going to be working with boys who aspire to reach that level [international]. They would be more than comfortable to work with a person like me who’s had experience at that higher level. These boys are aspiring to get there, so they’re gonna be a little bit like sponges, trying to extract every ounce of information from me and other coaches in a bid for them to bridge the gap.

At the international level the coach gets every possible help from the cricket board to help the team achieve success. That, perhaps, might not be a case at the academy level. How do you aim to cope with that?
You’ve got to make the best of what you’ve got. Take the example of Bangladesh. The indoor cricket centre was very crammed, there were only limited practice wickets, but you just did the best you could. But coming to the NCA, and like I pointed out earlier, the BCCI is really keen to push the academy in a big way.

Peter Moores, the England coach, while applying for the post at the ECB Academy, said, “My whole coaching philosophy is that you get excellence out of people rather than putting it in”. What’s your take on that? What will your own philosophy as director of NCA be?
For me the holistic approach is as good as any. Unless you treat players like human beings, trying to get the best out of them is going to be a little bit difficult, because they are not machines. They are people with emotions and they require a whole range of things rather than just hardcore cricket stuff. So I’m more interested in their overall development as people and not just as cricketers who want to hone their skills to become international players. That last bit is vitally important, but looking at the individual as a whole and trying to improve that person in a whole range of areas outside cricket as well is very important. Things like speech, language, employment outside of cricket are some of the things I’m talking about. The “I don’t care about you as a person but I want to make you the best cricketer” approach will help success as well, but it won’t help you get the most amount of success, because even though you might be a good player skill-wise, you are still part of a group, and a group is a team, and there are lots of team rules you need to absorb which will help that individual melt easier into the environment.

“The NCA needs to work through the year. It then serves the purpose of developing a group of the 20 best young cricketers in India” Leonard Aarons

 

The NCA is not a full-time operating unit. Have you talked to Ravi Shastri about making it a full-time unit?
I haven’t had a clear meeting yet with my seniors, but it needs to work through the year, absolutely. It then serves the purpose of developing a group of the 20 best young cricketers in India in addition to the various age-group players coming in and out. It will also require input to the zonal and state academies if there are any – if not, there will be a good reason to create them soon. And, importantly, you need to catch those cricketers who’ve been omitted from the international team. Where do they go? Where does Munaf Patel or Joginder Sharma go when they are out of the team? They get lost a little bit – one week becomes two, two weeks a month, and we don’t really know what these boys are doing. I see the academy also as a body that catches the ones who are coming down -to help, massage, and keep them ready.

Lack of a proper organisational structure and a head coach have impeded the NCA’s progress. It might be too early, but have you identified a pathway for the re-development?
Firstly, those are your words, not mine.

To have any success you need to have influence over the boys. If a group of Under-15s comes in for six weeks, they are gonna get some good information, but it’s only for a short period of time. They need to go back to their respective zones and continue on the work that we did with them. Or you’ve got a core group of scholarship holders that comes in for four months – now we’ve a lot more time to get involved with them, influence them, provide the information they require in order to get better. So structure-wise there is a need to have short-term scholarship holders and squads. There’s also a good reason to identify a group that goes on for a longer period of time, in order for them to really get the best out of the academy set-up in addition to catch the ones coming down, like I mentioned.

Do you think India needs to have a High Performance Centre that can be the cricket development centre while the academy focuses on player development?
This is a little bit similar to what happens in Australia. I guess what I’m trying to say, more or less, there’s a differentiation between a group that comes in for a four months compared to a group that comes for a month. So, perhaps, the centre of excellence could be dedicated to the group for a longer period of time.

The Australian model has changed so much in the last few years. At one stage it [the academy] was just picking talent from the Under-19s but now we have them picking from the A team, where there are guys who are fringe players – since quite a few of their international players are in their 30s – so there’s a need to sort of fast-track a little more that group of players, whereas if the team is a lot younger, you provide them with more resources for them to come up. So India can take certain things, but they don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

You need to have a core group of coaches that understands your philosophy. Would you like to pick your own team?
I just want decent, good, hardworking people to do it for the right reasons. It doesn’t matter if they are from outside – or there could be some really good locals. We’ve certain disciplines that need to be staffed: areas in skill, areas in strength and conditioning, nutrition, areas in physiotherapy, injury prevention and management, which is very, very important; then there is the area of mental skill. These are the components of performance.

You are aware of the things outside of cricket that influence the running of the game in the subcontinent. But having worked in these parts for long, have you found a way to work things?
There’s no question that I know the way the mind ticks in this part of the world better, and how to react in situations – no question about that. But I’ve to tell you that there’s politics not just in this part of the world, there’s politics everywhere. I know I’ve got the support of a lot of people and I also know little bit more about how to react in certain situations so I’m not bothered too much.

So far the NCA has been recruiting former internationals as consultants. Would you like to continue with that approach?
I would like people on a full-time basis, not those who come in for a month or so. At certain times you can have a special seminar. But generally if you need to have an influence over a group of boys, you need to be there; you can’t just come in and go out. These consultants will be ex-players. It’s an advantage to have played because you’ve a real idea of what is needed at that level. What is important, though, is a person who is very keen and interested to help.

An area of concern has been the lack of specialist, qualified coaches with enough real-life experience. The other part of my question is: do believe in coaching qualifications?
I do believe, but I also believe that Level 1, 2 and 3 doesn’t necessarily make you a great coach. It’s a body of knowledge, what you do with it, that counts later. The other side of the coin is when a person who doesn’t have any qualifications is a good coach. So that’s what makes it difficult to recruit a coach.

Coaches in countries like Australia undergo a long training programme at the state level where they learn a few things, and then they are ready to move to the higher level easily.

A common complaint among trainees who go back after NCA stints is that there are no coaches who can guide them and help them build further on what was taught at the NCA.
The follow-up is very important. I’m very confident there’ll be efforts to make sure that happens. For example, I can see physiotherapists working closely with John Gloster, the national team’s physio, identifying and recruiting and giving responsibilities to boys so that when they leave they have some reference points to continue.

As director of operations, would you at some point of time like to be involved with the Indian team think tank – the national selection panel and national coach?
I don’t think it is avoidable because you are doing service to the country. You are going to work alongside selectors, making important decisions like which young person comes in as a full scholarship holder. You are going to be working with the view of promoting that person to the top level. You are going to be working with a top-level player when he is dropped. It’s inevitable your paths are going to cross. So, yes, there’ll be a need to be involved in some ways from time to time with the national team and the selectors. We are all a family, it’s all about getting on.

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Categories: Interview
  1. December 31, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Hi i am Syed Qalb-e-Muhammad from Karachi-Pakistan and Conguraltes whatmore to appoint a coach of Indian Under 19 Cricket Team for World cup and also wish u a very Happy New Year ………..Best of Luck

  1. October 24, 2007 at 6:33 am
  2. October 24, 2007 at 1:21 pm
  3. October 25, 2007 at 8:22 am

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