Australiaâ€™s Dav Whatmore took over this week as Pakistanâ€™s new cricket coach. And when looking for a comparable job in American sports, the job as manager of Major League Baseballâ€™s Boston Red Sox comes to mind. Boston was a supremely talented team last season, but they suffered an historic collapse due to internal team strife. Similarly, Pakistan boasts perhaps the largest stockpile of cricket talent in the world, especially in the bowler department. But while chicken and beer was part of downfall of the Bostonians who play in front of Fenway Parkâ€™s green monster, game-fixing, steroids, and in-fighting have been the scourges of Pakistanâ€™s men in green.
Pakistanâ€™s cricketing ups and downs are infamous. Last monthâ€™s Test whitewash of England was followed by a flop in the limited overs series, losing 4-0 in the one-day games and 2-1 in the Twenty20s. And while a change in management regime away from Theo Epstein is hoped to change Bostonâ€™s fortunes, frequent changes in the Pakistan Cricket Board and sackings of captains and coaches have halted Pakistanâ€™s on-field progress.
But Sundayâ€™s appointment of Whatmore â€”who guided Sri Lanka to World Cup victory in 1996 â€”could change all that. Former captain and ex-coach Intikhab Alam is pinning his hopes on Whatmore. â€œI think the missing â€˜moreâ€™ in Pakistan cricket will be achieved through Whatmore,â€ Alam told AFP. â€œWith his perfect record in the past I hope he will enhance the teamâ€™s performance, though it will take some time.â€
The 57-year-old, who played seven Tests and one limited over international for Australia, also guided Bangladesh to the second round of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean where they beat giants India. Alam said a lot will depend on the players, some of whom resisted Whatmoreâ€™s appointment in 2007 when an inexperienced Geoff Lawson was chosen instead. â€œIt is the coachâ€™s responsibility to bring more consistency, which is missing, but at the end of the day it is important players also do their best and listen to the coach,â€ said Alam.
Pakistan has also signed Julian Fountain as fielding coach, which Alam believes will help in their weakest area. â€œFountain comes with rich experience and has served England, the West Indies and Bangladesh so I hope with him around, much-needed improvement in fielding will also come about,â€ said Alam, coach of Pakistanâ€™s World Cup-winning team in 1992.
Another former captain, Aamir Sohail, also believes Whatmore can help the team overcome recent mistakes, even if the challenge is huge. â€œI wish him the best of luck in his endeavours and hope that he will take notice of our recent mistakes in one-day cricket,â€ said Sohail. â€œWhen you take responsibility in international cricket you are bound to face pressure but you need to be objective and I hope everyone rallies behind him in support to achieve the targets,â€ he said.
Whatmore himself on Sunday acknowledged the enormity of the task ahead. â€œWe want to be consistent. We donâ€™t want peaks and troughs,â€ Whatmore said. â€œWe want the team to be at a good level for a long period. When weâ€™re brilliant there will be peaks, but we want to still perform and win games when weâ€™re not brilliant. We want to eliminate the bad performances. But you canâ€™t do that by focusing on the result. You have to focus on the process.â€
Whatmoreâ€™s first task is the four-nation Asia Cup in Dhaka later this month, an event that includes a high-profile match against India on March 18. A positive performance will give a first hint of Whatmore can bring to Pakistan cricket, but defeat will bring immediate pressure from fans and media. But unlike the Boston clubhouse, maybe some pakodas and Pakola can help Whatmoreâ€™s clubhouse come together and play in unison.