Former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson has finally been named as Pakistan cricket coach. Lawson who has played 46 Test matches and 79 ODIs for Australia is the eighth coach since 1999 of the national side while before him two foreigners -- Richard Pybus and Bob Woolmer -- have coached the Pakistan team.
As expected, mixed reactions followed the announcement, therefore we need to look at every possible aspect of the appointment. After the World Cup debacle, the job was advertised with challenging credentials, therefore among the short listed candidates, Dav Whatmore would have been chosen as he coached Sri Lanka to World Cup victory in 1996 and steered Bangladesh to the Super Eights stage of the World Cup this year, but he was snubbed, and Lawson with no international exposure, having only coached a state side in Australia was chosen.
Why was the decision not taken on merit as claimed while advertising the job? The World knows that Whatmore knows sub continental teams better than Lawson or the other short listed fellow, Richard Done.
Two possible reasons were reported, one -- former Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga had a word with Talat Ali which led to the decision of overlooking Whatmore. Since the Chairman PCB has negated this report, therefore, the other reported reason should be considered as valid that some senior players were of the view that Lawson would be a better choice, hence he was selected. If the PCB was to end up listening to the players then why did they advertise the job in the first place and waited for so long? Players could have been consulted earlier as well, but it's better late than never.
After going through the record of Geoff Lawson, it is quite obvious that his skill lies in fast bowling hence he would be beneficial for the fast bowlers only. Pakistan have had wonderful pace bowlers over the years and this is a reality that we lost most of the matches because of our batting not bowling, therefore, it goes without saying that a batting coach should have been preferred.
I know, the PCB Chief has said that a batting coach would also be hired. The PCB has money to burn I believe, otherwise these heavy investments would not have been planned (Lawson to get 80,000 pounds per year along with other perks). If a bowling coach has to be hired then why Waqar Younis was shown the door in the past.
In January this year, Waqar reportedly resigned in protest at only being asked on the South Africa tour for the Tests and not ODIs. This was the kind of respect a local and able coach got from the cricket management while on the other hand the services offer to foreigners is there to be seen. The statement from the board claimed that "The management feels that Waqar had very little contribution in the past as far as the shorter version of the game is concerned", well one can only laugh at this because Waqar served as the bowling coach from March 2006 to January 2007, and after going through the record it is quite evident that our fast bowlers were pretty disciplined as compared to the pre-Waqar era.
During the period under Waqar, Pakistan played 18 ODIs in total out of which two matches were rained out. In the remaining 16 matches our bowlers delivered only 44 no-balls (2.75 no-balls per match). This performance clearly shows their discipline and of course the dedication of the bowling coach. Therefore the claim of the PCB management regarding Waqar's performance was simply baseless.
I am personally not at all in favour of a heavy duty coach at the top level because if one has flaws after even qualifying for a national side then it would be very hard to get rid of them. What a coach can do with people having played over one hundred matches yet faulty in their techniques?
I have written it earlier and would like to reiterate that just before the final stage of representing the national squad a penultimate phase should be introduced for which young players should be selected and get trained under qualified coaches. For this stage I believe, qualified (foreign or local) coaches should be hired. Also, by doing so, we will always have a backup of injured or out-of-form players.
What went wrong in the recent World Cup? We actually had lost half the battle before even playing our first match, because Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Asif, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi were not available and we did not have quality players to back them up. Now Inzamam is about to go, who will replace him? This is a big question and no one can answer it, because simply we do not have a replacement for the great Inzi, thanks to our set-up. Coach, no coach, local coach or foreign coach, no one can alone turn the tables.
In the end, I would like to touch upon the issue of preferring foreign coaches over local. Two schools of thought are there, and one says foreigners are good managers. First of all we are looking for a coach not a manager and how can a person manage a bunch where the majority cannot even communicate with him due to the language barrier.
Recently, after Bob Woolmer's death, Talat Ali has been managing the team, and despite being not a foreigner, he did a relatively good job. Yes, a controversy reported on the issue of naming Salman Butt as vice-captain, but it was amicably managed. The second school of thought believes that a local fellow will politicise matters among team mates.
My question to them is that in which department of Pakistan, politics is not played? Therefore it's an endless debate. We should stick to the basics and strive for the betterment of the cricket structure in the country which will surely lead to a better combination at the top and subsequently a better and consistence performance.