A Tale Of Five Coaches
17 May 2007
By: Richard Dickinson
Going into the 2007 Cricket World Cup, nine Test-playing teams had nine coaches. Two weeks after the end, just two remain in position, with one's future unconfirmed. John Buchanan of Australia had long intended to step down after the competition; Dav Whatmore elected to end his four-year association with Bangladesh; Tom Moody's desire to be closer to his family took him home; Greg Chappell, Bennett King and Duncan Fletcher paid the price for the poor performances of India, West Indies and England; and Bob Woolmer's time with Pakistan came to a shocking end as he was found dead in the team hotel. Aside from this finishing post, the careers of the coaches have, perhaps not surprisingly, taken routes which could scarcely have been more different.
Chappell, one of the greatest batsmen ever produced by Australia, had a somewhat unconventional route into the world of coaching. After taking a serious look at conservative politics, he eventually embraced veganism and became an animal-rights activist. Finally, he ended-up as coach of South Australia, and took a less-than conventional approach to cricketing fitness. "Gymnasiums should be banned," he once said. He preferred to read the works of nutritionists and fitness gurus. In May 2005, he landed arguably the top job in cricket - coach of the Indian national side. There was no honeymoon - on the team's first tour under his stewardship, a walkover in Zimbabwe, he and the then-captain Sourav Ganguly failed to gel, and their differences culminated in a leaked email from Chappell to the BCCI in which he was heavily critical of his captain.
The Indian team's form was indifferent for the next year: some encouraging moments at varying times in both forms of the game, but ultimately disappointment in the final and biggest assignment of his contract: the World Cup. Common was the - perhaps simplistic and maybe even patronising - perception of him as the "straight-talking" Aussie whose strong words were too much for the sensitive Indians. When divisions and cliques in the Indian dressing-room were revealed, his position became untenable. He chose not to seek an extension.
Moody, another Australian, from the generation after Chappell, had a less successful playing career which nonetheless featured two World Cup victories, in 1987 and 1999. His first taste of coaching came at Worcestershire, with whom he had played between 1991 and 1999. Though the team won no silverware during his time as coach, between 2001 and 2005, Moody acquired a high reputation as an up-and-coming coach.
After being linked to the India job eventually given to Chappell, he was appointed Sri Lankan coach in May 2005. The Sri Lankans initially suffered in comparison to the Indians, losing at home to Pakistan and managing just a solitary series victory against serious opposition, over a shocking England side in 2006, between October 2004 and February 2007. However, their Test form perked-up - victories in England and New Zealand ensured honourable tied series, and a 2-0 victory over South Africa was sandwiched in between. And in the World Cup they were comfortably the second-best side in the competition.
Moody, however, has a young family, and elected to leave Sri Lanka after the competition to coach his other "home" side, Western Australia.
A third Australian, Dav Whatmore, had a decidedly less notable playing career, winning Test recognition only due to the Packer schism, but has now played a key part in the rise of two international teams. Whereas he nurtured the Sri Lankans, between 1995 and 1996, from underachievers to World Cup winners, he has overseen a Bangladeshi rise from perennial whipping-boys to a side beginning to look, finally, like a genuine international force. In between, he has taken charge of a Lancashire side which won three one-day trophies in two seasons in 1998 and 1999, and had a second, less notable, spell with the Sri Lankans between 1999 and 2003.
Buchanan, the only Australian to win coaching spurs exclusively at home, achieved his first notable triumph in 1994\95, leading Queensland to their first-ever Sheffield Shield. He did this on the back of an even lesser playing career than Whatmore - seven First-Class matches in one season.
In the summer of 1999\2000, nonetheless, he succeeded Geoff Marsh as Australian coach, taking over a team full of world-class players and which had already dominated most of the world for eight years. His approach was rarely conventional, and did not convince all - Ian Chappell once commented "If I had a son, the last person in the world I would take him to for cricket coaching would be John Buchanan," while dissent within his own team was not unheard of, Shane Warne voicing his dissatisfaction more than once.
Nonetheless, having taken over immediately following a defeat in Sri Lanka and having seen a run of 15 straight victories under his tenure being ended dramatically in India in 2000\01, his team brushed aside all other opposition, and he was credited with plotting revenge in the subcontinent with equal military precision. A similar obsessive campaign followed defeat to England in 2005, and was equally successful in its aims.
Buchanan, of course, also oversaw two of Australia's three successful World Cup campaigns, and in fact never saw his side lose a game in the competition.
Woolmer was different again, and not just in being an Englishman. He achieved a no more than moderate Test career between 1975 and 1981, and participated in two great rebellions, those instigated by Kerry Packer and the South Africans. His first taste of coaching came as early as 1987 with Kent, but it was with Warwickshire from 1991 to 1994 that he acquired his reputation. It was inevitable that he would move to the international scene, but when he went to South Africa he became the first man to coach a national side other than his own. Some were less than happy at the idea: he received one Christmas card calling him a traitor to England. Nonetheless, he took over a powerful side, and while his first assignment, in Pakistan, was a disaster, thereafter his record was impressive: a 73% success-rate in ODIs, and 10 Test series victories out of 15. The 1999 World Cup semi-final elimination at the hands of Australia was a cruel way to finish, and after a short break he returned to Warwickshire for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
In 2004, he was appointed Pakistan coach in succession to Javed Miandad, and won glowing reviews inside and out of the country, both for his results and his patriarchal work, alongside Inzamam-ul-Haq, with a largely young side, which saw the historically volatile and fractious Pakistan dressing-room calmed. In late 2006, however, a series of scandals rocked it: first the Ovalgate issue, then the refusal of Younis Khan to take the captaincy, then the Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif drugs affair, and finally the ignominious World Cup exit at the hands of Ireland. Tragically, that result was to be Woolmer's last, as he died the next day. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unascertained.
Australia under Buchanan:
Tests: P 90 W 69 D 11
ODIs: P 209 W 160 L 46 T 3
India under Chappell
Tests: P 18 W 7 L 4 D 7
ODIs: P 61 W 34 L 27
Sri Lanka under Moody
Tests: P 18 W 10 L 5 D 3
ODIs: P 66 W 37 L 29
Bangladesh under Whatmore:
Tests: P 25 W 1 L 21 D 3
ODIs: P 89 W 33 L 56
Pakistan under Woolmer:
Tests: P 28 W 10 L 11 D 7
ODIs: P 67 W 38 L 29
All ODIs: games played excludes no-results, and incorporate the fact that during the time in question the definition of "ODI team" was altered from the top 11 to the top 16 teams.