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Do foreign coaches make a difference?

16 December, 2013

KARACHI: As Pakistan enters the field for its last series under Dav Whatmore, one wonders if the 'qualified foreign coach' made any difference at all.

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His list of critics only swelled with the passage of time and as his two-year tenure nears its end, the team manager for the Sri Lanka series, including two Twenty20s, three ODIs and three Tests, Moin Khan, renewed an appeal for a local coach for the national team before flying out to the UAE with the Australian breathing down his neck.

"Even before I started my stint as manager of the national team I had maintained that we have great players who can deliver [as coach] and even now I maintain that a Pakistani [coach] would be the best option for the national team," he said.

Moin and Whatmore would be the nucleus of the team management which hopes to tame the Lankans, Good luck Pakistan!

Whatmore was handed the reins of the team after his predecessor had coached the Test team to a  historic 3-0 series whitewash against England, but the Pakistan Cricket Board wanted 'more' and the then chairman, Zaka Ashraf, on the recommendation of the coach selection committee roped in the Aussie.

Mohsin Khan's record, despite surrendering the ODI and Twenty20 series after overwhelming the English team in the longest format, stood at an enviable six wins out of the eight Tests (no defeats) played during the 2011-12 season.

Whatmore had decent credentials to back him. He was a qualified coach, had helped Sri Lanka win their maiden World Cup and had done okay with Bangladesh.

His stint with Indian Premier League's Kolkata Knight Riders was a successful one too but the age-old saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" was one that the cricket board had seemingly forgotten. The Whatmore venture started with a win in the Asia Cup, but the team soon lost direction succumbing to defeat in the ODI and Test series against Sri Lanka at their own turf.

The limited-overs 'home' series against Australia was a mixed bag while the Green Caps fared well in the World T20 before bowing out to hosts Sri Lanka in the semi-finals.

Pakistan won the ODI series in India, but the acid test of Whatmore's coaching was a disaster to say the least.

Historically, the national team had fared poorly in Australia and South Africa and no one expected miracles in the Test series, then again no one expected a tame 0-3 debacle under the qualified coach.

In exactly a year Pakistan under the same captain Misbahul Haq but a different coach had plummeted from the highs of whitewashing the top-ranked team to the lows of being whitewashed by another top-ranked side.

No one knows how the team would have fared under Mohsin in South Africa but after the Whatmore experience one knows for sure that foreign coaches have done nothing to improve Pakistan's poor record in away Tests in Australia and South Africa (Whatmore, Richard Pybus, Bob Woolmer between them have managed only one Test win in tours to the two countries)

The record of Whatmore in Tests he coached Pakistan in at present stands at an abysmal 10 played, two won, two drawn, six lost.

The defeats include the humiliation in Harare against Zimbabwe last September. Interestingly Whatmore believes his results are satisfactory. "I am very satisfied. The most relieving feeling for me is that I continued to give a 100% and gave all my efforts as the coach," he told Our Sources before embarking on Sri Lanka tour with the men in green.

His satisfaction is perhaps drawn from a few ODI and T20 series wins. He seems to have forgotten the Champions Trophy debacle in England. Even if we put aside the rollercoaster limited-overs ride, Test cricket, the yardstick of judging a team, is where Pakistan needed so much more from Whatmore!  Now the Whatmore swansong is upon us, three Tests more for Whatmore to finally prove his worth.