Dav Whatmore, Sri Lanka-born former Australian cricketer, the current coach of the Kerala Cricket Team, is a man who lets his achievements speak more than words. He won the 1996 World Cup against for his team, helped and his team win the U-18 World Cup in 2008, coached during their golden period (when they stunned India and South Africa in the 2007 World Cup and went on to beat the mighty for the first time)… The list goes on. But ask him about cricket and he’s all opinions and advice. Here he is, telling us about Team India and more…
You have enjoyed a dream run as a coach. Do you enjoy coaching more than playing cricket for Australia?
It is interesting; at certain levels you really enjoy playing because of the success. But during my last days of playing international cricket I wasn’t strong enough mentally, I struggled. So, I enjoyed my career as a coach more, I must say. When you are not that great as a player, and you understand the difficulties associated with it, you pass that on to the players.

How different is it to coach international teams as against a domestic cricket team like Kerala?
When you compare the two, it is different certainly, but not so much in the skills and the game department, because the four-day game is similar to the 5-day Test matches. For, except in the ODIs, the actual game itself doesn’t change much. What does change hugely is the seasonal cricket you play. Internationally, you don’t have seasons, there is a continuum; you have two to three series always lined up. You have different conditions in different countries with home and away matches. In domestic cricket, you have pre-season, in-season and off-season. There are gaps in a 12-month calendar year and that is the main difference. As far as pressure is concerned, obviously, there is more pressure at the international level, domestic cricket also has pressure, but not as much as when you are competing against different nations.

How do you maintain the dressing room, when the team is going through a rough patch?
It is never easy. Everyone is down and they know they have let themselves down. Losing is not a problem, is never really a problem as long as you have given your best shot. But, there are games when you don’t give your best, that’s when it hurts more. We have to reduce the incidence of those situations as far as possible. When you lose a few series on the trot, you need to be realistic and honest; only then can you review properly, the result of those series. You have to take the positives, see how you have performed individually… See whether your career average gone up or how many times have you taken the match till the last day (Test matches). I think that’s the better way to be judged, rather than winning or losing.

Your experience of coaching in IPL….
You take a huge mix of cultures that melts into one point, that’s IPL. When I coached the Knight Riders, I approached it like running a normal international team. I had a good talented group from different nations in my team. I tried really hard to understand the culture to manage these big players and to manage the difference as best as you can. For example someone like Jacques Kallis, 10,000-plus test runs and 300-plus test wickets and you don’t even know he is there in the dressing room — he is so maintenance- free and you have got players who have played way lesser than he has, a bit demanding. It is interesting to experience these huge contrasts in the dressing room.

There have been a couple of instances of ball tampering at international cricket within short intervals. What is your take on that?
As a coach, sometimes you know before it is going to happen in a match, but generally you don’t know. It happens without the knowledge of the coach, when a few players decide to tactically bring something in during a particular session of the match. That area of ball tampering is become more visible now. I too would like to get a bit more clarity on what exactly is ball tampering or what are the substances that are allowed on the field. Over the period of years, players have been using their saliva to shine the ball, though I didn’t like it, I chewed gum and put saliva on the ball to keep the shine. It is an interesting and grey area at the moment. There are people who, regardless of what happens on the field, blame the coach, just because he is the coach. Sometimes, I understand their views, but it is also really unfair to blame a person who was never really part of it.

The introduction of two new balls in the ODIs has been a nightmare for bowlers and has taken reverse swing out of the equation, say experts. Statistics show the average scoring rate has gone up after that? What do you think?
The reason they brought in two new balls is because the ball was getting too soft towards the end of the game. Now, people are saying that the ball doesn’t get scuffed up enough with the improvement of grounds all over the world. When you have one ball it aids reverse swing and brings the spinners into play. To be honest, I am impartial, I see pros and cons of both and I want to see an even contest. You should also notice that we have some incredible batsmen at the moment, who make batting look a lot easier that what it is. The Indian and English teams have been scoring so much more because of the batsmen they have. Recently, Amelia Kerr from New Zealand (scored 232* highest individual score by woman in ODIs), she absolutely whacked the ball all over the park. Look at the range of shots these batsmen are playing, no one would have ever thought of them. But, when it seems to be going one side, we may probably try one ball and see how it goes.

About the increase in fitness levels and does it impact a few good players who are not that fit….
I am a believer that there should be a minimum, there is no question about it. With the frequency of matches the players play these days, the requirement to stay physically fit is huge. Once you start being unfit, you let the team down in spite of being a good player. Having said that, I think you need to be capable to manage the players who have a great degree of skill, who tend to take time to get into a difficult fitness regime at some point of the year. Most of them would get into it, but a very few take a little more time and need special attention.

Will Virat Kohli’s captaincy be challenged in the upcoming test series overseas?
I think as a captain you are always learning. Leading by example physically, as a fielder and a batsman, he ticks all the boxes. Making shrewd decisions on the field, he needs assistance from a few players. He is a democratic leader, contrary to what a few think; he listens to all the decent heads around him before taking a decision. Touring a country as a captain is the biggest test for any cricketer, not just performing at home. As a batsman, bowler and a captain you need to perform in different conditions, only then will you get the tag of a great cricketer. He is on the way, this (overseas series lined up) would definitely be an indicator of his performance. But then, he has great support from the team and the support staff.
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