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July 16, 2007

New age

Henry I, the Australian King of Pakistan

Kamran Abbasi
Geoff Lawson after his interview for the role of Pakistan coach, Bhurban, June 18, 2007
 © AFP
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When Bob Woolmer died, the world's media venomously declared that no foreigner would coach Pakistan again. Dr Nasim Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan board, prematurely decided on a local man. But when the shortlist was revealed, it exclusively comprised foreigners--all Australians. Dav Whatmore suffered the fate of a favourite; his enemies conspired to bring about his fall while rumours circulated that Pakistan's players would not like his hard work ethic.

Now, by all accounts, Geoff "Henry" Lawson, has been chosen to wear the crown of thorns. Being a classically tough Australian paceman, he might just relish the pricks he will encounter. Let's hope so. This is a time for optimism and good wishes.

Lawson's great strength is that he has made a success of leading with a positive attitude. Pakistan cricket has been least successful when in its defensive moods before Imran Khan and after Wasim Akram. His advantage over Pakistan's other foreign coaches--and his competitors this time around--is that he has most recently played international cricket. He also lives and breathes the Australian way, which has become the road all other cricket nations now seek.

Problems remain. The language barrier requires an effective strategy; poor communication is the root of much disunity. Lawson is an untried coach at the international level, hence this is as much an experiment for him as it is for Pakistan. Most importantly, the PCB is yet to prove that it can support a professional coach with the required framework, management style, and wisdom.

But Lawson, a qualified optometrist, is familiar with recognising and treating myopia. From a tearaway fast bowler with a long, angular run; he has become a thoughtful and respected commentator on the game. All his statements during the convoluted selection process have demonstrated a well-considered enthusiasm for his new job.

Lawson's first task will be to revive Pakistan for the Twenty20 World Cup, a tournament that Pakistan will be expected to do well in. The longer objectives will be to improve Pakistan's performance in Australia, South Africa, and England, leading to the next World Cup, which has become the benchmark of a coach's success.

But many an enthusiast has been broken by the calamitous nature of Asian cricket. King Henry, for Pakistan's sake, must fare better.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Farookh Khan on (August 13, 2007, 17:06 GMT)

This is really bad choice. Lawson is not what Pakistan needs, the only reason why I think PCB have picked Lawson is that because he is white skin. Are we pakistani that insecure that we hate our own brown skin?

Posted by rext on (July 26, 2007, 8:02 GMT)

Javed Khan is a goose who loves the souns of his own voice! Of course, like any top level coach Geoff Lawson must bring his own team to his role! How can anyone coach and be the boss, as he must be, without support staff who understand his philosophy and share an understanding of his methods and goals? In what other International sport does a new coach not hand select his support staff Javed? And if you tell an Australian he is merely an employee of the PCB as you suggest, what do you think his response will be? For all your verbose pomposity you actually understand very little of human nature, International Sport, or Australia! Give us all a break from your sermons for a while and accept that nobody actually cares what you think!!!

Posted by Awas on (July 25, 2007, 22:47 GMT)

khansahab(A.A.Khan)

Humm…but no, I still don’t agree or perhaps we can agree to disagree.

On the subject of lifestyle, I think we are on common ground here. I have also commented on numerous occasions on this topic. Any lifestyle is personal to each person and that should not come in the way of cricket.

What I don’t agree is the misconception by some that Laswon is feeble compared to Whatmore. I backed that up with comments from cricket personalities who know Lawson and also with Imran’s comments. Briefly the words to describe Lawson were: “aggressive and positive” and “perfect fit”, “tough guy”. Mind you, if you don’t mind me saying, your “easy going” tag is only an opinion without the backing of any evidence.

It wasn’t the case of “players choosing their own coach” as how you construed it. In my first posting, I mentioned the encounter in Ahmadabad and him knowing some of the players in his role as a commentator. We all find we can relate with some people better than others. This is human nature. That seems to me more of a case here than a choice between an “easygoing” one and a tough one.

On “student/teacher” scenario, I can only repeat what I said in my first posting. Pakistan team is not a bunch of juveniles. Do we really need a matron to discipline them?

Whatmore to me was more of an opportunist and more interested in getting re-employed.

Posted by JAVED A. KHAN, MONTREAL, CANADA on (July 25, 2007, 20:22 GMT)

Even before the arrival of their new coach Geoff Lawson, the Pakistan team is preparing hard for the twenty20 World Cup, which is a good sign. The next 12 matches are scheduled in Karachi. I am not sure if the wicket in Karachi is gonna be hard and bouncy like the SA wickets, if not, then its not gonna help the cause much. No matter how hard the team works in the nets or go into drills and fielding sessions there is nothing like a real match that improves and build a player's confidence. The next 12 matches will not only give some confidence to the players but, it will also help them sort out their problems. Shoaib Akhtar is back but, he seems to be giving away too many runs. In the previous two matches, he took 1 for 36 and none for 36 in the alloted 4 overs, which in my view is very expensive. Au contraire, Shahid Afridi has taken 1 for 8, 2 for 24 and 3 for 18 in the last three matches which is very good for a twenty20 match where you have only 4 overs and players are there to hit you out of the ground, especially if you are a leg spinner.

The point to see here is whether Afridi would be playing up in the batting order or they don't want to take any chances. According to Khansahab (who is always anti-Afridi & anti-Shoaib Akhtar mainly 'coz of their life styles) "Afridi only gives a match-winning performance every fifth or sixth match he plays."

By khansahab's assessment and based on his own calculations, if a player is singlehandedly winning the match every 5th or 6th time he plays is not enough. I would like to ask him what are his expectations? Should he be scoring a century in each innings? Creating and breaking world records in every single match he plays? Hitting 'sixes and sevens' or "set on cinque and sice" ? Gimme a break, tell me which other player in terms of percentages has singlehandedly won more matches for their team? For Pakistan there is another guy whom once again, "malheursement", khansahab hates because of his life style and that is Inzamam ul Haq. Inzi too has won so many matches for Pakistan singlehandedly. I have not approved of Inzi's captaincy and his choice of team selection or the batting order that he used to choose. But, as far as his batting prowess is concerned he is one hell of a player Pakistan has produced and of course no one can ignore Javed Miandad the great.

Posted by Muhammad Asif on (July 25, 2007, 14:44 GMT)

Only for the people who are quite gelus about Punjab. Read carefully a few lines from one of our current fast bowlers:

Q; How is it that Pakistan manages to produce a steady stream of fast bowlers? India is not that far away, just across the border, and they seem to struggle. A; India has always produced batsmen and Pakistan have had strong bowling attacks. In Pakistan, especially from Punjab, fast bowlers come through. I don't know what it is about Punjab. But the aggression and physicality you need to be a fast bowler, that's something you see in people from Punjab. Maybe it's the diet plan, what you eat, what you drink. I don't know what it is but they're strong people.

Posted by WASIM SAQIB on (July 25, 2007, 7:25 GMT)

AWAS

We all know that PCB has already appointed Lawson but I don't see any harm in criticizing a bad decision, its true we live in a global world and the word global has become obsolete,but countries only import what they don't have or what they don't produce,you cannot justify importing an inferior product it will only result in waste of resources. Foreign coaches are being appointed primarily because of two reasons:

1 It is assumed that they will bring new technology and computer aided coaching techniques to Pakistan which domestic coaches are not familiar with.

2 Domestic coaches somehow are linked with groupings in the team and it is assumed they are not respected.

Both arguments are baseless,Pakistan have always reached at least the semifinals of the WC under domestic coaches without any fancy coaching techniques.Under the foreign coaches on both occasions we were eliminated in the first round. PCB's decision making is not result oriented so I don't see why we can't criticize it.

It is the duty of the management to control the rogue elements in the team and to eliminate politics in the team if they can't do it then its their fault ou cannot blame the coach for it. BTW under BOB woolmer we witnessed the worst team politics,a lot of young promising players their careers were sacrificed because the foreign coach didn't had the courage to speak against senior players and the PCB management. When Miandad spoke against selectors and the management for not selecting the right team it was considered as politics remember the altercation between Miandad and Aamir Sohail.

The article in daily News is too vague and does not prove anything its true that several sports journalists have written in support of Lawson,that he is aggressive and blah blah blah. But the fact still remains that he does not have any proven International Coaching experience and his appointment was clearly as a result of Player power and Mr Talat Ali's statement who is increasingly becoming a suspicious character as the timing of his statement and the way he released the statement in media is quite suspicious in itself. I agree with Khansahab that pakistan will remain the #3 team in the rankings just based on the existing talent and not because of the dummy coach.

We expect miracles from Miandad which is wrong he was handed a new and inexperienced team and he did improved a lot of players some of them have become an integral part of the team.Can you quote me a few young players who were groomed by BOB woolmer or any player who quoted that his batting or bowling techinque was improved by him.

Posted by Khalid Arif Siddiqui, Jeddah - Saudi Arabia on (July 24, 2007, 23:14 GMT)

Lawsons appointment as the coach is really good because I have always believed that the aggressive nature of Australlians suit the pakistani style. Ours is a good with attacking players and Lawson might find it easy to hone their abilities to bring out the best in them, unlike the Indian who could not benefit the aggressive nature of Greg Chappel.

Now about the support staff, I think the coach has the right to sellect his own team of support staff after all he will be the one who will be answerable so the PCB has taken a right decession in this regard. Now about the batting and bowling coach, I feel that we do not need a bowling coach as Lawson himself was a classic fast bowler so engaging Aqib as a bowling coach may well create a mess up. As regards batting coach, well we may need one who is capable to produce results and not just to fill up the gap and Haroon to me looks unsuitable in this regard. My choice for this job would either be Amir Sohail or Saeed Anwar for they were a class act during their days and Amir in perticular fits very well for this job. He is a no nonsence guy and also is a hard task master and we need some one like that in there.

I think the PCB should re think about the bowling and batting coach(some thing they never do) failing which this will be another excersise in futility.

Pakigreen

Posted by khansahab(A.A.Khan) on (July 24, 2007, 20:57 GMT)

Awas,

Thanks for your message. I understand where you’re coming from but I stick by my original comments. I have come to the conclusion that some of our players, like many individuals that belong to our country of origin, need a taskmaster and discipline freak to correct their discipline and general attitude.

Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi are two matchwinners but Shoaib is only available half the times whereas Afridi only gives a match-winning performance every fifth or sixth match he plays. Afridi has improved as a bowler but Pakistan has not got a shortage of better bowlers than Afridi. You can call Afridi a “bowling all-rounder” to justify his selection in the ODI side but Afridi’s real value to the team comes from clean hitting and making runs in quick time. These two players have not listened to anyone yet to sort their attitude out. Whatmore seemed like the person who could instill some responsibility in them. In any event he would have been more demanding than PCB officials or any other foreign coach. I need to choose my words carefully now but you are probably aware of one of the reservations I have with people like Inzamam, Yousuf and Afridi’s choice of lifestyle in international cricket. In my opinion that choice of lifestyle contributed significantly to the World Cup humiliation we faced. I would have preferred Whatmore to intervene and convince some of these players to get their priorities right as international cricketers. Lawson does not seem to me an individual who can help remedy this problem.

There are three ways for a coach to deal with a problem with a player. Either the coach identifies the problem and adopts the easy going way like Woolmer did, which did not help. Or the coach can identify the problem and leave the matter alone with the player, citing that the player will automatically improve over time. Coaches have done that with our openers and also with Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi, but that has not helped as well. The third way to deal with the situation is to adopt an assertive stance, identify the problem and pressurise the player into sorting his problem out. If the player adopts a disobedient stance in return he should be reprimanded or sacked. Why do we have such a laid back culture in Pakistan? Look at what Greg Chappell did with Ganguly, Ganguly’s short-lived descent damaged his ego but brought him to his senses. The result is that he is now in better form than the other giants of the Indian batting line-up- Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman. Look at coaches around the world; no nonsense is tolerated and players are replaced readily. Now you can’t say that other countries have a better domestic structure so they can get quality players to replace out of form players easily, because we currently DO have a good stock of batsmen (Asim Kamal, Yasir Hameed, Fawad Alam, Misbah, Shahid Yousuf, Babar Naeem etc), bowlers (Shahid Nazir, Anwar Ali, Abdul Rauf, Mohammad Irshad, Najaf Shah, Tahir Khan, Abdur Rehman, Mansoor Amjad) as well as a wicketkeeper (Zulqernain) who can act as able replacements. What is so grand about letting the players choose their coach? Students always prefer easy going and malleable teachers to strict disciplinarians. An easy going teacher may be better than a strict taskmaster at a given time, but in this current context I think they need some toughie to help ameliorate their consistency.

Posted by Nadeem Shafee on (July 24, 2007, 14:07 GMT)

For contract Domicile is a matter.

Once again sorry for Asim Kamal, Khalid Latif, Anwar Ali, Khurrum Manzoor and Fawad Alam.

Nadeem UK

Posted by JAVED A. KHAN, MONTREAL, CANADA on (July 24, 2007, 13:53 GMT)

Lawson & his Paraphernalia.

Dr. Nasim Ashraf in his latest appearance at a press conference snubbed and rejected the questions posed by the media that Haroon Rashid and Aaqib Javed have already been appointed by the Board as the batting and bowling coaches respectively.

He said, "certainly, Lawson will have a big role in selection of the team's new support staff including trainer, physiotherapist and perhaps batting and bowling coaches," Also, that "Lawson shall not be impeded by the PCB in choosing his support staff."

This is ridiculous, because one can understand that perhaps the trainer or the physiotherapist should be of his choice and thats why I have used this word, "paraphernalia". But, to expand his role or to give him the honour of choosing the batting and bowling coaches as well is absolutely preposterous and laughable, because Lawson does not know any of them. So on what basis he is going to recommend the PCB? The PCB should not act like a neuter organization, they must have a body and a spine of their own to stand up to tell Lawson that we shall provide you the following batting and bowling coaches to assist you, c'est ca. This will have a dual edge effect on Lawson:

1. It should not get into his head that he is really being treated like Henry I, the Australian King of Pakistan. After all he is a paid employee and he must be provided with a job description rather than crowning him and giving him a license to kill from the outset.

2. A batting and bowling coach appointed by Lawson's approval and with his nod will not be effective at all. He should be made to understand that he has to work with them rather than working like a boss. The PCB must distance itself from petty coaching matters and leave the job for the respective coaches to work together and gel like a team, it will have a better effect in managing the players as a team and in producing better results, as the local coaches will not be under so much pressure to agree with Lawson in every matter, it will create a balance and check for Lawson, which will be more useful and productive for the team.

The selection of the bowling and batting coaches must be on merit. I hope the rumour of Haroon and Aaqib is just a rumour and not a deliberate ruse from the PCB to see public and media reaction. In my opinion Haroon Rashid does not deserve any post at the national level. He was neither a good batsman nor he has any credentials of coaching at any level. Without any hesitation I can say that ALL of the current Pakistani batsmen already possess better technique than Haroon and are better batsmen than Haroon Rasheed. So, whats the need of keeping a pawn like him in the system? If Haroon needs to satisfy his desire to coach the youngsters, he should go and start an academy like Aaqib.

As regards Aaqib Javed, the reason the PCB wants him there is only to fulfill a requirement, perhaps they know that Aaqib can adapt himself better than Waqar and Wasim. W&W are much superior than Lawson in every respect and they will not accept to work under Lawson. Therefore, the PCB must think twice before appointing a bowling coach, it should not be for name sake only. If they wish to appoint Aaqib Javed, they must do so honorably and it should not be with Lawson's approval so that he doesn't work like a proverbial second fiddle.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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