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Bob Woolmer

The facilitator

Bob Woolmer speaks about his role in Pakistan's evolution and the changes since he took over

Osman Samiuddin

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In the past Pakistan's growth has always been haphazard, with no real pattern to it. Do you think the case may be different now, after the England Tests?
I'm happy with the way we've batted in all the Test matches and also with the way we've bowled. We've certainly fought hard all the way from Australia, which I think was a turning point. Even when we played in India, where we were given no hope at all, we played all three Test matches pretty well. Then in the West Indies we had a blip again but we played the second Test very well in Jamaica. I think there is a measure of consistency since India.

What do you think were the key aspects that led to the win over England?
I think there were quite a few, which is pleasing. Inzamam's batting was a key factor but the players who batted around him also did very well. In Test matches if you score enough runs you can put the opposition under pressure. I know you need to take 20 wickets in a match to win it but it's always easier if you have 600 on the board. Also the resurgence of Shoaib Akhtar as well as the variety in our bowling attack. We have Rana, Sami, Danish and Shoaib Malik; it's a useful attack if everyone is firing.

What do you think your biggest contribution has been as coach?
I would hope that I have created an environment in which the team enjoys playing and practising their cricket as much as possible. That's probably the main thing but obviously a lot of work has also been put in on an individual basis. Working with certain players on a one-to-one basis; it's a matter of adding up all the little bits really.

You have India coming now. Do you think this series might be different to the last time India visited? Both countries are at different stages now since they last met.
I think it will be a cracking series because India are playing good cricket and we've started doing that as well. It'll be a tough series, a lot will depend on the weather and the pitches but it will be a typical India-Pakistan series.

You've been following their form of late?
Definitely, I have, and I've been very impressed. They've upped the ante in the field and they still have a very strong batting line-up. Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble give them a strong spin department, and Irfan Pathan has certainly grown as a cricketer, in his batting and bowling. We've been watching them closely over the last couple of months.

Shoaib's form, attitude and fitness has provided the attack with a sort of completeness, hasn't it?
He's the quickest bowler in the world and therefore he is an asset in that respect. He certainly will and did give us an edge. I'm not sure about completing the attack but he gives us an edge.

You seem to have gotten more out of players like Afridi, Razzaq and Shoaib Malik - more than others in the past.
I can't comment on what other coaches did before me and you're probably better off asking the players themselves how I have helped them. As I said earlier, I just try and create an environment where people will enjoy playing their cricket and want to get better at what they do. I think with those particular players they enjoy that type of treatment. We have to make sure that people want to get better, and Inzamam has been a big a huge factor in developing that theme. But that is always a theme I have had in any coaching stint I have done.



'I would hope that I have created an environment in which the team enjoys playing and practising their cricket' © Getty Images
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Are you pleased, generally, with the progress Pakistan has made since you've been here?
Well you couldn't get better than last night (when Pakistan beat England by 165 runs in Karachi). We dropped a catch or two but it was a pretty classy performance. From my point of view, I have seen progress in the team and in individual players. Certain players like Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal are progressing brilliantly and a few others are as well. And we still haven't been able to give opportunities to other players who I think can do really well. I'm still fighting the battle for Shoaib Malik to open the innings. I believe he can do the job.

Are you happy with how Pakistan is shaping up for the World Cup?
We have played some good cricket, we've fought back from different situations and there is more belief in the side than at any time. We have a pretty powerful side - if they all fire, it's very difficult to beat them. The two most important things for the World Cup will be to develop a strong bench and also to give opportunities to players during the year so that we aren't shattered by the time the World Cup comes. We have to find ways - sometimes through injuries they will be natural ways - in which to prepare our other bowlers especially. We have Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Mohammad Khalil, Shahid Nazir and Najaf Shah waiting in the wings. That will be a key thing through next year - to give these guys an idea of international cricket.

As an ODI team, what do you think are Pakistan's strengths?
One of the major strengths that has suddenly appeared is Kamran Akmal's ability to open the batting. At the moment we are not using Shoaib Malik, who scored so many runs last year for us. We have to utilise that. There are areas where certain players need to improve their mobility, others need to improve their upper body strength, and we need to practise diving. Our throwing is a lot better now but we need to work on specifics. Just as an example, Mohammad Yousuf - not because he can't throw but because of a lingering shoulder problem which we need to try and get right. I have a list of things - about 30 - which I want to improve and which is a lot. For example, our players like picking up one-handed in the field. It may not be the correct way of doing it but because we like to do it, we must practise it.

How close are you to having a final XI for the World Cup?
I have a good idea and also of the top 20 players I want to take there as well. That's how I work, by planning ahead. The World Cup seems to be a watershed in Pakistan in terms of everyone's expectations every four years. There doesn't seem to be any forward planning after that, which worries me. I think there needs to be planning beyond the World Cup. Only one side wins the World Cup and you can't guarantee that you will win it, just produce a team that is ready to win it and hope they perform in the games that count, which are usually the semi-final and final.

If we produce performances like we did last night, then we have as good a chance as any of the top six of pulling it off. The problem with saying that you'll do well at the World Cup is that it is so far away - though not in terms of preparation and getting people in the right physical and mental state and giving the bench opportunities.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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