'The India coaching job is not out of the picture'
What brings you and the West Australian team to Malaysia?
Over the past couple of years, we've slowly built a strong relationship with the Malaysian Cricket Association in sharing our expertise in cricket education. They've been keen for us to come up here and use their facilities. This year, the Champions League prevented our usual pre-season trip to India, so as an alternative option, we've used the terrific facilities in Malaysia.
As well as India and Australia, you've also coached successfully in England
and Sri Lanka. How do you compare coaching to playing?
I never thought I'd get into coaching. A year out of retirement, I got a couple of phone calls within the same week to get back, involved with cricket through coaching. I haven't really looked back since then. There's nothing like playing and the personal satisfaction of scoring runs or taking wickets, but the positive thing about coaching is that you've got 11 chances to do well. You've got 11 players out there and someone may pull out something special on that day, which is quite rewarding as a coach, particularly if it's something you've been working on with a player.
How's it been working with all the different nationalities and personalities
in the Kings XI Punjab?
It's fantastic. It's a great environment in which to work and a learning experience for me. You've got two extremes: you've got a lot of inexperience in local, domestic Indian players, plus you've got a lot of great experience with your international players, and we're fortunate at Kings XI Punjab to have the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth.
What can you share from inside the Kings XI Punjab dressing room, with all
those larger-than-life characters coming together in the one team?
When I first turned up, I had concerns about how I was going to gel these players together. They'd only, at best, played against each other on the international stage. It's amazing though. When you marry the passion of the game and people who love it into one team it's amazing how quick a bond is formed. There's a lot of good friendships that have developed over the first two seasons at Kings XI. Brett Lee has been terrific for our franchise. Not only does he give 150% on the field, but off the field he's like the glue of the team. He's very good at getting all the different cultures together. He does that through entertainment - he plays the guitar, he sings. When we have dinners together or have a few drinks, within five or 10 minutes the guitar comes out and it just brings everyone together. We've got a pretty special bond there.
How do you look back at being coach of Sri Lanka when they faced Australia
in the 2007 World Cup final?
It was a great honour. I was lucky enough to play in a few World Cups, and to be there as a coach was special. It would have been nice to have had a different result, but Australia, and in particular Adam Gilchrist, had different ideas on that day. But it was a great achievement by the Sri Lankan team to reach that final: there was a lot of hard work and a lot of planning over two years to get us there.
What were the highlights of your many successful years at Worcestershire, as
player, coach and director of cricket?
Probably a few of the Lords' finals we played in, having a couple of victories along the way. To play alongside Ian Botham was very special because he was one of the game's greatest players. To stand at the other end from Graeme Hick, who was a phenomenal run-scorer over a number of years was a great pleasure. Also, I was fortunate enough to be given the honour of captaining the county for a few years, which was also a great experience.
You've been retired as a player for almost a decade now. How do you reflect
now on your on-field career?
I was proud that I represented my country and honoured that I was able to meet so many good people in the game. I've formed many great friendships over the years as a player. The runs and the wickets are all great, but the greatest highlights are the victories. I was very fortunate, both internationally and domestically, to play in many successful sides: World Cup wins in 1987 and 1999, many Sheffield Shield wins for Western Australia, and one-day wins for both Worcestershire and Western Australia. Many sportsmen go through their careers without winning anything. I'd hate to image how hollow that feeling would be.
Where do you rate the World Cup wins in your career achievements?
They're pretty special. But I'm never one who gloats over personal achievements. It's more collective things that I tend to rate higher. Of course it's nice to have played alongside Steve Waugh in some World Cup wins but it's the team that's always stood out to me as being the most important thing.
You played only eight Tests for Australia before you effectively became a
one-day specialist. What do you consider to be the highlight of your Test career?
I think probably scoring a couple of Test hundreds. I played only five Test matches in Australia, and to score two hundreds was something I feel proud of. Just to have the opportunity to play and have a baggy green is great. You grow up as a kid with that dream and for that dream to come true is pretty special. I would have loved to have played another 50-plus Test matches but it wasn't to be. I was brought up in an exceptional era of Australian cricket, where there wasn't a lot of room to move in the top six, and my opportunities really only came because of someone's misfortune, whether it be injury or a rare dip in form.
You spent more than four years out of the Australian one-day side before
breaking back in at the age of 31 in 1996. How much of a surprise was the
so-called Indian summer of your career?
It was an interesting four years being out of the side. I think I was playing pretty good cricket during that period, but obviously the Australian selectors thought their requirements were a little bit different than what I could offer. When Steve Waugh and Geoff Marsh, the coach at the time, were plotting the 1999 World Cup, they thought that I could be an important piece to the puzzle in that campaign. They managed to convince everyone else and I found myself on the plane to England for that 1999 World Cup.
How much did you have to reinvent yourself as a player when you faced the
prospect of your international career being over?
I started my international career for Australia in 1987 as a batsman. I bowled a bit but was only thrown the ball when it was 79 overs old and someone had to bowl a beaten-up ball. In the 1999 World Cup I was really picked more for my bowling and then my batting. I batted 6 or 7 and was relied upon to bowl 10 overs. And I was offering the team a little bit more from a leadership perspective because I was a mature player at that stage, having captained both in England and Australia for a number of years.
To me, it was the twilight of my career but I was still playing pretty good cricket at the time. I was fit but I realised that the fire was slowly starting to burn out, so it was a swansong, really: a chance to throw everything at it. We had to, at the end, because we didn't hit our stride in the early games of that World Cup and had to win seven games in a row to be world champions, which we managed to do.
In the end, your international career stretched more than a dozen years and
straddled many different interesting eras of Australian cricket. How do you
remember playing with the likes of David Boon and Geoff Marsh under Allan Border in 1987 - to sharing the dressing room with a young Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds in 1999?
It's one of the pleasures of having longevity that you get the chance to play with a variety of players. When you first start, you're very young and there's plenty who are very senior to you. But before you know it, it flips on its head and you're the very senior one with the grey hairs starting to poke through and having the young players looking up to you, looking for direction and leadership.
Who were the greatest players you played with and against?
Wasim Akram was one of the best opponents that I came across. I played against him in international cricket a bit and in county cricket a lot when he was at Lancashire. Allan Donald was another who was a very challenging opponent. I got the back-end of a few of the West Indian players - Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall - who were exceptional. Among guys that I played with: Steve Waugh was one of the toughest nuts you'd come across, just mentally fearsome and someone that you can't help but admire and do anything for as a member of his team. And then you've got the special, gifted players like Adam Gilchrist, who's arguably the best-ever keeper-batsman. He could turn a game - even a five-day Test match - in a half hour. I was fortunate enough to be part of the beginning of Shane Warne's career in Test cricket. He's just a match-winner: the bigger the stage, the bigger the performance.
When Adam Gilchrist moved across to Western Australia in his early 20s,
what inkling did you have that he would become a special player?
He always captured me as someone who had the talent and free spirit as a player. I remember in that first season he was doing things that you wouldn't expect a lot of young players to do. If the first ball was a half-volley, he'd smack it for four, no hesitation. If it was the last ball of the day and it was short and wide, he'd cut it for four. He just played with a rare freedom and a rare spirit of confidence and self-belief, and he never looked back.
In your latter years, when you started to have back problems, how much did
you rely on your mental skills than your physical ability?
Oh, 100%. That's what gets you over the line in the second part of your career: your mental strength and the knowledge you've managed to pick up over the years. A lot of players have the skills but it's the ones who've managed to develop the mental side of their game and apply themselves consistently who have longevity.
You were in line for the India coaching job a couple of times. How disappointed were you that it never panned out?
It's not out of the picture. I'm only 43 years old now. In a way it was sort of a blessing that I had the opportunity to coach Sri Lanka first because the Indian job is a very, very big job. Now that I've had more experience, including the two years in international coaching, if that opportunity came in time, whether it would be five or 10 years down the track, I'd be better prepared for it. There are plenty of interesting coaching jobs out there. I'm very fortunate to have two very exciting ones - domestically in Australia and in the IPL job - so there's plenty that keeps me motivated and enjoying what I do.
How much longer do you see yourself being involved in cricket for?
I don't look too far ahead. I'm not one of these people who has a long-term goal or vision. As long as I'm enjoying what I'm doing and that fire is burning inside, I'll be involved in cricket. I'm also someone who could see myself moving back into business at some stage, but whether that's in five, 10, 15 years, who knows? I'm very happy with where I'm at, enjoying what I'm doing and very fortunate to have some exciting challenges in front of me.
Jason Dasey is sports host for Asian network Astro and former anchor of four international editions of ESPN SportsCenter