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Lessons from Siddons

The former Bangladesh coach instilled mental toughness in his players, but his legacy was blighted by failures towards the end of his term

Abu Choudhury

June 19, 2011

Comments: 8 | Text size: A | A

Jamie Siddons calls the shots in Bangladesh's team huddle, November 28, 2010
Jamie Siddons turned Bangladesh into a professional side © Zimbabwe Cricket
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Jamie Siddons was Bangladesh coach for over three and a half years, and in that time his most significant contribution was perhaps the way in which he changed the mindset of a side who had long been derided for their lack of batting acumen. Under him, Bangladesh's batting improved considerably, with players like Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique and Raqibul Hasan proving, at various times, that they have the gumption and the talent to build an innings.

It is instructive to consider the comments of former players. Chief selector Akram Khan has observed that the current team is far more professional than previous generations, and spinner Enamul Haque Jnr, who played the majority of his internationals under Siddons' predecessor Dav Whatmore, before being recalled in 2009, recently spoke of how Shakib Al Hasan's men are mentally stronger than their predecessors.

Siddons did not have it all his way. Bangladesh endured defeats to Ireland and Netherlands during his tenure, and also failed to reach 100 in one-dayers on four occasions. The most recent of those humiliations occurred on world cricket's biggest stage: in the 2011 World Cup, Siddons' team were first bundled out for 58 by West Indies and then dismissed by South Africa for 78 a few weeks later.

Siddons made his name as a batsman in the unforgiving terrain of Sheffield Shield cricket, and was renowned as a tough cricketer with high professional standards and steely resolve. His most enduring legacy will be the belief he instilled in his players, and the understanding that patience is a greater virtue in building an innings than sheer bravado.

Siddons also managed to convince the Bangladesh Cricket Board of the need for professionalism when developing a fledgling team, and during his term Bangladesh were able to boast, for the first time, a complete contingent of full-time coaches. Siddons' back-room staff comprised a bowling coach - Champaka Ramanayake and later Ian Pont - a strength and conditioning coach, Grant Luden; a fielding coach, Julien Fountain; and occasionally an assistant head coach - Shaun Williams, followed by Khaled Mahmud. For a time the team even benefitted from the services of a sports psychologist. With the notable exception of a spin-bowling specialist, Bangladesh under Siddons came the closest they have to a coaching unit structurally comparable to the ones the likes of India, England and Australia have.

The effect was clear. In addition to looking more at home on the international stage, Bangladesh improved in all three key disciplines during Siddons' tenure. In particular, promising strokemakers like Tamim developed some consistency, and inexperienced fast bowlers like Shafiul Islam and Rubel Hossain received the guidance needed to develop variation and nerve. If Bangladesh are to compete with the world's best, they need to at least speak the same language; under Siddons they began learning it.

Jamie Siddons' Bangladesh record
Format Played Lost Won Team score
Tests 19 16 2 350 or more 2
ODIs 84 53 31 250 or more 14
Twenty20s 8 8 0 150 or more 2

Fast bowling
Bangladesh have always relied heavily on their spinners, and this did not change under Siddons. However, games are rarely won through spin alone, and despite the progress made by the likes of Shafiul and Rubel, Bangladesh urgently need to address their fast-bowling production line. During Siddons' tenure Bangladesh regularly fielded just two seamers in home conditions, allowing the bulk of overs to be delivered by a coterie of spinners (mostly of the left-arm persuasion). It was while on tour, in conditions that favoured seam, that the absence of good fast bowlers was most obvious.

At the start of his reign, Siddons sought out domestic performers with potential. Mahbubul Alam was first favoured, but despite encouraging performances against South Africa, he fell from grace shortly afterwards. Syed Rasel was invariably omitted due to his perceived lack of pace, while Nazmul Hossain was in the mix but failed to cement a place as the preferred back-up.

Against England in 2010, Robiul Islam was rewarded for a fine domestic season with a national call-up. After a promising start against the England Lions, his inexperience was cruelly exposed against Andrew Strauss's men at Lord's, following which he was quickly discarded.

 
 
Siddons' legacy is blighted by some disappointing performances towards the end of his tenure. But to focus on these is to do a disservice to a hardworking and thoughtful coach. He was primarily appointed to address Bangladesh's batting deficiencies, and he did so with relative success
 

There are some exciting fast bowlers emerging, such as the former Under-19 star Kamrul Islam Rabbi and academy bowler Subashis Roy. However, Bangladesh's next coach will need a strategy for managing young fast bowlers to ensure the transition to the national side is smooth and fruitful.

Selection
One of the defining aspects of Siddons' tenure was the way he sought consistency in selection. While a noble aim, this often led to batsmen who were clearly out of sorts being persisted with despite their lack of form. The most notable cases were two of Siddons' favourite pupils: Junaid and Raqibul. Both generally improved under the coach's guidance, but they suffered significant dips in form too. Siddons was reluctant to replace them and frequently said the best cricketers in Bangladesh were already involved in the set-up.

Yet when new players were selected (normally when the coach's hand was forced by injury or by defections to the ICL) they performed admirably. Imrul Kayes and Jahurul Islam were brought into the fold due to their exceptional domestic form, and they did not disappoint on the international stage. The lesson here is that extending the talent pool can be productive. Any future coach should not ignore proven domestic performers when the need arises, despite the limitations of Bangladesh's first-class structure.

Siddons' legacy has been blighted by some disappointing performances towards the end of his tenure. But to focus on these is to do a disservice to a hardworking and thoughtful coach. He was primarily appointed to address Bangladesh's batting deficiencies and did so with relative success. He had his faults and he may yet regret his outspoken nature, selection policies, and lack of sensitivity when dealing with his political masters and former players.

Siddons was not Bangladesh's most high-profile coach; Eddie Barlow, Dav Whatmore and Trevor Chappell all came to Dhaka with bigger reputations. However, history should look kindly upon him. He brought with him a strong work ethic and helped a much maligned cricketing nation earn a degree of credibility in world cricket. His successor, whoever he may be, would do well to emulate those achievements.

Abu Choudhury is a regular contributor to Banglacricket.com. He lives in London

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by RashadBanna on (June 19, 2011, 16:44 GMT)

Jamie did a pretty good job. We improved dramatically in the ODIs after he came here. 31 wins are not a bad return. We won three games in the WC, same as the West Indies. Only if we had batted better in the two games against WI and South Africa, we would have progressed to the Quarters. People quite often forget the work done by Jamie. If we had made the Quarters of the 2011 WC, then everyone would have remembered Jamie fondly.

Posted by Dashgar on (June 19, 2011, 10:02 GMT)

I think what Siddons did best is focus on youth. His entire team was under the age of 30 and you can see these players starting to mature. In 5 years time when the team approaches the prime of their career they could be a far greater power. They still need to address their concerns with fast bowling but other than that they have a team who can compete on the world stage. Remember that they beat England in the world cup and smashed NZ in ODI's recently. 2 years ago those results would have been unheard of. Time will tell for this extremely young team.

Posted by skidmarks on (June 19, 2011, 8:39 GMT)

should help wellington to finally win some games

Posted by hasib9 on (June 19, 2011, 5:17 GMT)

Bangladesh is expected to improve since they are not new to cricket anymore. Young players merging into the team have to battle a lot harder for a spot in the national 11. We are giving too much credits to Siddons here. I think BCB has improved a lot, and the A team as well as the under 19 team are performing quiet well. So BCB, keep up the good work and appoint smart (and of course educated) captains; success is due.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2011, 4:32 GMT)

Nice Read Abu. Will comment on it later when I have some time.

Posted by   on (June 19, 2011, 4:28 GMT)

From what I can tell so far he did a decent job as the coach of Bangladesh. Even though most fans on the internet would tell you otherwise but right now Bangladesh are only capable of beating the minnows regularly and winning against weaker teams like WI/NZ occasionally, But I guess after the abysmal performance in the World cup they now need a new coach.

Posted by Praxis on (June 19, 2011, 3:41 GMT)

Yes, Siddons was pretty much successful in bringing professionalism and improving the batsmen. But one thing that hurt his legacy most is the lack of quality quick bowlers on the side. Mashrafee is still the best seamer we have got, but he is too injury prone. His career is almost finished probably. Shafiul is very talented but I am not very optimistic about Rubel. Guess we will have to wait for the next generation of fast bowlers. Junayed Siddique should be considered as one of his success too, that guy has a lot of potential. Its just sad that a guy like Siddons could not give his all due to petty politics and unfair selection policy of the board. That is not going to change anytime soon. We can only hope that our first class structure gets some massive improvement in near future & the new selection panel shows some sensible decisions. Then again only ideas don't work unless you have got the money & dedication to implement them. Let's just wait & see who is going to be next coach...

Posted by   on (June 19, 2011, 3:21 GMT)

I believe he did a very good job with team. I also think BGD should look for high-profile coach for their boys now.

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