Pakistan's coach controversy October 24, 2008

Lawson sacked as Pakistan coach


On the way out: Geoff Lawson has been given the marching orders by the new-look Pakistan board © AFP
 

Geoff Lawson has been removed as Pakistan coach, just days after it was announced that he would see out the rest of his contract, ending in August 2009. The announcement came shortly after a meeting he had with PCB chief Ijaz Butt - responsible for the recent public flip-flops on the coach's future - at which Lawson was told a decision would be conveyed to him by Saturday, following discussions within the board.

"Geoff Lawson has been relieved of his duties as coach of Pakistan," Raza Rashid, PCB spokesman, said. "He will be paid three months' salary as agreed in his contract in case of termination." The contract of David Dwyer, the trainer Lawson brought with him, has not been ended though it is understood that he is reluctant to stay without Lawson.

Surprisingly, Lawson is believed to have heard of the decision after it became public. In fact, as news emerged, Lawson was on his way to train with some Pakistan players. "I have heard nothing yet from them," Lawson told Cricinfo at the time. Later, he confirmed receiving a letter from the board informing him of the decision.

A PCB official denied this, claiming Lawson "had been informed by the board" when the decision was made public. Earlier in the afternoon Lawson had met Butt for the first time since the former Test player took over as chairman. It is believed Lawson's performances as a coach weren't discussed at the meeting.

It brings to an end an uncertain experiment, which began in July 2007 when Lawson beat the much-fancied Dav Whatmore to succeed Bob Woolmer as Pakistan's coach. At the time it was widely thought a number of players in the national side had preferred Lawson, possibly because they were wary of Whatmore's tougher attitude.

The start was promising, as Pakistan reached the final of the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa in September last year. But from then on problems emerged. A new, unsettled team under Shoaib Malik, an inexperienced captain, lost vital series against South Africa at home and India away. Pakistan's frontline fast bowlers, expected to prosper under a former fast bowler, were plagued by injuries, and the losses only added to the pressure on the new pair of Lawson and Malik.

It didn't help that 2008, Lawson's first full year in charge, was a disturbingly barren one for Pakistan. Australia pulled out of a full tour, the Champions Trophy was postponed and Pakistan was left to feed off minnows from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The opportunity to mould a team never arose, so that by the time Pakistan lost in the final of a Twenty20 tournament in Toronto, the push to remove Lawson, with a new administration in place, was higher than ever before.

Matters weren't helped by the increasingly tetchy relationship with the local media, where rarely an opportunity went by from either side to have a dig at the other, as well as the previous selection committee, with whom Lawson had several run-ins. Ultimately he was only in charge for 15 months and five Tests.

Though it is early still, replacement names have been predictably bandied about, with Javed Miandad once again apparently in contention. Miandad, along with Aamir Sohail, have met board officials in recent days, though Miandad is reported to be in the running for a position in the governing board.

Intikhab Alam is also in the running, at least in the short term. "Inti might go along with the team to the Abu Dhabi series in the capacity of coach," a board official said. "Nothing is certain yet but a number of options are being looked at, including looking at the whole question of whether we need a coach as such."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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