Pakistan news January 25, 2010

Fountain keen on Pakistan fielding coach role

Julien Fountain, the English coach who has worked with West Indies and Pakistan in the past, has expressed an interest in working with the Pakistan national side again as a specialist fielding coach.

Pakistan's fielding has all but disintegrated on the recent tours to New Zealand and Australia, with the side dropping nearly 30 catches over the course of six Tests; some of them, as in Sydney during the second Test, lost them the match. Captain Mohammad Yousuf and coach Intikhab Alam have repeatedly blamed the domestic system, arguing that the scant attention paid to the discipline in the first-class circuit means players only start to learn about fielding when they come into the national side.

Though they have dismissed the idea that a fielding coach can make a difference, the PCB has refused to rule out the possibility of appointing one after the series. "We will look into all possible areas where we feel there might be a requirement," Wasim Bari, COO PCB, told Cricinfo. "But we will only do so after this tour is over."

Fountain, a former Great Britain Olympic baseball player, and a qualified cricket coach, worked with the late Bob Woolmer and Pakistan briefly during their 2006 tour to England and with the Pakistan A side in 2001. He has also worked with England and recently, the Stanford Superstars.

"Yes [I would be interested in applying] in a specialist capacity as fielding coach," Fountain told Cricinfo. "However, I have had masses of experience in coaching batting and bowling at that level, so can add value to those departments as well. I helped Inzi [Inzamam-ul-Haq], along with lots of other players, with batting in 2006."

During his first stint with the PCB in 2001, Fountain worked with various local coaches throughout the country and he didn't agree that all the blame lay with the first-class system. "It's too easy to simply blame grassroots cricket," Fountain said. "Yes, grassroots is where the players learn their game but these players aspire to the standards set by the guys playing at the top of the game.

I believe the players are coming into the team and are being expected to field well, because other teams field well at that level. That does not address the actual issue of who is actually helping these players with the technical, tactical, physical and mental aspects of fielding.
Julien Fountain

"Coaching back in Pakistan needs to be revitalised so as to encompass these high standards, so that yes when they reach the senior team it's not a surprise. The problem needs addressing at both ends of the spectrum because if you leave the top end without assistance, it may take 5-10 years before you see tangible results. South Africa and Australia produce excellent youth players because they aspire to perform as well as the senior team. Role models get copied for better or for worse."

Pakistan's fielding practice routines have come under scrutiny throughout the Australia tour and a number of observers in Australia felt the methods to be primitive and outdated. "I don't think players are coming into the side and then learning how to field, because that assumes that the problem is being addressed," Fountain said. "I believe the players are coming into the team and are being expected to field well, because other teams field well at that level. That does not address the actual issue of who is actually helping these players with the technical, tactical, physical and mental aspects of fielding.

"Couple this with statistical analysis; who is keeping statistics for this department? How can you ascertain what the problems are if you cannot identify the tiniest fluctuations in performance? Hitting a few catches does not teach a player how to catch; what it does do is make them work out a technique to cope. Coping by definition means they are not moving forward, simply treading water to survive at that level. Who sets the fielding goals for these players and are they tangible and achieveable? As with any coaching, you have to identify the process, not simply the end result."

Fountain is thought to be the first coach in cricket to bring in learnings from baseball. Mike Young is another who has had similar success with the Australian team in particular and began later. Fountain believes cricket can still learn more from baseball. "Taken in the correct context, cricket can learn loads from baseball," Fountain said. "Taken out of context by coaches simply quoting 'They do it in baseball' can do more harm than good. Baseball teaches its fielders correct biomechanics for each skill, correct biomechanics for accurate, powerful throwing, tactical awareness for pre-shot movements and post-shot situations, sliding, diving, relays, backing up, multiple-play scenarios, decision-making, the list is huge."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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