Grant Bradburn, the head of high performance coaching in Pakistan wants to see a significant shift in redeveloping approaches for players growing up, emphasising the need for a team-centric approach than a player-centric approach. He was speaking to media on a day he structured a programme for coaches in the country to mentor players, and ingrain a culture that prioritised match-winning performances over those that only served to inflate a player's individual statistics.
Over the last two years, Pakistan has restructured the entire domestic structure and made a major institutional revamp, combining domestic cricket and national academies into one high performance centre. Earlier, the PCB had coach education managers who had been designing the player development program and executing them with relatively little supervision But in the new structure, the PCB changed the title of the role to "head of coaching" giving the job extensive context, making it a programme to reeducate the coaches not only about the technical side of the game but also rethink the approach they took to working with youth and national cricketers.
There is a perception in Pakistan cricket and has often been a talking point about players playing in a way that might work well for them in terms of cement their place in the side, even if it happened to the detriment of the team. Bradburn may have seen this first hand, given he was involved with the national side as fielding coach before being given his role at the High Performance Centre. With a broad overview of Pakistani cricket culture, the former New Zealand cricketer reviewed local coaching methods and now targets Bradburn target the coaches' coaching style as the key to ensuring players develop a keen match sense from a budding age.
"One of the very important elements is game sense," said Bradburn. "Our players have a lot of knowledge and skill but as coaches we must be promoting game sense so the players are versatile when they find themselves in various situations. These are the things we must search for in our selection That's the complexity of selection and coaching and that is what we are trying to get our coaches to work on. We need to measure results by matches won, not individual statistics.
"Every player has their strengths but if we look at one very important difference, what we are promoting now is that our selectors and coaches look at winning performances. No longer are we are so interested in runs, wickets, averages and strike rates as we are in match winning performances. How many times does a player move the game in our favour? It's about playing for the country and for the team and then it's about playing for me and this needs to adopted as our central approach, and coaches need to reflect it."
Historically, Pakistan hasn't been a major feeder of coaches to the cricketing world. Rashid Latif, Kabir Khan and Inzamam ul Haq went onto to take the Afghanistan coaching job at the time the country had Associate status in world cricket, but never quite stayed long enough in the job. Aqib Javed was the head coach of the UAE national side for four years, with the spell including the country's appearances at the 2014 World T20 and the 2015 World Cup.
The current setup in the Pakistan coaching staff comprises entirely of Pakistanis, the first time since 2003 that has been the case. Over the years the PCB hired foreign coaches in one role or the other, avoiding an environment it was feared could feed into internal politics, trust deficits, and infighting that plagued the side in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Besides, the lack of professionally qualified coaches in Pakistan meant local options were limited.
According to Bradburn, there is enough skill and knowledge about cricket in Pakistan to breed local coaches, but it requires a level of expertise that needs working on. "In Pakistan, we are very lucky to have an amazing wealth of cricket experience, but that doesn't necessarily relate to coaching knowledge," he said. "It's my job to help out that wonderful experience ex-cricketers have, and to turn it into coaching expertise too. Coaches don't need to spoonfeed players all the time, but enable them to understand the game and make good decisions at crucial times.
"These cricketers are valuable and they need to provide inspiration to the next generation of players. There are some very experienced cricketers and very passionate people in our coaching system but we need to continue to develop their coaching skills to provide what our player needs. So it's the player who needs to be at the forefront so we need coaches who are determined to allow our players to be as good as they can be not to put a ceiling on them to instruct the players to be only good as they themselves were.
"Developing good relationships and showing them what good coaching is starts and stop with good communication. All of our coaches from top to bottom must be experts in communicating. Sometimes these communication are difficult, but we must get away from our culture of telling our players exactly how they need to play. Our players know how to play and if we have a player-centric approach we need to allow them flourish and be the best in the world."