Shaun Tait: 'As coach, if you use your ears more than your mouth, that serves you well'
The fast-bowling coach, who worked with Pakistan over the last year, talks about Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hasnain, and what went wrong in the England series
I've enjoyed it. It was so exciting. Asia Cup, World Cup, the lead-in to that, I loved that period. Our bowlers were up and ready and they were bowling fast. We had a couple of huge games against India with big crowds and our guys bowling good pace. To me, that's it. That's what I liked as a player - entertainment. As a coach, I like to see the bowlers do that - entertain, run in to bowl fast, take wickets. So that was enjoyable.
I just read an article about Allan Donald [working] with the Bangladesh fast bowlers. He said that he coaches mindset. I'm not gonna put myself in his category, but that's a similar approach, I guess, to what I have. Big on relationships with the guys, but also giving them their space. Not hugely technical unless I really see something that is worth talking about. And then I'll have a conversation with the player if the technical side of things needs to go further. But I'm certainly not going to try and change people. I'm not a by-the book-coach.
It was certainly eye-opening for a lot of people. We knew the way England were going to approach it. We've seen the way they've been playing in recent times. They obviously stepped it up a little bit.
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Can Naseem Shah carry the weight of Pakistan fast bowling expectations?
I don't have any input whatsoever. I would like to see different pitches, and I'm not the only one, but I'm not saying I should have any say in that. We didn't have the attack that people thought we may have gone in with. We lost Haris [Rauf]. We lost Naseem [Shah]. Shaheen [Shah Afridi] was out injured. The team looks a little bit different to what it did maybe nine months ago.
Talking to you right now, I'm probably learning more about them. I don't know enough about cricket wickets to know if they can make these pitches fast-bowling friendly. I don't talk to the curators about whether they can make a wicket better for fast bowlers. I don't think it would matter if I did, to be honest. If I, as a fast-bowling coach, walk up to the curator and say, "Can you please make this wicket fast bowling friendly?" I don't think he's going to do that.
Maybe they can relate to me a little bit because I played and I bowled with pace myself. Certainly not as good as these guys. I played three Test matches, 35 ODIs, but I think they can relate to the fact that I bowled with pace and I liked to entertain. They can warm to that and I can relate to them. That helps. I sort of know what they're going through - not all the time but a lot of the time. I haven't tried to force them to do things that they don't want to do just because I believe in it. Except, I've held them fairly accountable to death bowling, which has been ongoing, and I knew it was going to take quite a while for it to happen.
"There's no way - no way - an express fast bowler can now play all three forms consistently"
Yeah, I think so. I step back from the medical and fitness side a little bit and let those experts work with the fast bowlers. I'm just in the conversation, helping out. So from that point of view, it's been interesting.
It didn't work for me! If you talked to Brett Lee, it might be a different story. It doesn't happen very often, but I have to say this: There's no way - no way - an express fast bowler can now play all three forms consistently. That's for sure.
I don't know. Like I said, I step back from that [medical] side. If you look at the FTP [Future Tours Programme] going forward, it's stacked. That's what I mean when I say there's no way an express bowler can play all forms. But it's certainly opened our eyes up to how polished our management of Shaheen's going to be.
I hate the sports-science subject. I'm not a big analytical coach and I'm not a huge sports-science guy. It's not that I don't believe in it. I just don't know how much you can constantly throw into sports science and expect that these stallions are going to keep going. Every individual is different and that has to be taken into account. For me as a bowling coach, it's taken time to work out every individual and what they need differently. I've got a good grasp of that myself now. My relationship with individuals is quite good, I suppose. I would say sports science is getting better, but that's not my subject.
Those conversations have happened, and I'm asked for my input, but if I knew what causes injuries, I wouldn't have got injured so much myself and I would have played a lot more Test cricket probably. If you get someone that's got a great eye for bowling technique, I'm sure they'll come up with something. There's a six-month process required to change things. There's not a great time to do that because the media, the fans, selectors, want to see players on the park.
You have to start going down that path, which is not easy because you have to then pigeonhole players about whether they'll be Test or white-ball bowlers. The players have to be in that conversation, but definitely, there's got to be some separation. You're also away from home now, even the coaching staff. It's not just physical, it's mental as well. It's definitely got to be looked at.
I think you can't help but look back on your own career a little bit. And everybody's different. You don't necessarily come in and manage or mentor or coach thinking every player is [like yourself]. That'll be unsuccessful. But I certainly think about times from my career and I sometimes mention to players what worked for me. "What do you think, maybe it'll work for you?" I have empathy for them because I know what they're going through a little bit, which helps. So yes, at times you do draw on your own experience.
I don't know if that's why I got hired - maybe it is. But it suits this fast-bowling pack. There's a whole heap of obstacles in the way for cricketers. Whatever those obstacles are, my job is to remove as many of those as I can and make life easier for them. That would be the No. 1 part of the job. And if that's the mindset, then great. I hope the players are enjoying it.
"Being brave at the death is not always going to work out, but when it does, it's such a great feeling for a fast bowler. You've pulled off the last four overs of the game"
Not necessarily. I was in and out of the Australian team quite a bit, so I didn't have huge influences on my bowling. The biggest influence on my bowling was with my team-mates. So as a young guy in the Australian squad, I had Brett Lee, [Glenn] McGrath, [Jason] Gillespie, [Michael] Kasprowicz, but not necessarily coaches, no.
He needs to trust himself more. You can get 20 different opinions about your bowling, but I think he's probably earned the right to trust himself and realise what works for him. He had a fantastic couple of seasons not long ago. I have not sat with him and done a lot of technical work, but I've tried to have a few discussions with him about clearing his mind and just keeping things simple. I know that sounds like a cliché and a bit lazy. He's a good bowler. I think he just needs to get some confidence back.
Possibly. What I tell them is to shut out the noise as much as possible and just concentrate on what you've done in the past that's been really good. It's such a simple approach. With him, I certainly think that's necessary. But he's a smart bloke as well. Smart guys like him are not the easiest to coach because he's smarter than me!
Hasnain has got the ability to bowl proper rapid, but yeah, there's no doubt [there's an air of vulnerability to him]. I mean he went through the whole action thing, so he's now getting used to his body. It was Umar Rasheed [a bowling coach at the National High Performance Centre] who did a lot of work on his action. They're quite tight. He did a lot of work with him, and he's been great.
I've enjoyed this role, and I certainly don't take it for granted. Going forward, I have no idea what the decisions are going to be. I have no clue. I like this job. I love the boys. I love working here and the people of Pakistan. Even travelling to Australia and New Zealand and the Netherlands, the amount of [Pakistan] fans are ridiculous. There's obviously a great following. It's a big thing to be part of. Pakistan's a big team with a great bunch of fast bowlers. I get asked for selfies all the time, much more so than I do in Australia. I probably get abused by Australian supporters more than anyone else!
I don't know. I have weird goals. I'm not overly ambitious, but I could see myself being a head coach one day. But that doesn't mean [only in] international cricket. I don't sit there and go, I want to be with the biggest team in the world and I want to be the head coach. I don't have those overarching goals. I just enjoy the ride as it is.
[Long pause] I won't talk about the pitches anymore, but if they leave some grass on the wicket, that would help a lot. The fact I haven't got a straight answer is probably not a bad thing.
No, I like that. Shaheen's a natural leader. They all are. Even Naseem, he may be a young bloke, but he's got a head on his shoulders that's far above his years. I don't even think they need a great deal of leadership. I think they've got it in them. And they've got charisma. The Asia Cup stood out to me this year, their charisma and presence. I talk to them about presence all the time as a fast bowler. That stood out in the Asia Cup. Everyone was talking about the Pakistani bowling attack, the way Naseem knocked over KL Rahul, the celebration - it all just looked great. And [that too] on debut. The way he bowled was just a guy that was above his years.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000