Whatmore: There is no magic wand, I try to create a positive environment

Whatmore was in charge of the Kerala Ranji Trophy side for the last three seasons, leading it to the semifinals in 2018-19.

Dav Whatmore

After coaching the Kerala Ranji Trophy team over the last few years, Dav Whatmore has taken charge of Baroda for the coming season.   -  M. Vedhan

From guiding Sri Lanka to its only World Cup title in 1996 to helping the Virat Kohli-led India under-19 team to become world champion in 2008, Dav Whatmore has achieved a fair amount of success in his long and illustrious coaching career.

The Australian is no stranger to India’s domestic cricket scene either. He was in charge of the Kerala Ranji Trophy side for the last three seasons, leading it to the semifinals in 2018-19.

As another season beckons, Whatmore takes up a new assignment as head coach and cricket director with Baroda. And the 66-year-old is ready for the new challenge.

“I am very pleased and happy to have the opportunity to work with a state association that has a rich history. I can’t wait to begin and (be ready) with another challenge in my career,” Whatmore told Sportstar from Melbourne.

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Whatmore’s contract is for two years initially, and his job will revolve around working with the senior team and nurturing talent at the under-19 and -23 levels.

But in the two-year term, what will be his strategy to bring out newer talent at the age-group levels? “My main job is to get the first-class team up and running and also be involved with putting in some systems to ensure that young cricketers come out right from the grassroots – schools, districts – (That) there is a proper pathway. I will be assisting the CEO (chief executive officer) in that,” Whatmore said.

Despite having talented players in its ranks, Baroda had a poor outing in the Ranji Trophy last season and won just two matches. With coach Sanath Kumar suffering a heart attack in the middle of the season, the team struggled. And taking over from Kumar this season, Whatmore understands that he will face challenges initially.

A lot of youngsters have come up under Whatmore’s coaching, and that’s what he’s aiming for with Baroda as well. “I have got no magic wand, but I try to create a positive and healthy environment for performance. There is little bit of technique and fitness improvement and tactical understanding. It’s, after all, not my game; it’s their game. So, they need to be given the freedom to go out there and work hard. There is no real magic wand,” he said.

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Once the lockdown because of the global coronavirus pandemic ends and life returns to normal, Whatmore plans to be in Baroda for months to take stock of things and prepare for the season. But in these times, when there is no sporting activity, how can the players stay motivated?

“You just got to abide by the rules. The rule says that you got to create a distance. That’s what it is. But there is no reason why the players cannot be active, keeping levels of fitness. They can do what they can do and try and be as ready as they can possibly be,” Whatmore said, adding: “But it’s not easy, I can understand. I am struggling a bit myself, sometimes.”

After parting ways with Kerala, Whatmore had a few other offers, too. But with travel restrictions in place, he had to fly back home. His manager, Kaustuv Lahiri, was in negotiations with the Baroda Cricket Association and sealed the deal. Initially, the BCA had shortlisted Whatmore, Chandrakant Pandit and Sulakshan Kulkarni for the coach’s job. But with Pandit taking charge of Madhya Pradesh, the Baroda association roped in Whatmore – a development this publication reported last week.

After accepting the offer, Whatmore spoke to BCA officials, including CEO Shishir Hattangadi, who is also a former Bombay Ranji Trophy captain.

In the past, Whatmore has worked with teams like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, besides the Kerala Ranji Trophy team and the National Cricket Academy. In his new role, Whatmore hopes to maintain an impressive track record.

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