Dav Whatmore: India’s first class cricket as good as any other country

Former Kerala coach Dav Whatmore might not be away from the Ranji Trophy for long as he feels that the competition features exciting talents.

Dav Whatmore guided Kerala to its first-ever Ranji Trophy semifinal in 2018.   -  FILE PHOTO/ AKHILESH KUMAR

Dav Whatmore is one of cricket’s most successful coaches. He guided Sri Lanka to the 1996 World Cup title and played a key role in turning Bangladesh into a competitive outfit.

In his second innings as a coach, he took up the offer to train Kerala three years ago. He worked wonders, yet again.

In his first season, he took Kerala to the knockout stage for the first time. The following year, the team did even better, reaching the semifinals.

This past season, though, was disappointing, as Kerala was relegated, finishing 17th among the 18 teams that made up the two top groups.

Whatmore has also worked as a coach in English county cricket. So he has seen the First Class cricket, from close quarters, in Australia, England, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

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How does he rate the first class cricket in India?

“It is as good as in any country, including Australia and England,” Whatmore told Sportstar over phone from Singapore, where he had helped the host win the Asian Cricket Council Eastern Region T20 tournament a few days ago.

He is impressed with the quality of cricket in the Ranji Trophy. “The BCCI has got it right with the format of the Ranji Trophy,” he said. “I am happy with the current system of five teams qualifying for the quarterfinals from the top two groups.”

But he isn’t happy with the way the Plate Group is handled. “I am not sure if the present system of one team from the Plate qualifying directly for the quarterfinals is right,” he said.

“The BCCI should also think about the obviously inflated statistics of the players from the Plate Group. Maybe those matches should not be considered first class.”

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Whatmore was impressed by Punjab's Shubman Gill and Mayank Markande as he observed there is a depth of talent in the Ranji Trophy.

“It is great to see so many new talents coming out of the Ranji Trophy every year,” he said. “I remember being impressed by Shubman Gill and Mayank Markande when I first saw them in the Ranji Trophy (during Kerala’s match against Punjab last season).”

Looking back at Kerala’s dismal campaign, he admitted he was very disappointed. He feels the State has to strengthen its domestic game.

He believes the Ranji Trophy could do with the DRS. “I think it will come eventually,” he said. “It would be expensive, but if there is one organisation that could afford it, it is the BCCI.”

He said Chennai, where he spent three years, had a good structure. “You see cricketers making money from playing there,” he said. “The city has a great culture in cricket."

Whatmore’s association with Kerala may have ended, but he said that he would be returning to India before long. He did not rule out the possibility of coaching another team in the next Ranji Trophy season.

Sportstar has learnt that at least two teams are keen to sign him on.

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