''A cricket coach is the support base for the captain''

Published : Nov 03, 2001 00:00 IST


"THE basics are written in stone," said Bob Woolmer, appointed recently by the International Cricket Council (ICC) as high performance manager to assist Kenya, Holland, Namibia and Canada in their preparation for the 2003 World Cup. In this interview to The Sportstar, Woolmer recalls his days with the South African team and gives an insight into coaching.


Life after being coach of a high profile team like South Africa:

Well, there has been less pressure. I have been coaching Warwickshire, but the pressure is less in terms of being in the international news. Yes, I enjoyed being coach of the South African team, and I have missed parts of it in the last two years. But essentially I just get along with what I am doing now. So it has not been a big wrench to be away from it.

Being ousted by Australia in World Cup 1999:

It's obviously disappointing to go out of the competition by .02 runs. But as a coach you are only there to help the players, and they would have felt it hard. The coach cannot do anything on the field. As a coach you watch, learn and pick up things. You only try to get the players better, work out tactics with the captain who is important in the whole scenario. He has also to be strong. Hansie Cronje was a very fine captain in that respect. I have many disappointments in life, but my blessings are that I am involved in cricket.

About the offer to coach England:

Yes, I was in the running for that after the World Cup, but unfortunately, to coach England immediately after I left South Africa and with England touring South Africa was all too close. And I really wanted a break from international cricket. But Duncan Fletcher has done a good job for England.

The change from coaching a national team to a county team...handling players like Cronje and Allan Donald and their ilk:

There are different problems and the players, some of them, have different expectations. At the international level, players expect to perform the best, you don't have to push anyone. You just help them. And they push themselves, because that's what they are there for. Sometimes at County cricket level you will have to give some players a little bit of a nudge, because they ought to be doing better than they were.

I had a super time with Warwickshire for four years from 1991 to 1994 as coach and I enjoyed it. Warwickshire wanted me back. It was just as important. I replaced Phil Neale.

On a low profile coach like Graham Ford being chosen by the United Cricket Board South Africa:

I think they were looking in a different direction. Ford succeeded me and has done very well. But he has been more behind the scenes, as opposed to someone upfront. I was upfront because I was an England international in the first place. And possibly because I brought in a lot of innovative things to the game as well. It might have helped me being upfront. Ford is a 'workaholic'. He loves his job. He has got Corrie van Zyl helping him.

The way the South African team practice, you need young people who can physically coach. Five years after I had taken over, the team itself has grown. The peer influence within the team's there. The Cullinans, the Kirstens and the Kallis' were there to help the youngsters come through. There was necessarily no need for the team to have a man with technical expertise. I am not saying that Ford is not a technical coach, what I am saying is that they wanted someone younger to work with. There are quite a few good coaches in South Africa. Peter Kirsten would also be in that mould.

And also Ford was chosen because he has been coaching for a long time, seven or eight years. I think coaches need to do their time in coaching. I started coaching at University level. That was in 1975-76. I was the coach of the Natal University. Then I was coaching clubs and so on right all the way through to Cape Town in 1981 and then up to 1994 with Warwickshire. So I had done 13 years apprenticeship and only then I went into international coaching. And although I was an international cricketer, I had to do the apprenticeship. I don't think someone who comes straight out of an international side and goes in to coach an international team, knows much about coaching itself. He knows about cricket, but whether he is able to put it across is another story. So I do believe that coaches should do their apprenticeship.

Was Graham Ford picked because the UCB wanted to make Cronje, a supremo sort of person:

I think a captain has a major role to play on and off the field. Hansie Cronje was a sort of player who wanted to do things his way. I am not being unkind, but if he wanted a person to do the physical work, if he wanted to appoint people he felt comfortable with, he had his way. The coach was there only to provide the impetus and help him. And Hansie, I suppose, and I don't know this for a fact, Dr. Ali Bacher chose that route. All I know is that, I know Hansie had the right to delegate quite a lot of work to the coach. Because as captain, you cannot do it all. A cricket coach is the support base for the captain. The coaches in soccer and rugby are judged on results and a cricket coach must have some say, because if you don't pick the side the coach wants, you should stay there and do your job. You cannot be criticised. But if you are involved in decision making, it's a different story.

If he wants to coach South Africa again:

I have had my fill of international coaching. The sort of coaching I would like to do now is this new role I am in with the ICC. Anyway, I don't think the South Africans want me back.

Whether he was satisfied with his stint with the South African team:

I think I have made a major contribution to South African cricket. But my time has come, it's finished with. They are on their own and they are doing well. I am interested in seeing what they do. I follow them religiously, I have my own little grumbles like so and so should bat there...I am no longer involved and I don't want to interfere. If I was a selector, then it would be different, but then, I am not one.

About the emerging talented players in South African cricket:

South African cricket has a good structure. There are a lot of players coming through like Boeta Dippenaar, Neil McKenzie, Jacques Rudolph, Graeme Smith and there's a host of young players coming through. There will be a tremendous fight for places. In the bowling, it will be very difficult to replace Allan Donald. But if this chap, Mfuneko Ngam, does stay fit, he will be a big bowler for South African cricket. He is as quick as anything that Donald bowled. Nantie (Mornantau) Hayward has got his game back in place. Each side has good players, but don't change a side that's working well. But all these players will come through. Paul Adams is still there, he's got a terrific strike rate.

How far can a coach go in trying to improve a player:

A coach can go up to a point where the player wants to. The player draws the line. The coach acts as a catalyst, the player decides how far he wants to go. Some players want to go farther than the other people, some players are wary of going farther. They are happy with what they have got. There is such a thing as the comfort zone. But I have always believed that a cricket coach should take the extra step in trying to help the players.

On the gap between Australia and South Africa:

There's still the gap because, they don't play each other enough. I don't think the gap is as big as Australia thinks it is. South Africa will need Allan Donald and Mfuneko Ngam firing for the coming series in Australia and at home. It will be a different story. However, I don't know if the Australians will be able to bowl out the South African side that easily. I think the South African batting is awesome. Look at their batting, they can bring Justin Kemp at No. 10. I think South Africa can beat Australia by batting them out of the game.

On his role as high performance manager of the ICC:

My role is to assist the coaches of the four teams in Kenya, Holland, Canada and Namibia. I am going to provide coaching courses for the four countries. My job does not entail me to work physically with each team. It's impossible. It's important that the coaches of these four teams, run the show, with the support and backing that I can provide like specialised exercise people, batting and bowling coaches and also video technology. Every team has a different need. I went to Namibia and I know what their needs are now. I have to get them better to compete in the next World Cup. Holland is desperate to have a cricket culture. I think the ICC has to be commended for globalising the game.

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