‘I don’t have a magic wand’

Siddons believes that if the team sticks to the basics and trains hard, it will be more consistent in 2 years.

Dhaka: He moved from being an assistant coach of the champion Australia side to guiding the fortunes of a young Bangladesh cricket team. But despite being at the receiving end of a series of disappointing results in his short tenure so far, Jamie Siddons says he is confident of a change in fortunes. In this interview to cricketnirvana.com, Siddons speaks his mind on the team and its future.

Excerpts:

How would you look back at your job so far?

It was probably the best decision I ever took. It’s a different kind of challenge and I am thoroughly enjoying working with the boys.

What is the difference between coaching Australia and Bangladesh?

Massive difference. Australia has a very strong first class structure and the overall cricket system is very organised. The cricketers are exposed to the hard grind of competitive cricket from the moment they break into first class level and are prepared when they get picked for the Australia side.

Players in Bangladesh do not get that kind of competition in domestic first-class cricket as it is still in the developing stages so when they play international cricket it becomes difficult for them to adapt straightaway.

What would you attribute Bangladesh’s downward trend since the highs of the 2007 World Cup?

When I arrived towards the end of last year I had about a couple of weeks to know the side before we toured New Zealand and it is difficult for any international team to go there and play well. New Zealand is always a tough place to visit not only for Bangladesh but for every other side. We did play well in patches but the conditions there made it difficult for our batsmen who were not used to the bounce and seam movement.

We then had another tough series at home against South Africa who were the number two ranked team in the world. We almost pulled off the first Test in Dhaka where Rajib (Shahadat Hossain) was outstanding and took nine wickets. Good teams have the experience to acclimatize quickly with conditions and South Africa did just that and we were outplayed in the other matches.

We then had a 3-0 clean sweep against Ireland and played some pretty good cricket there. Most people forget that Ireland beat us in the World Cup so this was quite creditable. In Pakistan we were handsomely beaten 5-0 but there were signs of improvement and passing 200 on three occasions and making 285 against that bowling attack was proof that the boys were capable of good things when they follow the team rules.

We are always playing against stronger sides and it takes time for young players who do not have the grooming required for this level to start performing immediately. Also, defeats can take away the confidence. The Bangladesh team had a very good World Cup and beat India and South Africa.

We beat Australia in 2005. But after a victory like that we have not played well in the following matches. I would prefer consistency then one win in a while.

What is your vision for this side?

My aim is long-term. I know that the general people and the media can become impatient but I would like this team to be competitive and create winning situations in every match they play against the likes of Australia and South Africa. My training philosophy is designed that way. The boys are learning new skills, adapting to new things and making an effort. (Mohammad) Ashraful, Tamim (Iqbal) and others are spending hours in training, They are making an effort.

Some of them understand the things I am trying to instill quicker than another. I am seeing improvements everyday. I don’t have a magic wand and I cannot snap my finger and say Bangladesh would start winning from this point but if they follow the team rules, stick to the basics and train hard this team will be more consistent in two years time. That I can guarantee.

Have you set a rule for the team?

Team rule is all about putting the team interest above everything else. It means if you are a batsman you have to follow certain priciples and stick to the team plan. For the bowlers it is about maintaining discipline and bowling according to the situation. For example if the openers are told to play out the first ten overs without thinking about the scoring rate then they have to make an effort to do that. If the team wants 70 runs in the same period then they’ll go for that.

Cricket is a simple game. If you hit the ball in the air often then you will get out more often. If you stay at the crease long enough then you will score runs. If you stick to your strengths and play the shots you are comfortable playing then you will have more success. Same for the bowlers, you hit the right areas often and you will either tie batsmen down or take wickets.

Team rule is necessary because if all the players follow it then the team has a better chance of success. We don’t have bowlers who regularly clock 140 kmph. We don’t have batsmen who regularly make hundreds. What we have is undeniable talent. The key is to know the limitations and making best use of what you have. Here team game is important with everyone pulling their weight.

Senior players like Bashar are being left out. Is there a message in that?

Performance is the key. As far as I am concerned we have not left out a Ricky Ponting. We have stuck to more or less the same group of players we took to New Zealand and it is vital for Bangladesh cricket that these boys manage to grow together.

As we are building for the future it is important that we pick the right individuals who would serve Bangladesh cricket for a long time. There will be changes along the way but ideally the core group should remain intact. If that happens we should have a pretty good side in two years.

Do you think Ashraful has been an under-achiever?

Most of Bangladesh’s memorable wins have come when he has done something special but his average of 20-odd means that he has a long way to go. Technically and talent-wise he is probably our best batsman but often he has given his wicket away. We are working on ways to bring the best out of him. His innings in the first match against Pakistan (Kitply Cup) tells you that he is a very difficult batsman to dismiss if he sets his mind on staying at the wicket.

We had lost too many wickets in quick succession and he didn’t have a partner at the other end. Otherwise he could have played a lot more strokes without taking undue risks or hitting the ball in the air. I would rather have an Ashraful who scores a fifty almost every time than the Ashraful who hits the ball in the air and gets out and plays a match-winning knock only once in a while.

Can Bangladesh be a force to reckon with Test cricket?

Again it is a matter of the first-class cricket getting stronger. We have been playing first class here for 7/8 years only and the standards have not been great. It is getting better and the boys need to be exposed to more matches in different conditions at home and away against stronger opposition. There is no short-term solution. Players have to get used to bat, bowl and field for hours and learn to be patient on the field.


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