NEW DELHI: Like most of us, the Covid crisis hasn’t been kind to Dav Whatmore. The Australian, who represented the national team from 1979 to 1980, has been stuck in Melbourne since March last year.
“I’ve been frustrated, like most people,” says Whatmore.
After parting ways with Kerala, Whatmore took up the assignment of improving Baroda in Indian domestic cricket, joining them as head coach and Director of cricket in April.
As things stand, Whatmore never actually got to officially take up the job at Baroda. The embargo on travel to India on a business visa meant Whatmore had to stay put in Melbourne and in the end had to give up the position altogether just a few weeks ahead of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
One wonders if Whatmore’ presence in the Baroda dressing room could have averted the ugly Pandya-Hooda fiasco that we see unfolding.
“There was intention from both sides. No contract signing but intention was from both sides to get involved. It just didn’t eventuate because of the obvious reasons. I was supposed to start (with Baroda) in September-October in Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy and then Syed Mushtaq Ali,” Whatmore told TimesofIndia.com.
Shortly after the opportunity to be the Nepal head coach came up and Whatmore threw his hat in the ring.
“It’s an opportunity. You can’t expect to get jobs at will. Positions come up and then you consider and then you get involved if you’re good enough,” Whatmore reasons even as he makes it clear he wants to come back into the Indian domestic cricket set up some time in the future.
Whatmore expects to join the Nepal team in a week or two. He hasn’t had much of an opportunity to interact with the players at the moment, but says they are “potentially very good” based on their performances so far.
“They have a very strong cricketing following in the public in Nepal which surprises many. It surprised me when I first went there in 2017. They have potential. They have the interest of the full country. I am sure they have the backing of the government as well. It’s important that the team continues to get better as we go along.”
Nepal has been tagged as the potential next big thing in international cricket as far as an associate nation is concerned. They are one of 16 associate members of the ICC from Asia. The nation has moved from Division 5 to securing the ODI status in a short span of time.
It’s story of rise is only second to Afghanistan, the war-torn nation, which has gone one step further and secured Test status as well. Having a coach of Whatmore’s pedigree could be the final push that is needed for Nepal.
“It’s a very important job. I am aware of it and the importance of it.” Whatmore adds.
In Whatmore, Nepal now has someone who has acquired a reputation of bringing out the best in unfancied teams. The Sri Lankan fairytale of 1996 is something every avid cricket fan knows about. But Whatmore has done much more than that in his three-decade career as a coach even though the Lankan turnaround sits on top of his resume.
Particularly his stint with Bangladesh from 2003-07, during which the Tigers famously defeated India in 2007 World Cup, would offer hope to Nepal.
He however, chuckles when asked if he consciously takes up coaching roles of smaller or the so-called “underdog” teams.
“It just worked out that way. It’s not that I go looking for it. It just happens that teams are really interested in improving and I’ve been fortunate enough to be entrusted in improving their performance, It’s just the way it’s worked out.” the 66 year old further told TimesofIndia.com.
While a detailed blueprint for the Nepal team to follow will be drawn up once he’s in the country, Whatmore gave a peek into his mind as the globe-trotting coach.
“Essentially, I think there’s a premise that you’re working with human beings. Being able to extract the best out of them, I think it’s essential regardless of which team you’re with. Whether a full member country or an associate country, a good team or an up and coming team, (it’s) very important to have good communication skills because you’re working with people.” Whatmore, who played 7 Tests and 1 ODI for Australia said.
There are challenges of course, and Whatmore is well aware of them. Some things that one takes for granted at the top tier are found wanting at the associate level.
“Their (associate members) level of intensity compared to full members is not quite there. The amount of facilities that you are exposed to is not quite the same. All this is expected of course. So I think you need to keep an open mind that these things exist. And if you’re not prepared to accept these things then it’s going to be a little harder to feel comfortable in that position.” he further told TimesofIndia.com
While Nepal’s progress has been keenly followed by the cricketing world, the addition of Whatmore would definitely bring more attention to their efforts. As the world moves out of the lockdown phase, Nepal and its supporters would hope Whatmore’s arrival is a shot in the arm that can catapult the country’s cricket team tio bigger and better things – Out of the lower rungs into the upper bracket of cricketing nations. It’s an exciting time to be a Nepalese cricket fan.