With the Under 19 Cricket World Cup around the corner, a hitherto unknown Australian finds himself in the center of attention amongst the cricket pundits of Bangladesh. Ice Today caught up with Richard McInnes, the man in charge of the Bangladesh squad on the eve of the World Cup to talk about his tenure so far.
ICE: Many our readers know very little about you. Could you tell us something about your background and how you came to know about the Bangladesh Under 19 coaching assignment?
Mcinnes: Well, I am an electrician by trade. I went to university and got a science degree in Human Movement. From there I worked for Queensland cricket close to four years and then moved on to the Commonwealth Cricket Academy as a senior coach which allowed me to coach against the Bangladesh team when they toured Australia last year. Soon after the tour, I got a job offer from the BCB about coaching the Under 19 team, came down to Bangladesh to have a look, was satisfied with the what I saw and here I am. So, I have been coaching full time for about six years now and have been coaching in various capacities close to fifteen years.
ICE: Tell us about the expectations that you had when you first joined the team and how you found the team immediately after joining.
Mcinnes: Well, people kept on telling me to keep my expectations low but I was pleasantly surprised to find that both the infrastructure and the team itself were very good. I found a team of youngsters who were very enthusiastic about their cricket, probably more so than what I found in Australia. I also found most of the players having a pretty good basic technique and cricketing skills; what they lacked was the ability to think tactically and think as a cricketer were not that good, and I also found that their physical fitness levels were pretty poor. These are two areas that I have been working on for the past months, especially their diet which needed a lot change to produce strong and fit cricketers. You can see the changes now, especially the fast bowlers who are stronger and faster now and have a much higher stamina. I have not made very many changes to the techniques of the batsmen since the World cup is right around the corner but after the World Cup I think I will work more on individual techniques of both batsmen and bowlers.
ICE: Let's talk about the upcoming World Cup now. Can you tell us about your preparations for the tournament and the targets that you have set as a team?
Mcinnes: I think the preparations have been really good, although I must admit that it would have helped to be in charge of the team even earlier. We went on a short tour of Pakistan immediately after I joined. Although we did not do well result wise, the tour gave me a good opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the team and individuals. We then had a two-month conditioning camp where we worked mostly on fitness and the mental aspects of the game. We've also had three matches against the national team and that gave me an extra opportunity to finalize the team and set realistic goals that we should achieve in the World Cup.
ICE: Talk us through some of the players in the World cup squad.
Mcinnes: Well, I've been impressed a lot with our pace bowlers. There is Talha (Jubair) who has already played international cricket and who has a very good head on his shoulders. Then there is Rubayat Huq who is a miniature Glen McGrath, Najmul Hussain who has a big heart and can bowl all day and of course Kazi Shahadat Hossain Rajib who will definitely be a test opening bowler in the future. We also seem to be churning out quality left arm spinners by the lot, so much so that I had to leave out a quality bowler like Arafat Sunny who could have easily walked into most of the other World Cup squads. I also have a lot of faith in my batting department, especially the opening batters. Nafis has a lot of talent and will play for many years in the national team and so is Nayeem Islam. Then Ashiqur Rahman is an excellent middle order bat as well as an excellent tactician. And of course, there is Aftab Hussain who has a very good technique against short-pitched bowling. We also have some quality all rounders like Nadif Chowdhury who is our number one all rounder who can bowl some very good off spin and is a potential test quality batsman. Then there's Abdul Bashar bowling his quick offspinners and is the best fielder in the team. Last but not least, Dhiman Gosh will be our wicketkeeper and he can open the batting too if one of our openers is injured.
ICE: It's interesting that you have stressed on the mental aspect of the players. We have seen young cricketers like Ashraful doing so well initially after getting into the national team but then faltering later. What seems to be the problem with our young cricketers?
Mcinnes: Well, I think the major problem is that young cricketers need more attention than their senior counterparts, especially when they are not performing all that well. Someone needs to sit down with them and tell them that at this stage of their careers, they will fail more often than they will succeed but they must not lose heart. The coach and the selection committee should also realize that once young players are given a chance, they must stick to them and give them the mental support that they need at this stage of their career. My job is also to impart a bit of discipline on the kids so that when they do move on to the national stage, they can set their own goals and can take the initiative themselves to keep on developing.
ICE: Part of your job must also be to produce future cricketers for the national team. How do you go about creating the next generation of Bangladeshi cricketers?
Mcinnes: Well, I think all the players in my team have the ability to become international players in the near future, and some of them like Enamul Haq Jr. have already played cricket at the highest level. My philosophy is to develop them physically and tactically and help them reach their potential. Most cricketers keep on developing till they are around twenty six and I always tell my players that they might be playing test cricket within the next twelve months or so, but they can never relax at any point and say that they have reached their peak; they must keep on developing. I talk to Dav (Whatmore) all the time and we've identified some common problems that we must address at the junior level so that they do not recur at the next stage. I am also looking at the current under 17 squad and my target is to take those players into the 2006 World Youth Cup in England and do some fitness and technical work with them. So my job is never done, it is always an ongoing process.