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BanglaCricket brings you another exclusive. A peek into the mind of the next U-19 coach. Our own GM Bashar chats with Allister de Winter who arrives in Dhaka on the 24th of June to fill the seat left vacant by Coach McInnes

Interview with Allister de Winter

Published: 16th June, 2005

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Ever since Bob Simpson revolutionized the coach's role at Test level and took Australia to be the champion side at the 1987 World Cup, they have marched forward with a strong pedigree of cricket coaching. They have raised the bar for specialist cricket coaching ? with issues focused on team management, fitness training, and practice and opposition analysis.

Bangladesh has sought to tap into this knowledge pool; current national team coach Dav Whatmore hails from the land down under as does Richard McInnes, the recently departed, and much respected, former U-19 coach. BCB's cooperation with Australia continues as Mr. Allister de Winter arrives in Dhaka on the 24th of June to fill the seat left vacant by Coach McIness.

Allister de Winter

BanglaCricket is pleased to inform readers that Allister de Winter agreed to provide us a glimpse of his initial thoughts before he departs from Australia on his long journey to Bangladesh with his newly wed wife.

The transcript of the telephone interview BanglaCricket's GM Bashar had with Allister on Sunday, June 10th 2005 follows. In the meantime, we at BanglaCricket wish him all the luck in his latest career milestone.

BanglaCricket (BC): How did you get into coaching? Tell us a little bit about
yourself?

Allister de Winter (AdW): Here at the Western Australia Cricket Academy, Perth, I have been a coach for 2 years, working with 4 other colleagues in a role that is in many ways quite a similar role to the one I will be taking up in Bangladesh. My main task is to oversee all the elite cricket levels in this region and see to the development of all of our U-13, -17, -19 cricket programmes. This also includes the responsibility for talent identification and ensuring that the development of cricket runs smoothly under the coaching programmes at WACA from the elite players and beyond.

In addition to coaching the elite players, one of the main functions of my role at the WACA is to ensure that the coach education system is conducted and that we develop quality coaches to work with our talented players.

As Head Coach of the Western Australian U-19 team, I am responsible for preparing the program, including fitness & conditioning, mental skills, skill development and game sense practice. This I do with a staff of specialist coaches that work with the players over a 5 month period leading up to the National U-19 Cricket Championships.

Prior to my present job, I was attached to Tasmania cricket where I played my First Class cricket from 1986 ?1992. I was a fast bowling allrounder for Tasmania team until I had a bad back injury at the age of 23 that stopped me from bowling fast. From that point onwards, I moved away from fast bowling and became a top order batsman who bowled off spin occasionally. Things progressed and finally I ended up taking up coaching within Tasmania where I coached in their fast bowling training programme.

BC: How did you hear about this BD U-19 opportunity and what attracted you to it?

AdW: Cricket in the Asian region, which is so popular, is expanding fast and these days you get to hear about opportunities quite fast all the time, especially in cricket circles. Moreover, I know Shaun Williams very well. He is presently the general manager of game development in Bangladesh besides his other role in the development of the A team. So when I a first heard of the opening, I talked to Shaun and let my feelings and enthusiasm be known to Shaun. From there I guess it evolved very quickly and I must say that I was glad to be in the final interview rounds.

So I would say that it was Shaun who really encouraged me to pursue this opening. From there things progressed fast and soon I believe Shaun will be my superior over there and I am sure we will be working closely. Besides Shaun, I know Stuart Karpinnen, the physical fitness coach attached to the national team, who was also another fine pace bowler. Then there is Dav, who I have had the opportunity to actually play against early in my career.

BC: So in short, you had done your homework regarding Bangladesh?

AdW: Yes, you could say that, up to a point, as I had followed general cricket developments going on in Bangladesh keenly.

BC: I understand that you have been following the tigers in England, so what is your observation of the matches?

AdW: Yes, and now even more so than before. Look, it is a difficult period for the national team. And I will say up front that I understand the fact that there are some very young inexperienced players in the team and that is undoubtedly a factor in their inconsistent performances. So before we judge these players and their performances, we need to be rational and supportive. That means, to understand that it will take a lot of time for them to develop. My initial thoughts are that we must give them the opportunity to access the best coaching available and encourage them to be the best they can be. We need to prepare them in a way that will see them become competitive for the entirety of a Test Match and this will take some time and patience. But with the passion of the players, supporters and coaches this is certainly possible. A strong domestic competition is also a very important component in providing a total program.

It is important to look at the strengths, which the boys do have, and make those as strong as possible because clearly, we have talent both in batting and bowling. But, we need to make sure they develop their patience in the longer form of the game and that all players are aware of the demands of the 5 day nature of the game. They need to come to grips with being competitive for 5 days and that is the key. It will be a challenge and it will take time but my aim will be to incorporate this factor in all my programmes. The results of the programme won?t be seen overnight and it will be a gradual improvement.

But as a nation, after a 5 year period, when all the systems, programmes and initiatives have been well established, and are being worked at continuously, then we can look to be more competitive as a nation. But right now, we need balance and patience.

BC: Allister, so any particular player, names that caught your eye in the tour?

AdW: No. No particular player caught my eye, but that is because I look at the whole ?team? and I mainly looked at how this team operates. For me that is more relevant than individual names. I see how they react to situations and I must say here that they are in very capable hands of Dav with his method of coaching. He is a very good communicater and the empathy with the team is excellent. I believe that is exactly what we need to continue with where the team has a lot of ?natural ability? with a few good bowlers and batsmen. I was lucky enough to play against Dav in 1987 at the MCG when he was playing for Victoria. They had a very strong team that included Dean Jones, Merv Hughes, Tony Dodemaide and Jamie Siddons. From memory, Dav opened the batting and scored 24, while Dean Jones smashed 191. The match ended in a draw after 4 days. I bowled 28 overs taking 0/94 and scored 2 and 51 (my first First Class half century).

BC: The change from handling Western Australia to U-19 Bangladesh is quite a leap. What problems and challenges do you foresee?

AdW: Obviously, the facilities won?t be what I am used to but let?s face it, until the facilities are developed we should deal with what we have in the best possible manner. So my role will be the same whether I am in Western Australia or Bangladesh, to see that the boys are coming through as better cricketers and with the aim of my programmes, are also better people. So my approach for the Bangladesh U-19 is the same: the focus on the same and deliver improvements regardless of what is out there. In the end it will be up to me to get those programmes going.

BC: You?ll be following in the footsteps of Richard McIness. Any trepidation coming into a situation where expectations on all sides might be a bit high?

AdW: It is clear that Richard has done a lot of very good things with the main U-19 programme in place and it has come a long now from the inception stage. So my first 2 months would be to actually get to know the system, coaches, and all the people in depth. Basically, to see what actually Richard has done. From there I would like to see how I could take the programme from there with my style. I know Richard has his way of doing things but I would hope to add my own input soon with my way of working. Anyway, I will make sure that all the good things that Richard has done continues and then my thought would come to play, especially to see how to get players to test standards.

I will be honest about one thing. One of my strong philosophies is that all my players will need to have a strong work ethic. That means, I expect them to be fit, punctual, and expect them to do everything that I ask of them in the best way they possibly can. If they don?t, they are only letting themselves down. If that occurs, I have to see how to mitigate that and prevent that. They really have to go beyond the national level, which means there always will be my demand for that ?extra? performance.

BC: I understand that you were a specialist coach for fast bowlers. What will you bring from your experiences at Western Australia?

AdW: Let?s face it, fast bowlers don't just come along, I mean they are born, aren?t they? But what we must take care of is that good coaching for them is in place to take care of those who are naturally gifted. But apart from the pacers we really need to make sure we have got very good swing bowlers who understand all the conditions they play in. When they bowl, they need to understand how to control and know in depth what they are doing. I understand that conditions might not be ideal in Bangladesh for pace but they also need to know that regardless of pace, variation will be the key. Other than that, I would say to maintain search for the next few fast bowlers would be necessary.

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

AdW: The coach can take the player as far as the player wants to go. But the coach needs to do all in his power to make sure that the resources and backup are in place so that a proper platform is there when the player needs it. Especially when the player needs it in his particular stage of development. But for me, it is one to one communication that is more important. In the coach?s point of view, he must see to it that the player believes in himself and that he can truly go all the way. It is a two way street and to do that we really rely on the player?s application, discipline and motivation to go all the way.

BC: There are a lot of technological aids for coaches nowadays as cricket coaching has progressed towards technology and science. What are your feelings about this?

AdW: Yes, it is important that we embrace the technology. But this should be more as a tool to help us to primarily better understand the ins and outs of our players. Honestly, we need to understand that ?communication? between players and coach, i.e. ?One on one basis?
is the most important aspect in coaching. Knowing your players, developing the respect and trust of your players. Science is just one of the tools to helps us know and analyze those players and their game, and if trust exists, I believe we will get better results from them. But yes, there are certainly a lot of tools, which we will be using in my programmes. But as I said it will just one of the methods we will employ to help develop our players.

BC: In terms of coaching, do you have any role models?

AdW: Not one person in particular. You see I was lucky enough to work with bright people at national, state and local levels of Australia. . So I have tried to pick up the good qualities of all these coaches I met. More than that I have looked at other sports beyond cricket where I freely learn and pick up ideas. You see Australia has very good coaches not only in cricket but also in other sports such as Australian Rules football, hockey, basketball and Tennis. And I have incorporated elements from these sports in my next comprehensive training programme, (that I have already sent to BCB), for our boys. I will also like to add practice games such as touch football, tennis, Australian Rules football. One is to give them the benefit of variety but also to give them a better understanding of their athletic abilities, which will provide a way for them to know their physical skills. It will also help them to explore ways to use other sports and learn about motor skills to refine their cricket. Particularly in the biomechanics side of things, players get to know how their body copes and works best in a variety of situations. This I hope will take them further.

Apart from players, I have always encouraged all my coaches to think about their own philosophy and also to look elsewhere, so if one thing works best why not give it a try? This is because you don?t want all your coaches to do the same routine but work on an individual approach with flair. This is what Bangladesh coaches need in the future? coaches with personal flair with variety that would be healthy for Bangladesh cricket development.

BC: In Bangladesh we have seen how players have been inducted into the test team with few or no experience in First Class cricket. What are your thoughts about selection for a test team?

AdW: To be honest, I really don?t understand how the process of selection works at the moment but it is something I will learn quickly, I am sure. But I think we need to do is to make sure we prepare a structure with competitions where the best players play each other as often as they can. If that is not achievable we need to take them elsewhere or provide opportunities to challenge them on a daily basis. My philosophy is that I am coaching for the welfare and future of Bangladesh cricket and not for me. So in this we need to address the standard of the domestic cricket. But I understand that the Dhaka league is in place and looks good to be moving in the right direction. But yes, for them to become competitive in the international games it is vital for them to play, whether they play as a group or a team, or in the in the national league.

BC: It has been really nice talking to you. Lastly, how can fans help the team and perhaps you?

AdW: I understand that everyone wants to see Bangladesh become competitive fast. All I can say is that this is a process that needs more time. This is a young team and we are up against teams with decades of experience so it isn?t fair to compare.

And I would say that fans in turn could exercise some patience. Together with support and understanding we need to appreciate the process and look at things beyond performance. Together with your website we hope to do this and stress the educational process that we are in. Anyway, I will encourage our new boys, as part of our learning programme, to get to know what is out there and by using your website I hope it is a tool for then to gain information about cricket. And also I would like the members to know that I am keen to meet any of them in Dhaka for a chat.

 

About the author(s): G. M. Bashar is a BanglaCricket supermoderator who is known as "oracle". He is a prolific contributor to our collection of fine articles. In addition to his obvious interest in cricket, he also has a keen desire to be our own version of David Frost - exemplified by the large number of interviews he has taken of key Bangladesh cricket personalities.

 

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