Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Updated: Sunday, April 17, 2005
The contract renewal issue

Shameran Abed

At a time when all the focus should be on the national team?s upcoming maiden tour of England, the topic that is dominating Bangladesh cricket related discussion is whether the national team coach, Dav Whatmore, will renew his contract for a further two years. The contract he is currently under expires on the 30th of April. That date is less than two weeks away and there seems to be a race against time, and India, to get him to commit himself to Bangladesh for another two years. Given the amount of speculation, rumors and debate this topic has inspired, this seems like a good time to consider the issue more thoroughly.

The Unfolding Whatmore Saga
4/7 BBC reports Whatmore interested in India job
4/8 Wisden Asia Cricket speculates on India's next coach
4/8 The New Age provides some background context
4/9 The Daily Star reports that Whatmore is mum to all the speculations
4/10 The Daily Star headlines "Whatmore going nowhere"
4/11 Financial Express reports on BCB's hopes of renewal
4/17 Cricinfo invokes Dav's name again as Sri Lanka looks for a new coach

Let me begin by stating the obvious: there is little doubt that the Bangladesh team will benefit greatly by having Whatmore for a further two years. I will therefore not delve any further into this other than to suggest a read of my colleague G. M. Bashar?s article titled ?The Raft that is Dav.? The Bangladesh Cricket Board is also obviously aware of Whatmore?s value to Bangladesh cricket and is trying desperately to get his signature on a new contract. However, matters have been complicated by the imminent departure of John Wright as India?s coach and an admitted interest on Whatmore?s part to replace him. Something that the BCB had every right to believe would be a routine affair has quickly become a rather difficult situation and one over which it has no control. Whether Whatmore signs or not seems to depend entirely on the fruitfulness of his negotiations with the Indian board.

Some have argued that as a professional coach, it is normal on Whatmore?s part to try to look for something bigger and better, especially in terms of pay, and hence he cannot be faulted for being interested in the India job. I cannot fully agree with this.

First, when he chose to become the coach of the Bangladesh team, he did so knowing full well that he would have to make sacrifices in terms of money and glamour in order to take on a job that would give him a new sort of challenge. Second, he would also have been painfully aware that this job, in order to be done to a satisfactory level, would require more than two years.

Moreover, the BCB at the time of contracting made it clear that he was wanted till the next world cup in 2007 and that is what he agreed to. The contract was drawn up for two years to give either side flexibility, something that is not uncommon. The expectation was that unless the two sides fell apart or Whatmore was not being effective as the coach, the contract would be renewed. When there was an agreement for four years with a two-year renewable contract, it is contrary to expectations that the coach would abandon ship and run just because the Indians made a better offer. That is why I say that the BCB had the right to expect that the renewal should have been a routine affair, since there appears to be a good working relationship between the coach and the board and that he has been a rather effective with the national team!

My opinion would hardly change even in the absence of a four-year agreement. Had there been only a two year agreement and the BCB had only recently decided to propose a further two-year extension, the professional thing on Whatmore?s part would still be to make a decision about a possible extension of his current assignment before trying to secure the next.

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What I am saying is this: Whatmore should make a decision about his future with Bangladesh independent of any other considerations. If he is committed to Bangladesh cricket, and feels that he has more to offer, then he should stay. Any negotiation on a pay rise with the BCB can be done even after he agrees to continue. If, on the other hand, he feels that he is no longer committed to Bangladesh, or that he does not have much more to offer, or that he would prefer a higher paid high profile job, he should make it clear that he will end his association with Bangladesh cricket at the expiration of his contract. He can then put his name forward for the Indian job or any other job that he wants.

The problem I have with the way things have come to pass is that Whatmore seems to have put his future with Bangladesh cricket hostage to India?s decision on whom they want as their next coach. If that is so, I must say, it is most unprofessional. While it may be normal for a person to find a better job before they resign from their existing one, the situation is vastly different when it comes to the national coach of a Test playing nation. His decision does not just affect him, it also affects Bangladesh cricket as a whole. In his position, his responsibility to his team should be greater than to himself.

He ought to either decide that he is committed to Bangladesh?s cause and wishes to carry on for a further two years to finish what he started, knowing that he might well be sacrificing the job of India?s coach and the money and glamour that would bring. Or he should make it clear that he does not wish to continue in Bangladesh, leaving him free to pursue other assignments. That, in my opinion, will be the honorable thing to do.

Let me make it clear that I am as much a Whatmore fan as anyone else. I think he has done a fantastic job with our national team and I am desperate to see him continue as our national coach. However, I am rather upset and a little surprised at the thought of him refusing to renew his contract because he may get a better offer from elsewhere. It is unbelievable that there is no decision about whether he will continue or not with only two weeks left on a job as crucial as that of our national team coach.

This matter must be put to rest as quickly as possible and the focus needs to turn back to the England tour. Hopefully, Whatmore will sign his contract very soon, preferably much before an Indian decision, signaling that he is fully committed to the Bangladesh team. Otherwise, he should make clear his intentions of going elsewhere. This will give the BCB some time to take stock of the situation and try to find a replacement as quickly as possibly, given that the national team?s most important away mission begins in less than 3 weeks!