by G. M. Bashar
Multi-tasking is nothing new to Shaun as he primarily came to Bangladesh to be the game development manager but later played a key role as coach of both the under-19 team and then the "A "team. Following Dave Whatmore's resignation, Shaun took on the tough task of coach for the national team amidst one of the toughest series for the Tigers. In between the busy schedule in Sri Lanka, he spoke to me and shared his thoughts about the team.
BanglaCricket: How has the Sri Lanka trip been so far? Have
you been here before?
Coach Williams watches
his charges in the third Test versus Sril Lanka at Kandy,
Shaun Williams: Yes, I have been here on a couple of occasions
before when the U-19 and A- team have toured here. I first came here in February/March
2006 predominantly as an observer when Alistair de Winter was in charge of the
U/19 team for the last Youth World Cup and Nazmul Abedin Fahim was his assistant.
In my role as the National Manager of Game Development I came along to the Youth
World Cup because many of the players would be coming through into the Academy
and â€œAâ€ teams after that and it was good to get an understanding of where these
boys were placed in terms of their development. Mushfiq, Sakib and Mehrab were
in that group and itâ€™s fair to say that all of them have continued to progress
well since then.
I also came to Sri Lanka as the â€œAâ€ team coach during the recently completed
â€œAâ€ team series in March 2007.
As you can see it is a very short timeframe for some of the U-19 group to
now be playing in the National team against the best players that world cricket
has to offer. So the boys have been on a very steep learning curve and in my
opinion they are coping well all things considered. I just hope that people
can see things in a realistic manner and perhaps temper their sometimes unrealistic
BC: So how has this particular series been an educational experience?
SW: I think above all this series has provided us with an understanding and
a reality check of where we are placed in relation to the top teams in terms
of Test match cricket. Of course, Sri Lanka is most certainly one of the top
teams and they are always very difficult at home, but I suppose we must understand
that we have a lot of work to do in order to catch up with the very best teams
in the world â€“ especially in Test match cricket.
In fact Sri Lanka has very strong teams at all levels.
For example, as I mentioned previously, I was here a couple of months back
with the â€œAâ€ team and that tour also demonstrated the amount of work that needs
to be done for us to get closer in the longer version matches especially. There
is a lot to learn from Sri Lanka, e.g. their system and their structured schools
development program and the methodical and systematic approach they have in
building top quality teams.
BC: So would you say the Sri Lanka model is a good one to emulate?
SW: Yes definitely, but there are also a number of other good structures and
systems in world cricket (e.g. Australia) and I believe that we can learn a
lot from all the Test playing nations. Itâ€™s then a matter of ensuring that we
do what is right and fits best for Bangladesh cricket because I feel that we
need to make our own system work in a way that suits this country best. I believe
that we are starting to see a good system take shape in Bangladesh which in
due course will be modified and refined as we will always continue to learn
which is the best way to go forward.
The main factor is hard-work and time. We simply need to give the players
coming up from the age groups enough time and place realistic expectations on
them. As an example, a player like Sakib still needs more time to work on some
technical aspects of his game and so we need to be careful not to place unrealistic
expectations on players like him. Of course we still want him to perform consistently
well but we must also be aware that his best years are still to come as long
as he keeps working hard, learning and improving all the time.
BC: Coming back to this test series, how great a factor was Muraliâ€™s feat
in the big losses that Bangladesh faced?
SW: Murali is always a big factor, isnâ€™t he ? We are talking about a player
who is a handful of wickets away from becoming the greatest wicket taking bowler
of all time. Simply put, every team in the world has faced similar difficulty
in tackling him. So we are not alone there. He is the ultimate professional
in the way he plays his cricket. His ability to continually put the batsmen
under pressure and create uncertainty is second to none. Clearly he is most
effective in breaking partnerships and once a partnership breaks he puts even
more pressure on the new batters coming in. But still I would say that we had
a couple of decent partnerships where our boys handled him well and that is
BC: Can you tell us about the ODI line up? Is Shariar Nafees playing?
SW: Shahriar Nafees is still here. The team management requested to keep him
here and it was agreed by the selection panel that we could do so. The players
joining the squad are Aftab, Riyad, Farhad Reza and Tamim.
At this stage the selection panel has not confirmed the final team for the
first ODI. There is a practice session on 17th and then a practice match on
18th, practice again on 19th and then the first match will be on 20th, so we
still have time.
The ODI series will certainly be tough also, after all we are playing against
the recent World Cup finalists in their own back yard, but we are confident
that we will produce some good performances during this series.
Quite clearly we have made some good progress as an ODI team in recent times
and as we know some of the performances at the World Cup were excellent.
BC: What about in Test match cricket, how do you think we are going there
in comparison to other teams when they first started out?
In relation to Test match cricket it is perhaps unrealistic to compare how
the current established teams had fared in their early days. I believe that
this is perhaps a somewhat unfair comparison
Letâ€™s take for example New Zealand when they first started out, ODIâ€™s didnâ€™t
really exist back then and maybe this allowed them to concentrate more on a
longer version style of play and in-turn focus all their resources into building
and refining their Test match team. My point is that now it is an entirely different
landscape. Bangladesh has to put resources and effort into both Test match cricket
and ODI cricket and now even a 20/20 team is also required. Clearly these all
require different approaches, different skills and different mind sets, so arguably
we are facing a more difficult task than what some of the other teams had faced
during their initial stages in Test match cricket.
BC: Back to the One- Day team, can you tell us about Riyad?
SW: Riyad is a right arm off-spin bowler and a middle order batsman who likes
to play an aggressive style of cricket. He is also a very good fielder. As we
all know we have many left arm orthodox spin bowlers in Bangladesh so bringing
in a right arm off-spinner will hopefully add a new dimension to the team. So
far we are happy with his progress but he will need some time to settle in so
we shouldnâ€™t expect too much too soon. We are also hoping that he will also
prove to be an equally valuable middle order batsman.
BC: How is Ashraful coping with the captaincy?
SW: He is going very well despite not getting the results we might have hoped
for in the Test match series. Ash most definitely has the right attitude and
ideas about this team and cricket in general. I am sure that captaincy will
bring out the best in him and I feel the added responsibility will be very good
for him. He has been setting a fine example throughout and he has been working
really hard at training so that is always a very positive sign.
BC: Should Ash be moved up the order as was stated by Mahela?
SW: Mahela can say whatever he wants about our team because he is certainly
entitled to his opinion, but at the end of the day we will make our own decisions
and continue to do what we feel is best for our team. Ash will play somewhere
in the middle order where we feel he can perform well both as a batsman and
a captain. Iâ€™ve been hearing the same things about Mushfiq also â€“ â€œsend him
up the orderâ€ - but I think we need to be careful with that. Mushy is a very
talented player who maybe needs some time to establish himself in the team and
in Test match cricket in general. As a wicket keeper/batter we feel that maybe
6 or 7 is the right place for him at the moment in Test match cricket, having
said that maybe we can look to use Mushy in various positions in One Day cricket
depending on the situations.
BC: What are your ideas about how we can improve on our â€œAâ€ team and U-19
SW: During the past 2 and a half years we have all been working really hard
to set up what we believe is a good system and solid structures within Game
Development across the country. This has taken a lot of time and energy and
we will need to continue to refine the systems and structures that are taking
shape. To be successful we will need to make sure that our domestic competition
formats are highly organized and highly competitive. I feel that all the competing
teams will definitely need more involvement and input from our trained coaches
and administrative staff to make sure that the players can continue to benefit
from the structures and competitions that are being put in place.
Itâ€™s a never ending process of assessment and refinement and there are certainly
no short cuts.
BC: Looking at the whole picture, what should be our realistic goals for the
next 2-3 years?
SW: Well hopefully we will continue to see some good progress in our One day
team. For a number of reasons, this is probably the area where Bangladesh cricket
will most likely progress more quickly at the moment.
As for the Test matches, I believe that first of all we should aim to be a
team that is very hard to beat, especially at home. Our results to date perhaps
indicate that this has not been the case on most occasions up until now. Once
this begins to happen on a regular basis we can then obviously start to think
more realistically about winning Test matches consistently. Certainly, we are
always thinking of how we can win Test matches, but I feel in order to do that
you have to be able to stretch the opposition in every match and be â€œinâ€ games
for as long as possible. To start with, we must break things down and try to
win as many sessions as we possibly can. As we know, a Test match will consist
of a maximum 15 x 2 hour sessions, so we have to start with the aim of winning
as many of these sessions as we possibly can.
BC: I understand that you have visited our site and read comments that are
posted. What would you like to say to our Banglacricket fans?
SW: I do read many of the comments that are posted in the website from time
to time and I find it enjoyable and interesting to get this perspective. I sometimes
worry that the fans can have a little bit too high of an expectation and this
is sometimes a little removed from the realities of where we are placed with
our cricket. No doubt we all want Bangladesh to do well but we must be aware
of where the team and the players are in terms of their development and careers.
We must also remember that all the other teams are doing their best to win also,
so itâ€™s never going to be easy thatâ€™s for sure!
But of course we love the challenge of competing at the highest level and
we will continue to do our best in everything that we do. We do need as much
support as possible and we are hopeful that if everybody continues to work really
hard then the results will start to go our way more consistently and more often
BC: Thank you Shaun. And good luck from Banglacricket!
Itâ€™s a pleasure to chat with you.