Good players don't make good coaches. The Walsh method that just isn't working for Bangladesh

Cricket

Published on October 29th, 2017 | by Rohit Sankar

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The Walsh method that just isn’t working for Bangladesh

🕓 Reading time:4 minutes

Good players don’t make good coaches.

It is an old adage in sports that great players rarely go on to replicate the same kind of success when they switch over to a coaching career. According to Sian Bielock PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, best players rarely make good coaches.

“Skilled performers often have trouble putting their actions into words in the first place. That’s why those who perform at the highest levels should think twice about teaching their skills to others”, Bielock describes.  

This isn’t just applicable to one sport alone and is spread across all games that have ever been played on the surface of earth. Some call it a mental block, some call it a communication issue. Whatever it is, cricket seems to have found its latest victim in the ‘good player-bad coach’ category and it is none other than Bangladesh bowling coach, Courtney Walsh.

There was widespread anticipation and excitement when the West Indian took over the role of bowling coach in 2016. After all, he had 519 Test wickets across 17 years of International cricket to show for and that kind of experience would obviously turn out to be invaluable for the sub-continental side. Or so they thought.

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His tenure started off with strong, resounding words – “I don’t see myself too much as a coach as I see myself as a mentor,” Walsh said at a press briefing on Sunday. “I have always tried to get couple of fast bowlers under my wing to mentor when I played for Gloucester, Jamaica or West Indies. Curtly Ambrose was one of them. So if I can get a second Ambrose from Bangladesh, I will be happy. When he came into the team, he looked up to me. We formed one of the best striking partnerships in world cricket. If I can pass that to any two Bangladeshi fast bowlers, I will be very happy.”

While those words were as good as they come in your opening speech, Walsh hasn’t walked his talk. A year has gone by since his appointment, and Bangladesh are no closer to finding anyone even remotely comparable to Curtly Ambrose. Forget Ambrose, the bowlers have been plain poor since the time Walsh took over the reins.

While the Champions Trophy semi-final berth is one major achievement, the bowlers haven’t just clocked the numbers to prove that Walsh has done his job. For instance, since the start of 2017, in ODIs, Bangladesh have taken 68 wickets in 17 matches at an average of 50.10 and economy of 5.82, the worst for any team playing One Day Internationals.

 

Team Average Economy Strike Rate
Zimbabwe 32.14 4.96 38.8
Ireland 38.87 5.49 42.4
Bangladesh 50.10 5.82 51.6
UAE 24.12 4.32 33.5
Papua New Guinea 33.83 4.93 41.2
Scotland 33.94 4.63 43.9
Hong Kong 28.69 4.29 40.0

 

The numbers clearly reveal the kind of bowling performance Bangladesh has put in. All of the fringe cricket team ranging from UAE to Hong Kong have better averages, economy and strike rate than Bangladesh.

Forget ODIs, across formats, none of Bangladesh’s bowlers have an average less than 30 under Walsh. Mustafizur Rehman is the only one with a less than 35 bowling average across formats. Even Shakib-al-Hasan, Bangladesh’s bowling lynchpin in all formats, has an average of 35.60.

That his predecessor, Heath Streak, did an exceptional job puts Walsh in a puddle. The same bowlers, who are faltering now, had churned out impressive numbers during the Streak tenure. This clearly depicts the kind of negative impact the West Indian has brought into this team.

In their last 14 ODIs outside the sub-continent, Bangladesh have won just three and their bowling average in these games once again cross the half-century mark. Their so called strike bowlers – Mustafizur Rehman, Taskin Ahmed, Rubel Hossain and Subashish Roy – have all looked pedestrian in South Africa, barely troubling the batsmen and gifting freebies at will.

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In fact, save for one decent spell from Mustafizur Rehman in the Test series, none of the Bangladesh bowlers have managed to bowl even one single eye-catching spell in the ongoing tour of South Africa. They have been downright awful and the coach has done little to alter the wayward course Bangladesh bowling has taken in the past one year.

Their bizarre ploy to keep back Taskin Ahmed for long periods, despite being their quickest bowler, during the Tests also earned criticism. While Mustafizur, Taskin and Rubel have all lost the kind of zip and aura they brought early in their careers, most notable is how there is a drop in pace and even seam movement.

While Streak accurately placed an eye on the bowler’s fitness regime, diets and mental aspect, Walsh hasn’t added an all-round angle to the development of bowlers. In a country like Bangladesh which does not produce the kind of fast bowlers that run in and bowl 150kmph, you need to groom the talented ones, manage them, nurture them and feed them right. The West Indian has just put emphasis on the bowling and training front when the mental angle needs as much nourishing. This ploy has only out the bowlers under more pressure to deliver and the results just haven’t come.

During Heath Streak’s tenure, Bangladesh bowlers averaged 27.44 in 29 ODIs, far better to that under Walsh. Their bowlers also picked up eight four-wicket hauls and five five-wicket hauls under Streak whereas the same group of players have managed just six four-wicket hauls and zero five-fors under Walsh.

A mere glance at the numbers of some quality bowlers during Walsh’s tenure gives a better picture of how much Bangladesh have degraded on the bowling front in recent times.

 

Player ODIs Wickets Average Economy
Mashrafe Mortaza 22 28 36.07 5.21
Taskin Ahmed 18 24 34.87 6.26
Shakib-al-Hasan 23 20 51.20 5.41
Mustafizur Rehman 13 18 30.55 5.36
Rubel Hossain 13 11 54.63 6.26

 

Even in Tests, the numbers haven’t been too different. That these very same bowlers did a much better job in Streak’s time does not put Walsh in good light. The overall numbers are also do not paint a good picture for the West Indian.

ODIs

Bowling coach Matches Wickets Average Economy
Heath Streak 29 236 25.99 4.92
Courtney Walsh 23 148 38.44 5.67

 

Tests

 

Bowling coach Matches Wickets Average Strike Rate
Heath Streak 10 121 38.61 70.5
Courtney Walsh 22 149 43.44 73.9

These numbers offer more than ample evidence about the Walsh-way that isn’t quite working for the Bangladeshis. It could be a case of good-player-bad-coach or simply a lack of proper communication or methods. Whatever the case, it has pegged back Bangladesh cricket and the drubbing in South Africa only puts Walsh under more pressure to turn things around. The 2019 ODI World Cup is scheduled to be held in England and Bangladesh cannot afford to go into that tournament as under-prepared, clueless minnows. They have seemingly risen from that category although the last two months have cast shadows over their tag of being a reputed International team.

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About the Author

mm

A cricket enthusiast striving to convey the finer details of the game in a capsule. I hope to present a bird's eye view of the game as I see it to the readers. PS: I am smitten by the likes of ABD but crush on pace bowlers who can make the ball talk.



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