Rumours are galore that Richard Pybus, that England-born South African domestic cricket coaching hero, is set to Bangladesh’s head coach with Chandika Hathurusingha set to part ways with the Tigers.
Pybus, who has coached Pakistan and Bangladesh in the past was also the Director of Cricket for the West Indies Cricket Board. He made his name in South African domestic cricket, successfully coaching Border and later, Titans and Cobras.
Credited for bringing up the likes of Mark Boucher and Makhaya Ntini, Pybus has quite a reputation in cricketing circles.
But how good an International coach is he?
Pybus is undoubtedly a popular choice. But often, the blemishes of a popular choice goes under the bridge, becomes irrelevant and is ignored until it manifests itself a few months after the decision.
Bangladesh know it all too well. They had a tie-up with Pybus in 2012 but it ended rather unceremoniously with the Bangladesh Cricket Board and Pybus having quite a few rifts in terms of the contract. The BCB wanted Pybus for 320 days a year but Pybus cited family reasons and wanted to be home in between the tours which effectively meant he would be there only when the team was playing.
In an interview during the start of his distressed tenure with Bangladesh cricket, Pybus was asked what steps he plans to implement to ensure a pipeline of players to the national team. The much acclaimed national coach’s blunt reply was “I’m not in charge of the pipeline; my job is the national side.”
More than the rude reply, the worrying factor was that the national coach of an emerging team had no idea about the domestic cricket in the country, the structure or players in the pipeline. He didn’t bother to learn it either.
His troubled relationship with Pakistan affected cricket in the nation detrimentally. He worked as a coach for the country on four separate occasions, every time the tenure being fraught with ridiculous claims and little results. That Pakistan had terrific players like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Saeed Anwar ensured that they stayed afloat. However, for emerging teams like Bangladesh and West Indies that wouldn’t hold true.
“I’m not in a position to discuss how the Bangladesh system works; I don’t know it well enough”, Pybus had said in the same interview.
The sheer arrogance in his reply is enough to understand that while he might be a celebrated coach in domestic cricket, being the coach of a national side also involves understanding the country, it’s cricket, the structure of cricket and way of playing.
You don’t go to West Indies and teach them defensive batting when their natural style is to attack.
Pybus was an enforcer, one of the highest order whose primary instinct in any decision was ‘my way or the highway’. That might work in club cricket but certainly not in International cricket where there are protocols and procedures for anything and everything.
During his tenure as Director of cricket for WICB, he was involved in tussles every now and then with leading West Indian players. For a side battling to improve on the administration – player relation, Pybus was a negative influence, to say the least.
He had problems with anything and everything in the system. His job was to help develop regional and international cricketers over a three-year period starting in 2013. But understanding the nuances and culture of a country is not something Pybus does.
At the time, WICB Chief Executive, Michael Muirhead, stated that “securing the services of Richard is a major coup for the WICB”.
What he didn’t realise was the imminent catastrophe that was about to unfold.
“I am particularly looking forward to working with the West Indies teams, the first-class sides, the High Performance Programme and the educational structures, to ensure a rigorous, competitive system that feeds through elite players to international level”, Pybus had said before embarking on his West Indian adventure.
Three years since then, little had changed as Pybus failed to understand the cultural differences between places in the Caribbean islands. He was rumoured to have been involved in team selections, disrupting the set order in place and implementing his own, which obviously didn’t pan out as well as it did in his mind.
That his five-month deal in Bangladesh ended was no surprise back in 2012. For a coach who wasn’t ready to explore beyond what his job description put down, the results were always expected to be disastrous. He wasn’t prepared to nurture younger players or have an eye on domestic cricket in the country. If BCB did not give him a contract, it was for the best eventually. Such a coach would have done little to aid their development.
A ridiculous order Pybus had was to get better sandwiches for players after practise sessions. The imbecility in this was that he demanded imported meat in these sandwiches which was ridiculing considering that BCB had budgetary concerns. There is no reason why Bangladesh themselves cannot provide quality meat when they feed a population of nearly 163 million.
He left the job at a time a series against West Indies was imminent and it shows the sheer unprofessionalism of Pybus the coach. While a lot was expected of him then, little materialised and although not all the folly can be dumped on Pybus (BCB were at fault too), the coach wasn’t on the right side either.
With such a perturbed past, it is farcical that Bangladesh are ready to induct Pybus again. At a time the country is struggling with Shakib Al Hasan’s Test hiatus, Mushfiqur Rahim’s listless captaincy and a multitude of third-grade journalists roaming around in dressing rooms, re-inducting Pybus is a recipe for disaster.