The appointment of Steve Rhodes is good, but Bangladesh need to invest patience and faith in him….
So finally, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) have appointed a head coach. Former English wicketkeeper and one of the most influential figures at New Roads, Steve Rhodes would be the new head coach of the Tigers until World Twenty20 in 2020. The cricketing fraternity of Bangladesh would not have to feel an emptiness created by the sad departure of Chandika Hathurusingha. Rhodes arrived for an interview on Thursday and presented his plans to BCB hierarchy. After a while, the BCB boss confirmed the appointment of Rhodes.
Who is Steve Rhodes?
But, how much does Bangladesh know about Rhodes?
I do have a bit of experience about him as a cricketer. I watched him in action at Trent Bridge against the touring New Zealand side in 1994, where he was good enough to prove his worth as the Wisden Cricketer of the year and against South Africa in the same year, he was decent enough. But after that disastrous tour down under in 1994-95, Rhodes was a forgotten figure in the international circuit.
As a cricketer, my opinion about him would not be something satisfactory, while in County Cricket, as a cricketer, his performance was better than the international one. But when the matter is about coaching and man management, Rhodes would definitely be right up there among the most respected characters in English cricket at present.
Rhodes, son of former Nottinghamshire keeper Bily Rhodes, joined Worcestershire as a young prodigy in 1985 from his native Yorkshire. Even though he started off his cricketing journey with Yorkshire, but it was Worcestershire, where he would really make an impact both as a player and official.
Rhodes as a mentor
In May 2005, he was appointed as the head coach of Worcestershire CCC and then promoted to the directorial role of the club in the following year and until he left the club eleven years later in 2017, Rhodes had made Worcestershire a force to reckon in County Cricket.
As an assistant and then, the head coach in early part of last decade, Rhodes witnessed a lot of ups and downs – promotion and relegation overshadowed the confidence of Pears as Rhodes searched for the formula to keep the club among the top sides. A solitary Pro 40 triumph in 2007 and numerous close shaves in white ball cricket meant no further trophies, but plenty of entertainment for the New Road faithful.
But a change was needed.
Rhodes decided to infuse more passion and vision to his game plan.
As the mentor of the club, his idea was to develop homegrown talents rather than relying too much on overseas stars. In an interview to the Worcestershire Observer in 2015, he said, “I’m doing this job because I passionately want this club to be successful and in this modern day and age when there are such big differences in finance between one club and another the only way we can do that is to develop and grow our best young talent.”
Rhodes, more popularly known as “Bumpy” the cricketer in New Roads, invested faith in younger talents. The likes of Graeme Hick, Vikram Solanki, Gareth Batty and Simon Jones were kept aside in favour of Daryl Mitchell, Jack Shantry, Joe Leach, Ben Cox, Brett D’Oliveira, Joe Clarke and Josh Tongue were entrusted with the job of taking the club forward.
In the last season, he included just one overseas player – Ravichandran Ashwin and all of those young and talented cricketers delivered their best to help Worcestershire seal the County Championship Division Two title in the final session of the 2017 season as they finally beat Durham by 137 runs.
According to the BBC, “Worcestershire’s sixth promotion in 15 seasons is the first time they have actually lifted the Division Two title since 2003 – when current director of cricket Steve Rhodes was still a player.
This latest success was again a triumph for Rhodes, who made the decision to change captains a year ago as both new skipper Leach and Mitchell, the man he replaced, have had inspirational seasons”
The working ethics and game plan of Rhodes became a matter of study for many prominent coaches in County circuit.
According to Rob George of Worcestershire Observer, “For me, his legacy will be the faith shown in young English players to go out and express themselves, perhaps shown by the promotion of the likes of Joe Clarke and Josh Tongue to the England Lions squad.
His work was recognised by many counties who now are following the Worcestershire model in an increasingly cash-strapped game.
He was also recognised by ECB coaching supremo Andy Flower who was a regular visitor to New Road and ensured Rhodes was offered a number of international assignments”.
He was about to mentor the English Under 19 cricket team this year, but his dedication of three decades met a sad end. He had to leave New Roads with a sad face, but the England cricket’s hierarchy was not at all interested to waste the brain of such a great man.
Bumpy had an opportunity to revive his cricketing career after being named as one of England’s new selection-scouts in May, 2018. But, destiny had big roles for him. A few months later, he would start his journey as the head coach of an international team named Bangladesh.
Rhodes as the coach of Tigers
Bumpy is not someone new to Bangladesh cricket, but he has the knowledge about this part of the world. One must not forget, while being the director of Worcestershire CCC, he witnessed the display of Shakib Al Hasan in 2010 and in 2016, he toured with the England national side as a coaching assistant. While talking about Shakib in an interview with the Worcestershire Observer in 2016 he said, “Shakib hasn’t changed much. He had his family with him and myself and him had dinner one night, which was great.”
He then added about his experience of the tour saying, “I learnt a lot through watching, observing, chatting to Cooky, and Joe Root, but also from the sidelines being able to spend time studying and working out potentially ways of coping and scoring runs which is most important, scoring runs.”
On the appointment of Rhodes as the head coach of Bangladesh, renowned coach and colleague of him, Ian Pont said, “He’s a good coach. Well respected in England. He has a good manner about him and plans extremely well. Steve is one of those coaches that gains the trust of the players he works with.
It will be interesting to see how he gets on with the Bengali cultural approach to cricket and the fans’ passion.
It’s important for him to start well in this respect. Although he’ll have a grace period at the start I think he will need to show improvement fairly quickly. In the subcontinent, you get less time afforded to you to start winning as an overseas coach”.
The appointment of Rhodes is a very good move by the BCB boss Nazmul Hassan. Mr. Hassan realized, the Tigers are a ship with a radar at the moment and are badly in need of a man of strong principle and work ethics. Describing Rhodes’ character, Rob George said, “always blunt, straight-talking and sometimes dour,” which means, he is from the school of Chandika Hathurusingha. For him, there are no scopes for nonsense and rubbish activities, but honesty, sincerity and hard work matter more.
Discipline is Rhodes’ topmost priority and from above, it can easily be understood, he prefers young talents more than the old cult figures. If someone would be the boss and father figure in the team, then it would only be Rhodes and no one else. For the players, Rhodes would be a father, a friend and lighthouse whenever they would be needed during their darkest periods. But I repeat, he won’t allow any outsiders to interfere in his work. He demands freedom.
What should BCB and cricket fans do?
Since 2015, Bangladesh’s position in world cricket became stronger than before and it was all because of man from Sri Lanka named Chandika Hathurusingha. But, some of the sports journalists of Bangladesh, who in turn, are so-called dedicated servants of some senior players in Bangladesh cricket team, made life tougher for Chandika during his tenure. Repeated negative propaganda about him by some sports journalists of Bangladesh and filthy internal politics within the team and BCB created a cocktail for a toxic environment, which led Chandika to leave a team, whom he taught to play a fearless brand of cricket.
As soon as Chandika left, the Tigers felt his absence. Neither the so-called bosses nor the sports journalists could bring the team back on track. The BCB boss knew what was required for the team and immediately, he did just what the doctor ordered – appointment of Rhodes, a hard taskmaster.
Now, BCB, the critics and fans have a responsibility to exhibit this time around. After a brief break, they have been blessed with a very good coach and the coach requires the moral support off the field as well. BCB should ensure full freedom to the coach by restricting the entrance of some obnoxious people from media, while the passionate fans of Bangladesh cricket should not fall into the trap of cheap Facebook posts of some notorious sports journalists of Bangladesh. Time and again, these people have exploited the emotions of fans to trigger unnecessary hype, which, so far, gave Bangladesh cricket nothing.
Steve would need time and support to deliver the best.