Candidate No. 1
Mr Dav Whatmore, first some bad news. You can never pretend to be Marlon Brando and say, “I could've been a contender...”
That is because — herein lies the good news — you are a contender. For the job of coaching the Indian cricket team.
After the stormy marriage with Greg Chappell, many believed that it was best to appoint an Indian as coach of the national team. Indian cricket hasn't made up its mind yet — but it seems to have at least shortlisted an Australian again — Whatmore.
Now that Whatmore’s on the verge of ending his four-year tenure with Bangladesh and among the candidates for the bed of thorns vacated by Chappell, it won't be premature to get some insight into him.
First, a basic introduction. Read in Amitabh Bachchan's Agneepath tone if you are a Bollywood freak. Name: Davenell Whatmore. Father's name: Frederick Whatmore. Age: 53 years. Born: in Sri Lanka.
Now, a cricketing introduction. Whatmore played seven Tests and an ODI for Australia. He wasn't too successful. He scored just two half centuries in Tests with 77 as his highest. Less than a year after he started playing for Australia, his international career was over.
And finally, an introduction to Coach Dav. Here, he made up for what he didn't achieve as a player. That too in distant lands like Lanka and Bangladesh. Under him, Lanka won the 1996 World Cup. Under him, Bangladesh shrugged off their minnows status, at least in one-dayers. They beat India and South Africa at this year's World Cup, reached the Super Eights and finished seventh in a 16-nation event. Like India and Pakistan, Lanka and Bangladesh were nations that had some catching up to do in areas of fitness and modern training methods. Whatmore was one of the people who athleticised Asian cricket. And by most accounts, he did it in a friendly way, unlike the reportedly divisive Chappell.
“Bangladeshi players are so young, they needed to be guided. Dav did that,” Athar Ali Khan, the former Bangladesh batsman and current selector, told the Hindustan Times on Thursday. “He was like a father to them.”
“If you had a problem, he had a solution,” said Tamim Iqbal, Bangladesh's 18-year-old limited-overs opener. “I had a problem with my stance once, he knew how to correct it.”
Ravi Shastri, India's coach for the ongoing series, said, “I have followed Bangladesh cricket closely for the last seven or eight years. What Dav has done well is identify the players with potential and work on them.”
Most name Whatmore's people skills when they talk about him. The Bangladesh dressing room has had its share of strife, causing the coach to step in and be firm or supportive, whatever the situation demanded. This ability has been felt not just by experts and players but even people at the ground level. Like Bulu, an old knowledgeable Bangladesh Cricket Board hand serving in this series as a media assistant. Short and bald, Bulu wears a hearing aid, has a slight speech impediment and is always on the edge — running around for this or that in his T-shirt and shorts that end below the knees. But talk about Dav and he decompresses. In gestures that convey warmth.
“Player player fight,” Bulu starts. He demonstrates “fight” with forefingers drawn across each other like swords, “Dav makes peace”. He acts out an embrace, folding his hands in front of his chest, placing each palm on the opposite shoulder, tilting his neck and closing his eyes.
Said Faruque Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh’s selectors, “This is not the right time to speak about this subject (Whatmore) but I'll say this much: we started working (on Bangladesh cricket) at about the same time. We worked hard and Dav proved himself to be a fine motivator. That is his strength.”
Asked if Whatmore could succeed in the Indian system, Ahmed said, “If he could be successful in Lanka and Bangladesh, there's no reason why he shouldn't be in India. The three countries are similar.”
There has been criticism about Whatmore's brazen interest in the India job. He made the diplomatic mistake of admitting it as far back as the World Cup, when he was very much with Bangladesh. Their Board wasn't amused. But the positives of his term outweigh the negatives and we shouldn't be self-righteous about what is essentially a career move. As Khan says, “Everyone looks for betterment.”