Ex-Australia pacer Ryan Harris says coach must manage players well in this era
Former Australia pacer Ryan Harris, in a freewheeling chat with Hindustan Times, has spoken about the nuances of coaching, the future of Test cricket threatened by flat wickets and his favourite batsmen and bowlers in the modern era.cricket Updated: Jul 20, 2017 08:56 IST
Ryan Harris defined the way Australia played cricket. Aggressive and putting in 100 percent despite being injured. The 37-year-old, who retired in 2015 due to persistent injuries, played only 27 Tests. However, in that period, he was the designated leader of an Australian pace attack that included Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc.
In 27 Tests, Harris took 113 wickets at an average of 23.52. His performances helped Australia scale the summit of the Test rankings. Following his retirement, Harris has settled into a coaching role with the National Performance Team to guide the next generation of Australian pacers. In a chat with Hindustan Times on the sidelines of the function hosted to celebrate the partnership between MRF Pace Academy and Cricket Australia, Harris opens up about his switch to coaching, the threat to Test cricket due to flat wickets, the roles of a coach and the Cape Town miracle.
How has your transition from player to coach worked?
It has been great. It is different from what I had thought. It has been easier because of the relationships and trust I had built with the players I played with. I hope to establish a connection with the younger players. They trust in me and they are able to talk to me freely. The transition has been immensely satisfying. I have had a lot of different experiences.
What should be the role of the head coach?
It is a combination of man management and skill management. You have to look after every player and know what each player wants. Each individual is different. The coach has to accommodate each individual. Skills coaches are there to make the players better in their skills. If the player wants to learn and the coaches make him feel better, that is the day they reach the peak of their career. Players at the top level never stop learning.
In modern coaching, how do you cope with multiple heads running the team?
The head coach basically runs the team. The other coaches, like the batting and bowling, they look after all the skills. The head coach ultimately has a say on what happens in the team. He has a say on my training session and what happened. The batting and fielding coaches will weigh in on their decisions with him. It is important that the head coach gets around all the players but he cannot be stuck doing one thing. He has to communicate with all the players, he cannot be stuck with just throwing balls to batters. I remember Darren Lehmann (current coach) used to get around all the players and make sure that they are doing what they need to. Having multiple coaches is very important. They also need to have a good relationship with the head.
How would Jason Gillespie have fared as India coach?
Jason Gillespie would have been a fantastic coach for India. I have worked with him and played with him. From my experience, he would have been great in that role.
Are flat wickets posing a threat to the future of Test cricket?
Absolutely. We need to rectify this situation. We want to see results. People will not come for five days to watch boring cricket. They want to see attacking cricket and that is what Test cricket is all about. In the Australian summer, it depends on who plays in summer. If teams like South Africa, India and England come, we have pretty good wickets. We want to see results. The fans want to see Australia win and they want their team to play well in home conditions. One has to ensure the wickets are result-oriented.
How do you look back on the Cape Town miracle?
It was a great moment for the team. We were coming off a 5-0 whitewash in the Ashes and beating South Africa in their home turf was special. It was a great individual moment for me. We put in a lot of work in both the series and to get the results was satisfying. In that tense situation, when your captain throws you the ball and asks you to win the game for your country, it is a thing you dream of as a kid. That little moment was one of my best.
Do you think the current pay crisis distracted Australia during the Champions Trophy?
There would have been some discussions (among players) but I do not think it played a role. We did not play well enough. One and half games were affected by rain, which did not help. When we did get a full game against England, we did not play well. When you have games washed out in a short competition, you will struggle and Australia were unlucky with that. However, they were not good enough and it was disappointing.
Who is your favourite batsmen currently?
I have bowled to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, Kevin Pietersen. They are all class batsmen. The job of bowlers is even harder due to flat wickets. However, one has to have different plans for batsmen, which is why it is called a Test. Pietersen was the toughest to bowl to as he was such a big guy. One had to change a lot of different things when you had to bowl to him.
Who are the best bowlers?
I find it hard to go past our bowlers, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc. Starc is getting better. James Anderson is skillful. I love to see Dale Steyn bowl. Kagiso Rabada is fantastic. Pat Cummins and James Pattinson are also magnificnet. We could have a bowling attack with skill and pace.
How has the association with MRF Pace Academy been?
The importance of this academy has been huge. Players from either countries have had a great opportunity. Over the years, the number of players coming has increased. This is a good experience for young guys to adapt to tough conditions in India. One of the big things in Australia is that we want to come to India and win. We were competitive in the last series but failed to win. This academy gives youngsters a chance to acclimatise to conditions which are different from Australia.