New coaches seek stability after months of turmoil

Published April 30, 2024
Jason Gillespie (right) and Gary Kirsten (left). — Photo courtesy PCB
Jason Gillespie (right) and Gary Kirsten (left). — Photo courtesy PCB

LAHORE: While Jason Gillespie would like to rely on “communication and clarity” to get the best out of the Pakistan Test team, Gary Kirsten would need an environment conducive for “continuity and consistency” for the national side to thrive in the shorter formats.

Both Gillespie and Kirsten — appointed on Sunday as the national side’s head coaches for the Test and white-ball formats respectively — are set to enter the world of Pakistan cricket, which has been marred by more than a year of turmoil, with high standards and principles that define their respective coaching philosophies.

As a reflection of countries instable and political and economic situation in the last two to three years, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been a place far from any kind of consistency.

It has been about just the opposite in fact, the board witnessing three leadership changes in 13 months — two interim and one elected chairman. In this tumultuous period, Pakistan had three different sets of coaches and a total of three captains.

With the restoration of an elected government two months ago, the PCB now has an elected chairman in Mohsin Naqvi, who has signed up Gillespie and Kirsten for a two-year contract in an attempt to get Pakistan cricket back on track.

The duo’s appointments are being praised by critics given both Gillespie and Kirsten hold the reputation of being coaches who inculcate a winning mentality in their charges.

But to do that successfully in Pakistan, they would require the freedom to make an influence on a culture stricken by shakiness and insecurity. Gillespie and Kirsten will be a part of the national selection committee, which may allow them that influence.

“I’m excited about being part of the selection committee,” former Australian pacer Gillespie said in a podcast released by the PCB. “In my whole coaching career, I have had a role as a selector. It all comes down to clarity and communication. “

Although Gillespie hasn’t coached at the international level, he is an ECB accredited Level 4 coach, having completed the two-year course from the University of Gloucestershire. He has led English county side Yorkshire back-to-back Championship titles in 2014 and 2015.

Kirsten, meanwhile, is known for his feat of winning the 2011 World Cup with India, and presently is batting coach and mentor of Gujarat Titans, who won the 2022 Indian Premier League.

For the ex South African batter, the right processes in place are necessary to expect desired end results.

“I’m a fan of continuity and consistency in the process and let the processes and systems serve their time because if does, you’ve got really talented players and there is really a good chance that you will have some sustainable success, which is what every team is looking for,” he told the PCB podcast.

Kirsten will join the Pakistan camp ahead of the side’s four-match Twenty20 International series against England next month. He would be in charge of the team in the T20 World Cup, which is set to be held in the United States and the West Indies in June.

The ICC Champions Trophy next year and the 2026 T20 World Cup will also be Kirsten’s major assignments with Pakistan.

Before he joins the team, former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood — appointed as assistant coach for both

formats — will carry out duties as the backroom staff’s leader.

“… the plans are already in place,” said Kirsten. “Azhar Mahmood as interim head coach is doing a great job.

“We are communicating at the moment. I’m getting to understand the team and how they’re playing. I’m watching them play, which is great. I certainly have get my head in the space, but at an arm’s length.”

On the other hand, Gillespie will arrive in Pakistan ahead of their Test series against Bangladesh at home. The national side also host England for Test matches in October this year.

In their ICC Test Championship campaign so far, Pakistan have beaten Sri Lanka 2-0 away from home before receiving a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of Australia at the turn of the year.

“Obviously, the ICC World Test Championship 2023-2025 for Pakistan is going to be a challenge; there’s no question about that,” said Gillespie. “The first opportunity that I’ll be involved in will be against Bangladesh at home, and I am looking forward to it. We’ll just take each series and each Test match as it comes.”

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2024

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