PP.n: You worked with Wasim Akram at Islamabad United and he’s somebody people feel would make a good choice as Pakistan Head Coach in future. Do you agree with that viewpoint?  DJ: If Wasim Akram wanted to coach Pakistan, I think he could do it without a problem. He would be a brilliant choice. Whether [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Confidence in talent, belief in ability, perform to potential

Excerpts from an interview with PakPassion.net (PP.n) Dean Jones, who speaks of Pakistan’s chances on the tour of England

PP.n: You worked with Wasim Akram at Islamabad United and he’s somebody people feel would make a good choice as Pakistan Head Coach in future. Do you agree with that viewpoint?  DJ: If Wasim Akram wanted to coach Pakistan, I think he could do it without a problem. He would be a brilliant choice. Whether he has the time to do it is the problem. It’s a very tough gig and you really have to commit yourself 100% to the job, 24- hours-a-day and 7-days-a-week. He was brilliant as Islamabad’s mentor at the PSL. There was a time when some of our bowlers such as Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Sami were lacking a bit of confidence, and Wasim gave them 15 minutes which I watched.

He worked on their confidence and technique, and 15 minutes later, both Irfan and Sami were hitting targets, walking around as if they were 10 feet tall. They had completely changed their momentum after those instructions from Wasim. I was in awe of Wasim as to how quickly he got the bowers going again. He’s one of the greatest cricketers that’s ever lived, and the current crop of Pakistani cricketers look up to him massively.
PP.n: What was it like working with Misbah-ul-Haq at the PSL?  DJ: Misbah knows the game inside out. He knows the players’ attitudes and how they react when under pressure, which is a very important thing.

At times he can get a little bit negative, but I understand that, due to the way things sometimes go in Pakistan cricket. How good a captain he is can be judged by this. In the PSL final, the opposition scored 174, and we had a large dressing room. I hate large dressing rooms because guys can hide in corners when things are not going well, and I felt we had a negativity in the group when needing 175 to win. I said to Misbah, “you have to say something to them.” He had a blend of West Indians, Pakistanis and Australians in there. We were chasing a high total on a pitch that wasn’t easy, and the way he spoke, with passion and with this amazing vigour in Urdu and English,

just raised the hopes and aspirations of the team. By the time he had finished his 3 or 4-minute blast to the boys about what he thought of them, whilst reinforcing the team’s values and what we had trained for, it was just brilliant. We ended up getting the runs easily, and I looked at Misbah and said, “you are special, you are a very special human being,” and that’s what I genuinely think of him.  PP.n: There were some reports that you applied for the Pakistan Head Coach position. Can you confirm if that was correct, and what appealed to you about the job?  DJ: I applied and Mickey Arthur got the gig. Simple as that.

I’m at a time in my life where I can do such a role, as my family has grown up and my girls have left home after their studies. Hence, I have a bit of time to do this type of job. I have an event-management company in Dubai and there is the commentary around the world, but nothing beats the fun I got out of coaching at the PSL. I really enjoyed the way we turned it around in that tournament, and did it the hard way after a bad start. Coaching a national team is of course different to coaching a Twenty20 franchise. You haven’t got time to coach a franchise team during a tournament. You just work on your team plan, look at who is fit, pick your team and go about doing it.

Whereas, when you are coaching a national team, you have to look after guys’ techniques. You are more involved and it’s more complicated. Also, your relationships with players as an international coach are very important.  PP.n: How do you see Mickey Arthur doing as Pakistan Head Coach?  DJ: Look, England and Australia have excellent records at home in Test series since the 1990s, so don’t expect miracles.  PP.n: You’ve always backed Umar Akmal, but he finds himself out of favour once again. What advice would you offer Umar?  DJ: I would ask him, “are you the solution or are you the problem”? The reason why Umar is not there can always be traced back to his defensive game.

He has the offensive game, he has every shot in the book and that’s his weakness, in that, he doesn’t have a proper defense. That’s why he doesn’t make runs consistently on all types of surfaces. He doesn’t have that pride in his defensive game. Do you think Umar could do what de Villiers did when he made 2 runs off 80 balls? I don’t think he could. Pakistan is a better team when he is in form. I love the kid, and I think he’s fantastic, but he needs a good person to put his arm around him and say to him that these things are important in your life, so improve your defensive skills and get a little fitter.

PP.n: Similarly, Ahmed Shehzad is out of international reckoning. What are your thoughts on him being overlooked by the selectors?
DJ: It’s easy to say your dropping is political and someone else’s fault, but ultimately, it’s the fault of the guy in the mirror. The game is asking him a question. “You’ve been dropped and you will continue to be dropped in future. What are you going to do about it when you get your next opportunity? Are you going to be bigger, are you going to be better, are you going to be more trustworthy and dependable when you go out to bat? Is your life and career on the line when you go out to bat?” I don’t want him making pretty 25s off 30 balls.

I want to see him making consistent 70s to 100s when he goes out to bat, and that is not what we are seeing.  PP.n: How do you see the Test series between England and Pakistan going?  DJ: Don’t worry, the Pakistani bowlers will rattle the England batsmen if they get the ball in the right areas and find their defensive lines and lengths, and let the ball do its work. I think the Pakistani bowlers will do very well, but they need the support of the slip fielders, and that could be a problem. It’s the defensive skills of the Pakistanis that are a concern, the offensive skills should be fine. The Pakistani batsmen will need to play the ball late, and will be relying heavily on Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq to get the runs.

It could be a very interesting series if one of the veterans for Pakistan has a good series with the bat. I’m looking forward to seeing Yasir Shah. It will be very interesting to see what type of pitches are prepared. If the home team prepares pitches that seam around, then the English team may not make many runs. I’m sure Amir and the other Pakistani boys will get that ball in the right areas and they will upset the England batsmen. However, if they prepare turners, then they have Yasir Shah, the best leg-spinner in the world to deal with. The English batsmen will not be sleeping well at the moment, as they were when they were facing the Sri Lankan bowlers.

PP.n: Do you think that, after the tour of England, it will be the right time for Misbah to retire from international cricket?  DJ: Age is just a number. Graham Gooch played for England after he was 40. I’ve seen him at the PSL, and Misbah’s got the body of a 25- year-old. He’s definitely fit enough and good enough to continue playing for Pakistan. He loves the battle and the competition. People are saying, “you are old, you have to go”, but I wouldn’t say that. If he’s not making runs and not enjoying battling through tough sessions facing Stuart Broad and James Anderson, then it’s time to go. But from what I’m seeing, he’s still enjoying the battle and is up for the challenge.

He still loves the game of cricket. He’s a true professional, I love him to bits.  PP.n: What are your thoughts on Day/Night Test cricket?
DJ: I think it’s the way forward, especially, as we are struggling with attendances, particularly in the sub-continent. It’s about playing at the right time, and I think it will be the catalyst for improving television ratings. Let me describe it like this. Imagine there’s a shop called the Test cricket shop which is right next to a train station, but it only opens up at 10am and closes at 5.30pm. People go to work on the trains which leave at 7am and they come home at 6pm. But people want to get into the shop but can’t, because the doors are locked when they want to go in.

People are busy, so we need to improve the hours of Test cricket to make sure that people actually get the chance to see the greatest game of all, and if that means playing Test cricket at night then so be it. We’ve made changes to so many areas within cricket, but this is one that has not been tweaked. This beautiful old woman called Test cricket, she just needs to be dressed up a little bit more and given a bit more respect. Let the masses be given a chance to watch Test cricket because, at the moment, not many of them can because they are too busy.

- www.PakPassion.net

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