The Australian Way
Jamie Siddons and Mohammad Ashraful at the airport after both of them coincidentally arrived on the same plane to Dhaka.
We are trying to maintain the Australian standard,” said Gazi Ashraf Lipu as he announced Jamie Siddons would take over as head coach of the national team. The statement seems rather innocuous at first glance, but the “Australian Standard” he talks of is now the way of the world. The past decade has undoubtedly belonged to Australia, as they have proved their cricketing credentials in every test-playing nation of the world, thrashing their opponents both at home and away. But far more interesting than the victories themselves is how those countless victories were set up. The players followed a strict disciplinary system, and even the game itself was broken down into methodical parts, where every player knew their role, rank and position a failure by one was more often than not backed up by a couple of others doing more than share. It was also amazingly a team where a few bad matches was all that was needed for one to be looking over their shoulder trying to keep the upstarts out of their place. It was competitive, energetic and most importantly efficient; to back it all up was an incomparable coaching staff, which worked in the same manner. The legacy of the still continuing golden age is a harem of international standard coaches trying to get into the national set-up.
The result of the continued Australian dominance and their invaluable coaching staff has been that most other teams feel they must follow the Australian approach if they are to achieve any real success in world cricket. That has led to national boards around the world appointing Australian coaches in the hope that their teams follow the winning Australian format. Currently five test-playing nations have Australians as their head coaches, Australia (Tim Nielsen), Bangladesh (Jamie Siddons), West Indies (John Dyson), Pakistan (Geoff Lawson) and Sri Lanka (Trevor Bayliss), along with them Dav Whatmore also recently took up a coaching position as the head of Indian Cricket academy. Their strangle hold over the game is not just on the field but now very really off the field.
Bangladesh seemingly has a lot to learn from Australia, and Lipu's statement was more than just another sound byte, it was a lifestyle change for a continually unpredictable side. The man chosen to lead the revolution is Jamie Siddons, by accepting the job he has become the third Australian to lead our national team this year. That one presumes is only a sign of the times. After a hugely successful World Cup, Dav Whatmore stepped down as head of the national team and since then under the guidance of Shaun Williams Bangladesh's form has been patchy at best. A competitive home tour against India was followed up with a pathetic tour of Sri Lanka only for all of those results to be tempered against an interesting run in the T20 championships where they shocked the West Indies.
Shaun Williams was never going to be more than just a stopgap measure and the appointment of Siddons is certainly a step in the right direction. He has all the right credentials, a hugely successful playing career where he was desperately unlucky not to win a test cap having played in a solitary One Day International. He is one of those dreadfully unlucky players who never quite made it into the highly competitive Australian sides of the nineties. His playing career was littered with purple patches, but it was never quite enough to get into the Australian side. In fact when he retired in the '99/'00 season he was the all time leading run scorer in Sheffield Shield history, thus also making him the Australian with the most runs, never to have won a test cap. That unwanted record he passed on to Jamie Cox, who currently serves as a selector for the national side. Batting apart Siddons still holds the record for the most catches in Australian domestic first-class history with 189. His playing credentials may be lacking in the international arena but he more than
made up for it with an outstanding first class career, a career successful enough for Shane Warne to name him in his all time top 50 players list.
On his retirement, the transition into coaching was almost seamless. He joined the academy as a very hands-on coach and then went on to be appointed as a senior coach at the Centre of Excellence before the 2005 Ashes and then became an assistant coach with the Australian team. It was from the national team set-up that the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) poached him, after initially withdrawing from the race for the post, as both sides could not reach an agreement on the details of his contract he finally decided to take up the position.
His journey to Dhaka to take up the position was also an eventful one as he unexpectedly found himself with the Bangladesh team returning home from the Hong Kong Sixes. On board the plane from Bangkok he spoke with Ashraful and from the look of things their first encounter seemed quite healthy. Ashraful said “Jamie Siddons is not a big name in world cricket, but we all know that he is a very good coach. True he didn't play Test cricket but has a rich first-class record as a batsman. A player like Shane Warne even included him in his list of best fifty players," he went on to say "you know our performance (recently) could have been much better had we not struggled with our batting. I hope the batting experience of our new coach will be handy for us. But the most important thing is that he was the assistant coach of world's number one team". That last statement is possibly the most important, after it is all said and done Bangladesh currently does have a member of staff who most recently worked with the world number one team. Surely he had some small hand to play in their success, and that is exactly what we are looking for. From assistant coach of the best team in the world, to head coach of the worst, Jamie Siddons has a lot on his plate and with an expected salary above the 14 lakh a month paid to Dav Whatmore, he has to deliver.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007