| A file picture of Richard Pybus with Wasim Akram
Pretoria: There was a time, in Pakistan, when captains would be changed at the drop of a hat. More recently, coaches have been sacked left, right and centre. For the past few months, though, that chair has been occupied by South African Richard Pybus. Incidentally, this isnít his debut innings with Pakistan.
A quiet character, much like a John Buchanan or John Wright, Pybus spoke to The Telegraph the other evening.
The following are excerpts
On his background
Till 1991, I played in the Minor Counties as a fast-medium swing bowler, but had to stop because of a series of injuries... I was also a lecturer in Communications and the Media... On returning to South Africa (1991), I was with the Selbourne College (East London) for four years and Mark Boucher is one of the kids I coached. He was an off-spinner, but I convinced him to try wicketkeeping. He was, after all, such a natural athlete. Today, he is one of the best around... After Selbourne, I got involved at the provincial level (Border) and had a big hand in setting up the Academy in East London.
On his association with Pakistan cricket
While Pakistan were on tour (1997-98), Aamer Sohail met me and asked if I would work with the team... Things moved from there and I was appointed consultant-coach to work with Javed Miandad in the 1999 World Cup. Well, Javed quit and, so, I worked with Mushy (Mushtaq Mohammed) instead... After that World Cup, I was back with Border and, then, back again with Pakistan... (Laughs) Itís been like that.
On the September 11 (2001) fiasco
Itís a fact that I was the coach at that time, but there were security concerns and I wasnít happy being in Pakistan. The PCB understood my position and we parted amicably. Then, last September, I got a call from General Tauqir Zia, asking if I would again come on board till the World Cup. Agreeing wasnít a tough decision, because Iíve always enjoyed working with the boys.
On captain Waqar Younis and former captain Wasim Akram having influenced the PCB into making the latest appointment
Yes, the boys did want me and, at various times, Wasim and Waqar have been quite candid about it. Itís a big compliment that they wanted me. Will I stay on after the World Cup' Donít know... The way things are, in Pakistan cricket, even the Board may change...
On his approach
I take a holistic view... At this level, itís no good being an overtly technical coach and one must tap into the players individually... The purely natural players, in any case, wouldnít like to go too much into technique. I try and look at all aspects and work out a balance... Physical, mental, psychological and emotional. Iím straight and honest... The players know I wonít pussyfoot around if the cricket has been bad.
On the emotional bit
(Smiles) Performance goes deeper than the guys walking over the boundary rope and starting to play... What happens in a playerís life is bound to have an influence... Again, itís a question of looking at players holistically instead of seeing them as cricketers only. Ití s possible that what happens at home, can impact the on-field performance.
On whether he has had a role model coach
Iíve tried to identify and take the best out of individuals, not just coaches... I remember at school, we had a fantastic physical education teacher (Bill Fergusson), who was tolerant of my excesses... He understood my passion for cricket and rugby and allowed me to go the way I wanted to. I learnt from his attitude... Indeed, instead of a carrot and stick approach, I try to understand individuals and take it up from there.
On interacting with such naturally gifted cricketers
Itís challenging, thatís for sure... Natural talent is fine, but there must be a process of grooming... Players have to be made ready for the big stage. The flaws, after all, could be physical, mental and technical. Inzamam-ul Haqís needs, for instance, are different from that of a newcomer. A coach, then, must be aware of how he should be going about his job.
On how he views a playerís maturity
Experience is important because you can handle situations you have already been exposed to. At the same time, a rookie doesnít come with any baggage. He learns on-the-job... Iíve got to appreciate that when I deal with newcomers.
On acts of indiscipline often cropping up in the Pakistan team
We have our code of conduct and the good thing is that itís pretty much been decided by the players themselves. (After a pause) Teams are made up of individuals and I accept that Shoaib Akhtar is a maverick... Has lots of energy, is fun to be with... Therefore, he brings something different to the team and itís a question of getting him to channel that energy in the right direction. As coach, Iíve got to harness that talent and energy and not be worried about indiscipline.
On handling Akhtar
Shoaib and I have always had a great relationship. Heís individualistic and I respect that... Heís emotional and fiery as well. I think he has to be handled on a daily basis...
On fielding being an area of concern
But, that wonít improve overnight... Frankly, the improvement will come from the next generation of players. A lot of kids (in Pakistan) play street cricket, which doesnít entail much fielding... It will be different if they take to the proper grounds from an early stage. That the kids donít play other sport is also a handicap. Itís different in Australia and South Africa...
On working with consultant-coach Daryl Foster
We perceive the game pretty similarly and he isnít just the bowling coach. That label got stuck, I suppose, because of the work he has been doing with Shoaib. At the end of the day, I carry the buck and I make the key decisions. However, we work as a team and our work is complemented by Denis Waite, the physical trainer-conditioner. Weíve also got two doctors, one of them has worked a lot with Shoaib, and Sikander Bakht (computer analyst). Thereís a process of reporting to each other and the boundaries are known... The backroom staff is good and is taking Pakistan cricket forward. In the past, the support team wasnít as complete as it should have been.
On his message to the team ahead of the India game
(Smiles again) Iíll ask them to be positive... The Centurion wicket generally has bounce and carry, but the batters can also hit through the line... Itís easy getting sucked into the emotion of the occasion, but Iíll be telling the players to just focus and not get pulled in other directions. But, yes, I do realise it canít be another match. So, doing the little things right will make a big difference.
On his own method of relaxation
Exercising... A coach can go through a range of emotions during the day and exercising brings back clarity... Occasionally, I play the guitar... Iím also a great believer in the spiritual side of life... That we are part of a greater scheme of things, that a holistic view should be taken... Outside cricket, my No. 1 priority is my daughter (Jessica).
On his favourite cricketer
Dennis Lillee. When I was in the early twenties, I spent an afternoon with him in Northants and that remains such a memorable experience. I also drew inspiration from Viv Richards and Ian Botham. They taught me that cricket isnít just about technique, itís also about living the game... That thereís the element of psychological domination. More recently, Iíve been privileged to work with Wasim and Waqar. Obviously, Iíve been trying to facilitate a better environment but, along the way, Iíve also tried to learn from them. Often, itís a two-way street.
Finally, on the changes cricket could see in the near future
I donít know whether the laws will change, but I do visualise a much greater use of information technology.