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Former Pakistan fielding coach Julien Fountain lashes out at fitness levels of cricketers

Julien Fountain (in white T-Shirt) training with the Pakistan team © AFP
Julien Fountain (in white T-Shirt) training with the Pakistan team © AFP

By Julien Fountain

I am writing this blog, whilst I sat in my new apartment in Seoul, South Korea, where I am currently the Head Coach of their national cricket team. We are preparing for the Asian Games, and believe me we are going to surprise a few people. I have ex baseball players who can happily hit a ball 100m plus, I have a 6ft 3inch left arm 140kph quick, and a guy who bowls a doosra. Korea is a very disciplined country, and despite facilities being sparse, and budgets small, it’s a real pleasure to be their Head Coach as we are the host country and the prestige is huge!

Firstly, may I begin by saying a huge thank you to all of you who read and post regularly on Pakpassion.net, and who have been so supportive during my recent two years with Pakistan. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the team, and according to many well respected players, coaches and even some TV pundits, Pakistan actually started looking pretty good in the field.

But we already knew that, as those of you who pay attention to the games would know, I keep detailed statistics on each performance. The “old school” who simply know how to criticise but not to impartially assess, are just not smart enough to accept that Pakistan’s fielding improved over the last two years.

Now that is not to say it could not get better; of course it could be better, but there are sometimes limiting factors which do not get taken into consideration when making sweeping statements like “Player X is a useless fielder” for example:

  • Is the player carrying an injury you are not aware of?
  • Has the player ever actually been taught the fielding skill he has just messed up?
  • Is there actually a time period in this players working week where he is able to both learn & practice this skill?

Lets take a favourite topic for discussion, Diving & Sliding.

In order for an international cricket team to be successful in the field, its players must all be able to dive and slide effectively. Hell, even Imran Tahir and Lonwabo Tsotsobe are to be seen hitting the ground quite frequently, so ethnicity is no excuse.

Some players in the Pakistan team are unable (or unwilling) to dive or slide as often as is required or even at all. This does hinder the teams performance somewhat, as it means these players are executing other skills at inappropriate times, thus increasing the risk of making an error.

“Teach them all to dive then Fountain”, I hear you say; well, ok that was what I intended to do but now listen to some of the counter arguments I heard in my time with the team.

1.“Some of these players are a little old, and do not want to put the final stage of their career at risk due to injury”

2.“We are on tour, we don’t want injuries before a game, cannot this be done at the NCA”

3.“We need to practice catching, as that is more important than diving”

4.“I am a little tired, can we do this training tomorrow”

5.“There is no time in the schedule and nowhere to do it, sorry”

So, what do you do….

Some are too old, some are too stubborn and if they all get the green light from various sources to wimp out of it, what can you do. Even when we have done some sessions, using the same “Baby Steps” that you would use with Under 12 age players, still certain people managed to get “Injured” !!! What to do?

You want results, but the reality is that sometimes the very people involved either directly or indirectly are simply not willing to go that extra mile to ensure success on the field. Too busy cozying up to a celebrity to actually enforce a decision.

If the domestic structure had appropriately skilled coaches, and the domestic teams were selected using the appropriate criteria (not whose brothers, uncle’s, nephew once removed you are) then fielding (and fitness) would have a definite place.

I have said it before and will continue saying it “Your national team is only as good as your domestic teams” Until your domestic teams can challenge an international touring team, you will always struggle for consistent performances at senior international level.

(Julien Fountain a former fielding coach of Pakistan, was recently appointed as Head Coach of the South Korean national team. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)

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