Dav Whatmore, who was associated with the World champion India Under-19 team as a coach in 2008, has seen the evolution of India skipper Virat Kohli from the very close quarters. Kohli has come a long way ever since he led India in that Under-19 World Cup campaign in Malaysia.
Seeing the way Virat has bossed the game with his willow and as a captain, Whatmore has labelled him as a democratic leader.
“I think as a captain you are always learning. Leading by example physically, as a fielder and a batsman, he [Kohli] ticks all the boxes. Making shrewd decisions on the field, he needs assistance from a few players. He is a democratic leader, contrary to what a few think; he listens to all the decent heads around him before taking a decision,” Whatmore told TOI.
“Touring a country as a captain is the biggest test for any cricketer, not just performing at home. As a batsman, bowler and a captain you need to perform in different conditions, only then will you get the tag of a great cricketer. He is on the way, this (overseas series lined up) would definitely be an indicator of his performance. But then, he has great support from the team and the support staff,” he added.
Whatmore came into limelight when he coached the Sri Lankan team to 1996 World Cup glory and then helped Bangladesh to win their first Test in 2005. The 64-year-old is currently mentoring the Kerala domestic team.
Talking about the difference between coaching an international team and a domestic team, he opined: “When you compare the two, it is different certainly, but not so much in the skills and the game department, because the four-day game is similar to the 5-day Test matches. For, except in the ODIs, the actual game itself doesn’t change much. What does change hugely is the seasonal cricket you play.”
“Internationally, you don’t have seasons, there is a continuum; you have two to three series always lined up. You have different conditions in different countries with home and away matches. In domestic cricket, you have pre-season, in-season and off-season. There are gaps in a 12-month calendar year and that is the main difference. As far as pressure is concerned, obviously, there is more pressure at the international level, domestic cricket also has pressure, but not as much as when you are competing against different nations,” he explained.
Whatmore has also represented Australia in 7 Tests and 1 ODI besides playing 108 first-class games for Victoria.
When asked if he enjoys coaching more than playing cricket for Australia, Whatmore said: “It is interesting; at certain levels you really enjoy playing because of the success. But during my last days of playing international cricket I wasn’t strong enough mentally, I struggled. So, I enjoyed my career as a coach more, I must say. When you are not that great as a player, and you understand the difficulties associated with it, you pass that on to the players.”
Sharing his experience of coaching the IPL franchise – Kolkata Knight Riders, Whatmore stated: “You take a huge mix of cultures that melts into one point, that’s IPL. When I coached the Knight Riders, I approached it like running a normal international team. I had a good talented group from different nations in my team. I tried really hard to understand the culture to manage these big players and to manage the difference as best as you can. For example someone like Jacques Kallis, 10,000-plus test runs and 300-plus test wickets and you don’t even know he is there in the dressing room — he is so maintenance- free and you have got players who have played way lesser than he has, a bit demanding. It is interesting to experience these huge contrasts in the dressing room.”
The Test series between South Africa and Australia in March 2018 had grabbed headlines for a number of wrong reasons. The ball-tampering scandal was certainly the biggest one with three Aussie cricketers namely Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft facing suspension from international cricket for their involvement.
Commenting on the disgraceful ball-tampering saga, Whatmore said: “As a coach, sometimes you know before it is going to happen in a match, but generally you don’t know. It happens without the knowledge of the coach, when a few players decide to tactically bring something in during a particular session of the match. That area of ball tampering is become more visible now. I too would like to get a bit more clarity on what exactly is ball tampering or what are the substances that are allowed on the field.”
“Over the period of years, players have been using their saliva to shine the ball, though I didn’t like it, I chewed gum and put saliva on the ball to keep the shine. It is an interesting and grey area at the moment. There are people who, regardless of what happens on the field, blame the coach, just because he is the coach. Sometimes, I understand their views, but it is also really unfair to blame a person who was never really part of it,” he concluded.