Dav Whatmore is known as the coach with the Midas touch. Time and again he has lifted little known teams to fame and victories. Kerala, which till a few years ago never made its presence felt in India’s domestic cricket map, has reached the knock out stage of the Ranji Trophy.
Kerala is predominantly a football loving state, and while as one of the cricket officials from this state in the 80s before I ventured into journalism, there wasn’t even a proper cricket ground. There was never a dearth of enthusiasm for the game from those who played it then, but with poor facilities and lack of proper coaching, the team would crash to regular defeats to the top South Zone teams.
The appointment of Whatmore is a right move because many Kerala cricketers have been making an impact in domestic cricket these days through their natural talent. Sanju Samson, the hugely talented wicketkeeper batsman, Basil Thampi an extremely promising pacer who exhibited his skills in the Indian Premier League, team skipper Sachin Baby, Rohan Prem and Sandeep Warrier were all waiting for someone who can imbibe confidence in them rather than sharpen their skills.
Whatmore, born in Sri Lanka, which is very close to Kerala, was able to rightly sense the temperament in the boys. In fact, when I asked Whatmore on his thoughts about the Kerala team, he said: “The boys have been terrific. Despite many challenges they have done really well and shown real attitude to win matches, and it is reflected in the score line.”
A temperament to be successful is all that Whatmore needs to transform them into a winning unit. At a time when Sri Lankans were addressed as the babes of cricket, he lifted them to a World Cup triumph in 1996. Similarly, he took the Bangladesh team, considered one of the weakest teams then, into to the super eight stage in the 2007 World Cup. Whatmore had also lifted the English county Lancashire to two National leagues and a NatWest Trophy triumph.
A frequent visitor to the UAE to conduct clinics for budding cricketers, Whatmore was again here on an invitation from the Deserts Cubs Cricket Academy. What makes Whatmore special is that though he has guided players of the calibre of Sanath Jayasuriya and Arjuna Ranatunga, he can also adapt to a youngster who is just picking his basics. The Kerala players may have lacked in confidence and wavered in the basics of game, but now that Whatmore has sharpened these two traits in them, sky will only be the limit for them.
A no-nonsense man, Whatmore is never affected about the status of a player he coaches — a super star or an unknown player. For him, in his own words, “anyone with discipline in training, fitness and attitude to win can succeed.”