The Pybus Problem
Richard Pybus was the Bangladesh cricket team's 11th foreign coach. He recently quit due to a series of disagreements with the Bangladesh Cricket Board. Naimul Karim provides a round-up of the time he spent here and the problems that he faced
Photo: Star File
It all started in April this year, when the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), after the departure of Stuart Law, was in the hunt for a head coach who could, in the words of former President AHM Mustafa Kamal, take the national team 'into the next level'. It was then that Law's agent suggested Richard Pybus' name to the BCB.
The English-born had first started coaching in his mid-twenties after an injury halted his playing ambitions. He had coached Pakistan twice in between 1999 and 2003 before going on to coach cricket clubs, namely, Middlesex and then the Titans. His term in Bangladesh would mark his return to international cricket after nearly a decade.
A high-profile coach, Pybus, who had come to Dhaka on a short visit on May 10, this year, to have a check on the BCB's facilities, was almost instantly hired by Kamal and co. He, however, had a few extra demands, which the board believed could be accommodated in due time. In fact, the BCB's acting CEO Nizamuddin Chowdhury had described the deal to be a 'win-win' situation.
The problem regarding the deal between Pybus and the BCB came to the fore just a month back, when a leading Bengali daily, claimed that the board hadn't signed a contractual deal on paper with the head coach. It was learnt, that the board and Pybus had a gentleman's agreement and that the officials expected the coach to gradually sign a deal. Pybus, who had already worked as head coach of the team for five months, was on leave and was scheduled to come back before the series against the West Indies in November.
Richard Pybus, Photo: Star File
Defending the board's decision to not sign a deal with the Englishman, Kamal said," He had come here to check the training environment and he liked it. He, however, needed long leaves to visit his family. We thought that in due time he would be able to convince his family to come and stay in Dhaka. That unfortunately didn't happen."
The severity of the clash between the board and the coach further deepened after BCB officials compared the Englishman's working style to a 'part-time' coach. The former coach also didn't appreciate the fact that his contract details were leaked to the media. Eventually, Pybus sent an official message to the board on October 25, letting the BCB know that he wouldn't continue.
The drama, however, didn't just end there. After he quit, he launched a scathing attack on the board and, in an interview with ESPNcricinfo, alleged that the BCB had 'undermined his position.' He claimed that the board had rejected his national camp. He also stated that the food provided by the board to the players, wasn't good enough and that it often led to food poisoning. There were several other issues, which according to Pybus proved to be a hindrance for him.
BCB officials in their reply had said that the national camp was never rejected but was called upon discussion. In reply to Pybus' food allegations, Nazmul Hassan Papon, President of the BCB said, "We recently doubled the revenue that was spent on food. If there is something wrong with it then we'll definitely look into it. But if he wants us to bring meat from Australia or has any other such demands that we can't cater to, then it can't be helped."
While it can be safely said that the root of most of Pybus' problems with the board came about from an uncertain contract and that majority of the allegations he made could be debated upon, some of his comments, however, did bring out the age-old problems of the BCB.
In an interview with ESPNcricinfo he said, "The captain and I left out two senior players when we were in Trinidad for a T20 competition prior to the WT20. They were carrying niggles and we wanted to rest them so they were fit for the World Cup. These players were called at 1 am in the morning after the game, with the captain, team physiotherapist and team manager. The players were given a dressing down for letting the country down." He further stated that the board directors would want to get involved during team meetings as well.
The president of the BCB described Pybus' short stint as an 'experience to learn from'. In a press conference at the BCB headquarters he said, "He is a highly professional coach and we perhaps became a little over excited on his arrival and hence assumed that he would agree to our demands. Unfortunately, the leave-issues created a distance between the coach and the board right from the beginning. We have learnt our lesson and will never bring a coach without a proper agreement ever again."
There are two vital factors that the recent episode has shown. Firstly, the BCB continues to follow a 'larger-than-life' approach to bring foreign coaches to the country. No matter how high the profile of a coach may be, an organisation like the BCB simply cannot afford to have unofficial agreements.
The consequence of such an act was quite readily visible. In the last five months, Pybus was with the national team only during tours and tournaments, something that was condemned by various officials of the board. In fact Kamal, the man who made the deal possible , himself was the first to criticise the coach's actions. “What's the point of staying with the team during tours? We need a coach who can train the players during the off-season, that's the only way they'll improve,” stated the ex-president during a recent press conference.
The conflict with the coach has indirectly affected the players' training routine. With a delay in the national camp, the players' preparation for the series against the West Indies in November, will now be based upon just two rounds of the National Cricket League and considering the fact that Bangladesh is playing its first Test match in over a year, the current scenario does not look good. Only time will tell if BCB's strategy of replacing Pybus with the country's bowling coach—Shane Jurgensen— can repair the damages caused solely due to an absurd decision taken by the board five months ago.