Want to take India back to No.1: Dawes
Mumbai, Feb 16: A strapping fast bowler who took 285 first-class wickets for Queensland. A plain-clothed policeman who enoforced the law for close to a decade. A political media advisor, owner of a news agency, a businessman who dealt in sports shoes. Joe Dawes’ résumé reads like options ticked by a wide-eyed youngster on a career-counsellor’s attractive brochure.
After retiring as a cricketer in 2005, the multi-faceted Dawes coached Queensland before taking up the same job with South Australia. At 41, Dawes has landed the most high-profile job of his career – that of the Indian cricket team’s bowling mentor for the next two years. He will take over from the incumbent bowling coach, Eric Simons, whose tenure ends with India’s ongoing tour of Australia.
The moment Dawes agreed to take the job, he knew what he wanted to achieve out of it. “I want to take India back to the No.1 position in Test cricket,” was a familiar refrain during the course of his interview to bcci.tv.
He also has a plan to achieve that aim. “People talk about developing four or five good fast bowlers but I want to form a pack of eight to 12 quick bowlers to fall upon at any time.”
Confidence in his coaching abilities, and the talent that he has seen in India on his few visits to the country, fuel Dawes’ ambition. “I believe I’ll do a very good job. There are some really young, exciting prospects in the Indian set-up and India being such a vast country, there will be so much untapped talent as well. We can go beyond the obvious and search for that talent,” he said.
Australia’s ongoing domestic season means Dawes, currently South Australia’s bowling coach, has been able to catch only glimpses of the Indian bowlers in Australia. His meetings with MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher have been short and formal. But he’s already managed to have some useful conversations with Eric Simons.
“I did speak with Eric a couple of times and I’m hoping to catch up with him again before the team leaves Australia,” Dawes said. “He’s given me a good insight as to where the bowlers currently stand in comparison to where they want to get. He’s been very helpful without giving me any preconceived notions about the players.”
Dawes has also received a valuable piece of advice from Simons which he intends to “use as a massive part of [his] coaching method”. Simons told him, “You need to understand before you try to make yourself understood.” “It’s a treasure from him, a great piece of advice when you’re dealing with a team with varied cultures, different languages and backgrounds,” Dawes acknowledged.
Simons’ inputs aside, Dawes is working on his own strategy to get through to the team. “When a coach suggests something, he needs to have the player’s understanding and inputs as well. For that, I have to be a part of the team first and get to know them as persons before trying to know them as bowlers.” He believes the varied experiences gained from his multiple professions will help him “to build friendships with players and not only be their coach but also their friend.”
Dawes’ new job is equal parts opportunity and challenge. Used to bowling and coaching on the bouncy and pacy Australian pitches, Dawes will have to recalibrate his plan while guiding a bunch of fast bowlers who play most of their cricket on docile Indian tracks.
“On the sub-continental tracks, whatever the bowlers do, they have to do it exceptionally well. In Australia, you can get away with a few mistakes because you get assistance from the wicket, but not in India. The reverse swing becomes very important there and it is a very hard task to master.”
Dawes admits he’ll have to alter his coaching methods quite a bit to suit the situation. “We have to make changes even when we go around the six states in Australia. The sub-continental wickets are way different from that. It’s a challenge for me as a coach.”
However, with the bowling talent available to India, he believes his work will ease down. “We’ve got a good mix of bowlers who can bowl fast and those who are very skilful. We just need to be a little more consistent and utilise our skill better than we’re doing at the moment,” he said.
The Aussie has also braced himself for the non-cricketing challenges that his new job presents not least of which is handling the expectations of millions of zealous fans.
“The expectations of the Indian public are welcome,” he said. “Indian people are passionate about their cricket and I’m passionate about my coaching. All I can do is perform my job to the best of my abilities. Hopefully, the Indian public will get behind me and the team as we climb our way up the ladder.”
Dawes aims to “build a strong relationship based on trust and honesty” with his wards. “I don’t beat around the bush,” he says, describing his coaching method. “I’ll always tell you what I think with a view to making you a better player. I’ll work to build an environment where I can be honest with the players and they can be honest with me.”
Officer Dawes makes a brief reappearance when he lays down the rules for his new set of wards. “I set very high standards and expect the same from my players,” he warned. But the transition to Coach Dawes is seamless. “I’ll back you and give my 100 per cent if you’re willing to work hard. I’ll challenge you to get better and help you get there.”