Monday, October 12, 2009

Whatmore to be Kolkata coach

Kolkata Knight Riders have lined up Dav Whatmore as coach, putting an end to months of speculation and uncertainty after the exit of John Buchanan. Whatmore, who guided Sri Lanka to the 1996 World Cup title, has been given the job more than three months after the team sacked Buchanan following two disastrous IPL seasons in which they finished sixth and eighth.

Whatmore is head of the BCCI's National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, but KKR sources told Cricinfo that the Indian board, which also runs the hugely successful Twenty20 league, has allowed him an early release to take up the new assignment as soon as possible. Whatmore was not available for a reaction - he is away in Australia on vacation -- and Joy Bhattacharya, the Kolkata team's director, declined to comment.

Kolkata zeroed in on Whatmore after meeting a number of candidates, including John Wright, Richard Pybus, Dermot Reeve, Duncan Fletcher, Lalchand Rajput, WV Raman and Ashok Malhotra. The Knight Riders have also lined up Wasim Akram as a consultant to guide their bowling attack, Vijay Dahiya as assistant coach, and are expected to recall Sourav Ganguly as captain though a formal declaration can be expected only after they officially announce the coach's appointment.

The Kolkata management had informally sounded out Whatmore in June and followed it up with an interview in August at the Mumbai residence of Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood star, who co-owns the Kolkata franchise along with Jay Mehta, a businessman.

Whatmore, 55, played seven Tests for Australia and brings to the IPL an impressive record. Apart from the 1996 World Cup title, he guided Bangladesh to two historic wins in the 2007 World Cup against India and South Africa, and also coached Lancashire to title wins in the NatWest and Sunday League in 1998. Last year, he was coach of the India under-19 team that won the junior World Cup in Malaysia.

In 2007, he was on the verge of being appointed India coach before the BCCI think tank changed its mind at the last minute and opted for Gary Kirsten; the Indian board subsequently got Whatmore on board as director of cricket at the NCA.

But more than the records, what might work for Whatmore in Kolkata is his low-profile, hands-on approach and man-management skills, especially the ability to motivate players from the subcontinent and help them raise their performance, as his record with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh showed. His experience with the Indian board's academy may also come in handy as Kolkata have long-term plans of starting a full-fledged facility of their own.

Buchanan's tenure with Kolkata was marred by controversy after the former Australian coach unveiled his multi-captaincy theory that generated a lot of debate worldwide and then replaced Ganguly, the local icon, as captain with Brendon McCullum. McCullum will not be available for most of the next IPL - from March 12 to April 25 - and will play instead for New Zealand against Australia in the home series in March.

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