Ian Pont: I'd continue with Otis Gibson's good work by Abdul Habib 22nd February 2010 Cricistan.Com: The last time we spoke you told me about the work you do at your MCI academy with young cricketers. How's that coming along? Ian Pont: We're in year 4 of the MCI Academy and our aim is to develop the skill set of players who are attached to a county or club. What's really great about MCI is that it's open to everyone regardless of age, gender or skill. We run it from January to the beginning of the season and right now we're in week 6 of the 10 week course. I really enjoy these camps because it allows me to work with cricketers who are still developing their abilities and it's a privilege to be able to assist them with that. Cricistan.Com: Are there any talented young players that we may hear about one day in the future? Ian Pont: I've previously mentioned a young player called Cameron Mirza to you... Cricistan.Com: ...yes I remember. How's he coming along? Ian Pont: Cameron is a 16 year old opening batsman from America and is coming to play club cricket in the UK this summer. We were hoping that he'd get picked for the US u19 team going to the World Cup in New Zealand but they felt he was still too young. He'll be 18 by the next u19 World Cup so expect to see him opening the batting for them, that's unless he's playing for someone else. Cricistan.Com: Who else could he be opening for? Ian Pont: He's very talented and in order for him to improve his game and compete with the very best in the world he needs to be exposed to quality bowlers. There's a possibility that we may be able to get him a contract to play for one of the Counties here in England and he could develop a very successful career here. His family are from Pakistan, so that's another option for him. It's up to Cameron and his parents which route they choose to take but from my end I'd be happy to help him to come and play in England. Cricistan.Com: Are you involved with any upcoming fast bowlers? Ian Pont: Northants academy have just signed Shahbaz Choudhry, he's a very exciting young fast bowler who is already clocking in the high 80mph range at just 19 years old. He's around 6'4 in height and strong and fast with it. One of his uncles played for Pakistan A and his parents are from Lahore in Pakistan. I have high hopes for Shahbaz over the next 3 or 4 years. Speaking of fast bowlers there's a 17 year old girl called Catherine Dalton who is also very promising. She's just been invited to join the training camp for the England Ladies Academy team in Loughborough. Catherine's been a revelation in the last 12 months, we've completely changed her bowling action and as a result she now bowls with a lot more confidence. She's beginning to surprise me now with how quickly she picks up and implements the information we give her, in fact she's beginning to develop a Brett Lee style action which is quite remarkable in itself. Cricistan.Com: A female Brett Lee would be quite something for the women's game. Ian Pont: Yeah and she's only 17, she can only get better from here. Those are the 3 who are coming through the MCI ranks right now but there's a whole bunch of younger cricketers who will be coming through in 4 or 5 years from now. Cricistan.Com: The ECB are looking for a fast bowling coach to replace Otis Gibson, will you be applying for the role? Ian Pont: Yes, I already have. My application went in a couple of weeks ago, it's a role I would relish taking on and I guess it's something I've been working towards my whole coaching career. But right now it's a case of waiting for the ECB's verdict and hoping for the best. Cricistan.Com: Does it worry you that big name international cricketers like Geoff Lawson and Allan Donald have also applied for the job? Ian Pont: It might worry me if they were looking for a fast bowler but they're looking for a fast bowling coach. Cricistan.Com: (laughs) That's a very important distinction and it gets overlooked far too often. Especially in the excitement to appoint former cricketers to high profile roles. What do you think Ian Pont would bring to this role that Donald and Lawson wouldn't? Ian Pont: To answer that question it's important to fully understand the role of a coach. When a player is on top of his game and doing everything right then a coaches job is to make sure that player keeps on doing all the right things. It's only when a player is struggling or trying to learn something he can't fully comprehend on his own that a coach really earns his money. Now unlike Donald and Lawson I can't bring my international wickets to the party but what I do bring is that I understand both bowlers and their bowling actions, both on a scientific level and on a practical level. I have a book out on this very subject. It makes me a far better coach than I was a player. How many people had heard of Troy Cooley before he worked wonders with that England team? In that same fashion there may be some people who say Ian who? But then the best coaches in the world are rarely the guys who were the best at playing the game. Cricistan.Com: I'm with you on that. I can't think of any hugely successful cricket coaches who used to be international superstars. Guys like Mickey Arthur, John Buchanan, Tim Nielsen, Duncan Fletcher and Bob Woolmer weren't appointed on their international performances. Ian Pont: Yes, it's interesting isn't it. If you look at sports like soccer where money is a big factor and where performance always counts over reputation. You'll see that the leading soccer managers aren't the ones who were the best players... Cricistan.Com: ...(interrupts) Why do you think that is? Why is it that great players who obviously understood their sport well enough to be at the top of their game aren't able to easily pass that knowledge onto others. Ian Pont: It's hard to give a definitive answer to that but I believe it has something to do with being able to empathise with a struggling player. Someone who had a perfect bowling action and took wickets without having to think too much about it might not understand why other players struggle to do what he could do naturally. He may not be able to put himself in that person’s shoes because there are many things he would take for granted that the struggling player may not even be aware existed. As a coach you need to be able to see things from the perspective of the players you're training and if as a player you yourself struggled then you will be in a better position to diagnose their problems and work step-by-step to the solution. Whereas a natural fast bowler does many things purely on instinct and therefore he may not even be aware he's doing them or how he's doing them. I know what it's like for a struggling bowler because I've been there and got the t-shirt. Cricistan.Com: That does make sense to me. I guess you could compare it to showing the 'working out' on mathematical equations. There's certain people who can just instantly answer complicated mathematical equations without any visible working out but they couldn't teach THAT skill to another person. However someone who may struggle to get to the answer himself and who would need to work it out on a piece of paper can quite easily pass the knowledge of how to do that to anyone else. Ian Pont: Exactly. It’s often understanding how processes work, which is key. To get the desired outcome it’s best to get the process nailed down. Cricistan.Com: How would you define the role of an international bowling coach? What does he do? Ian Pont: For this particular role it would depend on the brief drawn up by the ECB and of course that's what I would go by. I think that the role a bowling coach has changed a lot over the years. A coach for an international Test playing nation will not be required to re-invent the wheel, most of his work will be about polishing bowlers and galvanising them to bowl to the best of their ability. For a bowler to have reached the stage where he's playing International cricket for England, you would expect him to do most things right already. Often it may just be a case of helping him increase his confidence in his own ability and giving him advice on how to develop new variations or get better consistency with his existing variations. If we're specifically talking about the current England setup then it's clear that Otis Gibson has been doing the right things. He's got Jimmy Anderson swinging the ball and most importantly he's got all the bowlers looking like a cohesive unit that has the combined ability to bowl any side out. Otis leaving has created a real dilemma because he was doing such a great job and has left with the Ashes, T20 world cup and 50 overs World Cup, all within the next 14 months. What the England set-up is likely to need is for that work to be continued, and someone to take Otis's work much further. What we don't need is for a new guy to come in and want to change everything that’s working well. Yet it has to be someone with a knowledge of development, an understanding how to get the best from players and have an idea of how to improve areas that need improving. Cricistan.Com: The last time I saw England bowling this well was under Troy Cooley during the 2005 Ashes, so you think you're the guy to carry on the work started by Otis Gibson? Ian Pont: As I said, it depends on whether that's what the ECB want. I was the ECB national skill set coach for fast bowling at Loughborough and I worked side by side with Otis Gibson in that role. So I've got experience of working with Otis and I understand his processes and coaching methods. The current fast bowling unit is very talented. I think their real strength will lie in hunting as a pack, it's all about keeping the pressure on throughout the innings. If you can get your bowlers working to a plan and working with and for each other, then your team will always punch above its weight. That's what Troy did, he got them bowling as a unit and the sum of its parts was greater than the whole. There was no let up for the batsmen, the pressure was always on and that's what a bowling coach needs to strive for with a squad. The other thing is that there will always be some good fast bowlers on the fringe of the team who will be very keen to do well. If as a coach you can galvanise them and get them bowling at their best then it lifts the whole team. Competition for places is what pushes everyone to work even harder and the winner in that scenario will always be the England team. Cricistan.Com: You've mentioned the winter Ashes, what do you say to those people who say that England don't stand a chance. I've heard it said that man for man England don't have a team that can beat the Aussies. Ian Pont: Even if we accept that those people are right (which I don’t) and on paper the Aussies have a better team, it doesn't mean a thing out there on the pitch. The Aussies had an even better team in 2005 but we won the Ashes then. Let's make no bones about it the Aussies will come at us hard, they will be gunning for the Ashes. Steve Waugh used to say 'Go hard or go home' and if we want to win the Ashes then we will have to go hard at the Aussies because they won't give up a single inch without a fight. In the end it comes back to playing as a unit and looking out for each other, if someone falls down then someone else stands up. I understand that mentality, I've been in teams that weren't supposed to win. I know what that's like. I've been in county teams like Essex where we won 4 trophies in 10 years, I was a small cog in a bigger unit and together we made it work. Cricistan.Com: What's the benefit of a local coach over a foreign coach? Ian Pont: For some foreign coaches the role is just another job, another notch in the cricket CV if you like for something better down the road. But for an English coach like me it's a passion. I'm English and English cricket is what matters most. I want us to win every game we play, I want our bowlers to be the best in the world. Not just because that's what I'm paid to do but because it's my team and they're my players. Do you think England getting knocked out of a World Cup hurt Sven the same way it did Bobby Robson? England is my team and it would be more than just a job to me. Cricistan.Com: Have you ever held a national coaching job before? Ian Pont: Leading up to the 2007 World Cup, I spent 3 years as the bowling coach for the Netherlands. It was a really hard role to fill in the sense that we had limited facilities and the players weren't all full time. We had to work to a very limited budget and that meant that we had to make sure that we got things right the first time we did it. We didn't have the luxury of multi-million dollar budgets or regular extended training camps with lots of time to spend on the bowlers. It taught me a great deal about myself and about the dedication that cricketers from non test playing countries have to the sport of cricket. I worked closely with Mark Jonkman, Edgar Schiferli and Ryan ten Doeschate. Part of my brief was developing future players and I had to set up systems that would work on a limited budget. I was the assistant head coach during the 2007 World Cup and that was an education in itself. Cricistan.Com: And what's your overall coaching experience? Ian Pont: Well I'm qualified as an ECB level 3 head coach. I was ECB national skill set coach for fast bowling at Loughborough and I've already mentioned my 3 years with the Dutch national side. Overall I've got 15 years coaching experience and the last years I've been working with first class county teams. I spent two years at Worcester where I did a short coaching session with Shoaib Akhtar and worked with England fast bowler Kabir Ali. I was at Essex for 3 years and we won two division 1 pro40 titles back to back. Currently I'm in my 3rd year with Northants who got to the final of the domestic T20 last year. I'm the head coach of the fast bowling academy in Potchefstroom, South Africa. I've held fast bowling camps in India a couple of times and then there's my MCI academy, we also do summer camps in the US too. So I have worked with all ages and skill levels, from young kids at the MCI to Dale Steyn and Shoaib Akhtar. Cricistan.Com: Tell me about a couple of the domestic bowlers you've worked with. Ian Pont: The most recent would be David Lucas of Northants. Lucas is 31 now and we did some small technical changes to his action in order to improve his consistency. Last season Lucas finished third in the national averages and took 58 wickets at an average of 21, which I believe is the best season he's ever had. He's a left arm swing bowler in the style of Ryan Sidebottom and last season he became a vital part of the Northants bowling attack in a way he hadn't done in previous years. Part of the reason why Lucas has done so well is we trust each other and I understand his game, so when it came to changes we were able to work out a resolution for him. The other guy I'd like to mention here is Graham Napier who's the model in my book the Fast Bowler's Bible, I chose Graham on purpose. I worked with Graham for 3 years during a time when he couldn’t hold down a regular place in the Essex team and was struggling with consistency. I always backed him 100% even though others seemed not to. Today, he's gone on to become the leading domestic T20 wicket taker in the world. Napes is a quality fast bowler who could do well for England too at one day or T20 level. He’s a quality performer now and has the confidence in his game that was lacking. Cricistan.Com: Can you expand on the point about a player needing to trust his coach, what do you mean by that. Ian Pont: In today's world all sportsmen playing at any level are analysed to the nth degree, there are portfolios held by opposition teams with every weakness they have. But we want to avoid ‘paralysis but analysis’ for players so they have a clear idea of what they are doing. This might be technical or tactical – even mental. That's why it's very important for players to be able to trust a coach. There are several other well-known bowlers who have come to me over the years to help them in confidence. It’s one thing to work with a coach because he’s the appointed coach, but quite another to choose a coach to work with. That's what I mean about players being able to have confidence in their coach. Cricistan.Com: Ok that makes sense. You mentioned your book the Fast Bowlers Bible which is a best seller. Last time you said that book has changed your life, what did you mean by that? Ian Pont: It's the best business card I've ever had. I've even had emails from coaches who say they bought the book and that they use it as a blueprint to coach their players. Then there's the emails I get from bowlers saying they read the book and is there any other way I can help them. Mostly it's because people didn't think that the information was available to not only make them bowl faster but to increase their speed whilst maintaining their line. Conventionally when you strive for pace you lose your line, so this was something fresh that they hadn't seen in coaching manuals. Last time we talked I told you about Junaid Zia coming to see me after reading my book, we made some adjustments to his action and he said that he felt it was now a more orthodox action. He's a really hard working guy and he'd turn up early to our coaching sessions and stay after we'd finished. I don't know what sort of season he's had since then but I hope the changes have helped him. Cricistan.Com: I was going to ask you about Junaid but you beat me to it. I checked his stats before I called you and he's had his best first class season ever taking 38 wickets at an average of just 22. So what other international bowlers have you worked with? Ian Pont: I've worked with Alex Tudor when he was an Essex and England player, I've also worked with Kabir Ali. Whilst I was working at Worcester, Shoaib Akhtar came up to me and said 'you're the pace guy, aren't you?' That was a really nice feeling. The first thing he wanted to know was 'can I bowl faster' and so we had a two hour coaching session and talked about fast bowling. Shoaib knew everything about himself, he really understands fast bowling a lot. I worked with Dale Steyn for 6 weeks when he was at Essex, back then he was an unknown. When I see him at the top of the rankings now it's amazing to see how far he's come. He's not just the best fast bowler on the planet, he's in his own division. I don't know if that's because of Dale or because of a lull in fast bowling talent. Cricistan.Com: Dale is just in a class of his own, the only bowler I think who has a chance of coming close is Mohammad Asif. Ian Pont: I would agree with that. Personally I've always liked Umar Gul... Cricistan.Com: ...(interrupts) Gul's really been struggling recently, what do you think he could do to improve his consistency. Ian Pont: You can't really analyse a bowler properly without actually seeing him. But what I was going to say before was that you get a feel for someone when you see them bowl. You can say that a bowler throws his arm away or drops his head too much or doesn't use his legs properly. But Umar Gul is someone who doesn't particularly do anything wrong. I would've picked Gul out as someone who will have a very good career, I like his action it has a lot going for it. Cricistan.Com: What about Mohammad Aamer? Ian Pont: I haven’t seen enough of him to formulate an opinion yet. Cricistan.Com: He's clocked 150k a few times. Ian Pont: Has he really? I didn't know that. I'll have to watch out for him then! Cricistan.Com: Aamer is doing well for his age but from Aamer, Asif and Gul. I think it's only Asif who could challenge Steyn. Ian Pont: I completely agree with you and we do need someone to challenge Dale. It may be great for Dale to be sitting a league apart from everyone else but for the sake of world cricket we need a couple of fast bowlers to really push him. Everyone knows that it's a batsman’s game so with that in mind it was fantastic to see Dale bully the powerful Indian batting line-up in their own backyard. That too with classical swing bowling, making the ball move both ways with conventional and reverse swing. Watching Dale bowl like that gives me hope that the art of fast bowling hasn't been lost and have you seen his outrageous strike rate of 38 balls per wicket? Cricistan.Com: Currently it's even better than Waqar Younis and everyone thought that was outrageous. Ian Pont: I think in terms of taking wickets, Dale could end up being the most effective of all time. The way he's taking wickets right now he's just knocking batsmen over at his leisure. Just think, we could be watching one of the all-time legends of the game emerging right now. Cricistan.Com: How much of Dale's destructiveness do you think is down to the fact that he really is in a league of his own. Batsmen aren't used to playing that quality of bowling so when they face Dale they fall over. In the 90s batsmen got more exposure to bowlers of Dale's class. They had to face guys like Waqar, Donald, Ambrose, Wasim, Walsh, Pollock day in and day out. So as a result batsmen learned to cope with that quality of fast bowling but today Dale Steyn is the only bowler, playing regular cricket, who can be mentioned alongside those names. Ian Pont: That's a fascinating question. I think what's happened over the last decade or so is that certain bowlers have listened to the wrong people and started to believe that they need to bowl a magic ball every time they run in. So instead of 24 out of 25 balls being bowled in the same spot, they're bowling 4 or 5 balls in the same spot and then losing their concentration and trying to change to a different sort of delivery. Whereas what Steyn and Asif do is they keep bowling the ball in the area where the batsman doesn't like it, they are daring the batsman to try and hit the ball and if the batsman falls into that trap then he is quite likely to throw away his wicket. Cricistan.Com: I think it's perhaps the Akram effect because Wasim had so many varieties of even the same delivery. I've heard he had 3 slow bouncers! Perhaps the current generation who grew up watching him bamboozle batsmen may be trying to emulate his diversity whilst forgetting that he also had deadly late swing in both directions. Ian Pont: I see what you mean. Also bowling in a test match is entirely different to bowling in a limited overs game. These days players are playing more ODI and T20 games than test matches and that is affecting the way they bowl in the longer version too. A length ball in a test match could get you a wicket but in a T20 the very same ball could go flying over the rope for 6. Take yorkers as an example of how thing have changed. When I started playing, a yorker was bowled at leg stump but nowadays at the death of an innings you see yorkers being bowled 2 foot outside of stump! That's a big change, the game moves on and you have to move with it. The skills don’t change, a yorker is still a yorker but how you use that skill does change. One day if you can bowl a yorker 3 or 4 foot outside off stump it could be seen as very good, on another day a ball bowled back of a length whistling past a batsman might not be as good. The one day mentality is creeping into test cricket, you see it when a batsman suddenly attempts a T20 shot out of nowhere. It's made test cricket more exciting and more results orientated but that doesn't change the fact that hitting the channel and making the ball move will still get you wickets. Asif and Steyn realise that, they know that if the batsman gets bored before you then you win. But that's test cricket, in limited overs games a batsman isn't out there for long enough to get bored. Cricistan.Com: Most batsmen are unlikely to regularly face more than 30 to 40 deliveries in each T20 game. So you're right, there's no chance of getting bored! Ian Pont: No there isn't. T20 is a different discipline altogether. Cricistan.Com: Well thank you Ian for another fascinating chat and best of luck with your application for the role of England bowling coach.