The toughest coaching job in world sport should be coach of the Iraq soccer team, but the team does not play in Iraq, so the “accolade” surely goes to the position of coach of the Pakistan cricket team.
The last coach, Bob Woolmer, died in mysterious circumstances in the West Indies after the Pakistan team bombed out in the World Cup, but that did not deter three Australians — Lawson, Dav Whatmore and Richard Done — seeking the job.
The job has been given to the last minute entrant — clearly drafted by key Pakistan players — the distinguished former Australian and NSW fast bowler, Geoff “Henry” Lawson.
Pakistan’s gain is a loss for Australian cricket tragics such as myself. Since his retirement almost 20 years ago he has been an outstanding member of the ABC Radio cricket commentary team. He is also a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, and a qualified optometrist to boot.
Lawson played 46 tests for Australian between 1980 and 1989. Though he never reached the stellar heights of fast bowlers like Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson, or more recently Glen McGrath, he was a widely respected bowler, and that respect has followed him into his television and radio commentary career.
Lawson is as shrewd a judge of the game as I have listened to, and his precise contribution to the ABC Grandstand team is going to be widely missed.
In Pakistan cricket is everything. The Government has a strong say in the appointment of the governing body of Pakistan cricket, and the players are national heroes.
But Pakistan cricket has been riddled with controversy for years. Allegations of performance enhancing drug taking, ethnic and religious divisions, and political interference in national team selections are all part and parcel of the game in Pakistan today.
Lawson’s selection again highlights the extraordinary influence Australia and Australian coaches have had in world cricket. Trevor Bayliss was recently appointed coach of Sri Lanka, Bennett King coaches the West Indies, and, until recently, Greg Chappell coached India.
But there will be no honeymoon. Lawson is going to have his coaching, and player “management” skills put to the test later this year Pakistan meets India, in a three test, five one day match series – in India!
Cricket fans wish him luck – he is going to need plenty of it!