Players’ reluctance to admit weakness and fear or show vulnerability may hinder their progress, according to Pakistan’s fielding coach Julien Fountain.
Fountain was appointed on a two-year contract in March and the forthcoming series against Australia in the UAE will be his third with the squad after the Asia Cup and the tour of Sri Lanka.
While Fountain’s appointment has yielded mixed results so far, the coach stressed that the path to improvement started with the realisation that a problem exists and the willingness to improve.
“Pakistani culture refrains an individual from admitting weakness or showing vulnerability at any cost,” Fountain told The Express Tribune prior to the squad’s departure to the UAE. “While this is good in a competitive environment, unless the player can admit weakness and accept responsibility for their mistakes – and learn from them – there will be no moving forward.
“Accepting your mistakes is the only way to know what to do next as denial of responsibility leads to anger, fear and more mistakes.”
Cultural issues pose a serious problem
Fountain’s appointment was questioned by critics who concluded that, given the team’s history and a lack of interest shown in players’ fielding skills, it was unwise to spend on a fielding coach as they thought it was a lost cause. Barely six months into this job, Fountain has realised his job conflicts with cultural issues in the country that have proved to be major obstacles as he strives to develop a long-term goal for Pakistan.
“With Pakistan, it’s not a simple matter of practice makes perfect. There are deeply rooted cultural aspects which will take a long time and a huge effort to change. If you look at the good fielding sides – Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand – they have a strong contact sports culture, for example rugby.
“Having seen it and followed it, the players developed a certain level of tolerance for pain and falling on the ground does not hold any fear for them.
“There’s no rugby or football culture in Pakistan so the ground is seen as an enemy and not a friend.”
Change in attitude needed the most: Fountain
The state of most outfields in Pakistan, however, screams out why most players are reluctant to dive.
While most grounds that see first-class action are kept in shape, smaller venues that witness club matches remain bare and the fear of getting injured by diving and sliding on hard surfaces moulds the mindset of the individual that takes a lot of time and effort to change.
Wary of the issues at grass-root level, Fountain wants the outfields to improve but, more importantly, wants the playing-eleven to be formed keeping the fielding skills in mind too.
“At the national level, we need fielders who can dive and slide. We can’t keep making excuses for why Pakistan’s fielding is not as good as it should be. Changing the state of the outfields is a huge job but where we can make immediate change is our perception of how important fielding is to our cricket.
“What needs to change is the level of instruction and the level of recognition. Pakistan seem to focus on elite batting and elite bowling. Until the country places a high price on elite fielding as well, the players will always consider it a poor relation. Pakistan seem to allow weaker fielders to hide behind their primary skill – batting or bowling. This has to change.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2012.