Couch Talk 173 (Play)
Guest: Tom Moody
Host: Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to Couch Talk. The guest today is former Australian allrounder and currently the head coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad, Tom Moody. He talks about his playing career, being part of two world cup winning Aussie sides, his transition from playing to coaching, and his experiences of coaching international, state as well as franchise sides amongst other things.
Welcome to the show, Tom! It is an absolute pleasure having you on.
Let’s start with your playing career. You played only 8 Tests but you fit in as an all-rounder in the ODI squad. You won two World Cups – 1987 and 1999. The ’87 was your debut, in India. What was that like, as a debutant playing in a World Cup?
Tom Moody (TM)– It wasn’t my first time in India. i had the good fortune to experience India with the Australian under-19 team. We toured there in the early ‘80s. I knew what to expect. I knew there was going to be challenging experience and challenging opportunities both on and off the field. It sprung on to me a little bit earlier than expected. I was one of the younger members f the world Cup squad in 1987. I played in some of the early games, but unfortunately when we got to the end of the tournament, I tore an intercostal muscle. I then found myself as a drink waiter for the rest of the games.
SJ– The two teams – one under (Allan) Border and one under (Steve) Waugh – how different were they? Obviously, the quality of the players and the stature of the players were different. The Australians were winning the World Cup for the first time in 1987. How were they different?
TM– They are very different. In 1987, we were very much outside favourites going into the World Cup. Nobody even thought twice about us going into the last 4, let alone playing in the final. It was a watershed time for Australian cricket where a lot of the team were new to the austrlaian team, a lot hadn’t played, and a lot only played a handful of games. it was really only Allan Border that stood out like a lighthouse that was the iconic figure in Australian cricket at that time.
Wherein 1999, it was very different. We had a team full of superstars that had wonderful careers and were still on top of their game. there were (Glen) McGrath, (Adam) Gilchrist, (Ricky) Ponting, (Shane) Warne, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh…. the list goes on. We went into that World Cup as a side that were absolutely bang on favourites. In a way that was the biggest obstacle we faced in it – coming in with a favourites tag and potential complacency that can come with that. Thankfully, we got to a point in that World Cup where we managed to pull things right in time, even though it was in the last minute, because we had to win our last 7 games in a row to be crowned champions in 1999.
SJ– Your debut, vs India, which Australia won by 1 run… You went at one down and scored 61. How was your role changing to the times till 2001 in the Australian side?
TM– It is interesting, there were a lot of Australian players in the 1990s who were like taxis standing in a queue at an airport, waiting for that opportunity to get a handful of games. you can name a number of Australian players that could have played a lot more Test cricket than what they did. The reason they didn’t was because we were such a powerful unit at that time. the likes of Stuart Law, Michael Bevan, Martin Love, Darren Lehmann, Jamie Cox, can think of many more off the top of the head, but there was a huge list of batsmen who scored big volumes of runs in first class in Australia and in county cricket that were putting pressure constantly and waiting for an opportunity in that era of dominance.
SJ– Let’s move to your coaching career. You have done a state side, you are doing a franchise side, and you do a national side as well. How does, as a head coach, your approach vary from one for to another?
TM– It has to vary. Not any particular group of players can be the same. the first challenge you face is that they may be at a different stage with regards to their development. as a team, you may have a young team, or a mature team. Your coaching style needs to adjust accordingly. You also then have the cultural challenges. That is one of the big reason I took the opportunity with Sri Lanka, because I wanted to experience coaching in the subcontinent. So, when I could be coaching in England or Australia, but I really wanted to experience in that environment and be faced with the challenges but also be challenged with the learning that you can gather from that environment. I just think that you have to be chameleon like and adapt to various cultures and personalities and stages, and the teams and individuals within that.
SJ– There is a question from a listener, Nick Hancock. This is regarding your time at Western Australia. What are your thoughts on the current condition of Western Australian cricket? And, how far has Justin Langer taken the team?
TM– Justin has done a wonderful job with Western Australian cricket. He is one of Western Australia is favourite suns, we have been lucky in the West to produce some very good cricketers and he is one of them. He has done a great job with a young talented group of players over the last couple of years. We have some exciting talents coming through the system there. With the retirement of the likes of Chris Rogers, the likes of Cameron Bancroft might get a look at the top of the order, may as well get a look into the Tests much sooner than he anticipated. His progress and development as a player has been fast-tracked under the guidance of someone like Justin.
SJ– Talking of the national side that you coached – Sri Lanka – there were a lot of veterans in the side with Mahela (Jayawardene) leading, and still had Sanath (Jayasurya), Kumar (Snagakkara), Murali(tharan, Muttiah), (Chaminda) Vaas. How do you deal with taht? If you have a very young side, you can mould them in whatever shape you want. But when you have a veteran side, it is already established.
TM– When you are in a side like that, you are not the only artist in producing the masterpiece. Each of those players you talked about – play a role in constructing the masterpiece. They all pick up a paintbrush and want to stick to that team and help you construct a future. If you step away and ignore their vast experience and their leadership and everything else that it brings to the table, it is a foolish approach. You have to take advantage of the qualities that are around you. The likes of Mahela and Sanga for two, they are guys who recently going into retirement. That will be crucial to Sri Lanka’s development over the past decade. This may mean many others as well, of course. But you need to make sure that you draw in on the great experience and their leadership.
SJ– Are you primarily a strategist or you take care of the technical side of things? How do you mix and match?
TM– I hope to think that I have a fair balance of various things that are required. I enjoy the technical side of the game, both the bat and ball. So, I feel confident talking to the bowlers and to the batsmen. It also has a lot to do with the fact that I was an all rounder and had a vested interest in those areas. I feel very comfortable there. i also feel very comfortable tactically. I have seen a lot of cricket and have been involved in cricket for many years and been surrounded by some wonderful players that I have learned form. The key to all of the coaching side of things is the understanding of all those things, but it is your management skills and communication skills. As touched early on, they can vary from a group of players to another.
SJ– Coming to the third level of coaching – franchise level. In the IPL, you have been with the Sunrisers Hyderabad. In first class and national level, you have the players around the year for you. Whereas here, they are bringing in the players from around the world for 6-8 weeks. How does that work to implement your strategies?
TM– It is very different. You are not diving in, concerning yourself too much with technique. a lot of them have come from professional environments and have their own coaches and their own plans. It is one understanding of what they are. Two, you build a relationship with those players. Equally, they build a relationship with their fellow colleagues. It is creating a healthy professional and social environment because at the end of the day, a happy team, a team enjoying themselves is more consistent and going to give you more day in and day out than one that is not enjoying the journey. So, generally happy teams work harder as well. Trying to create and bring all that together is one of the challenges in franchise cricket.
SJ– In T20 cricket, one over is basically 5% of the innings. every single delivery is a huge event. Whereas, in Test matches, you have time to work on things and give it a go. So, obviously, big data has come into cricket. How do you approach that- the use of data at T20, first class and Test levels? Is it the same data, or do you see that in T20 there is more data used than in others?
TM– No, I don’t think so. It is evenly spread. Again, data is important to have them back up material, but what is more important is to have an understanding of the game and the events that you are talking about. you cannot just rely on data, because when you are out there and there is a player under pressure, you can’t rely on the percentages of doing this or doing that and the probabilities of it being successful or not. You have to be able to react and perform under pressure and make those smart decisions. It is important to have that information. You don’t have to shove it down people’s throat because there are some people who will resist that information and it doesn’t stimulate them or motivate them. But there are some players who swallow it up and absolutely thrive with that information. That is the same with the video analysis, the same process, where you had it out in a measured way so that you are giving it to be used in a positive way against being negative.
SJ– Talking about IPL, T20s, were there any pre-conceived notions about the job? Like, this is how they play out, but you were dispelled of the notions? For example – when T20 came in, people said spinners will have no role to play. But then Sunrisers had spinners like Amit Mishra and Karn Sharma bowling spectacularly well. were there any pre-conceived notions that you had about the game?
TM– I went in pretty much open minded about the game. what I did know was that there are still new people that had good base to their technique and are going to be successful in T20 games. The best example is that of Michael Hussey. People got a little bit carried away with the thought that it was a slogger’s game. but what they saw that the most successful and consistent T20 players are the ones that had a strong base technique. Very few survive by just clearing the front leg and slog every ball out of the ground because it just doesn’t work that way. The bowlers have become wiser, changed the pace and variety, and captains and strategies have become wiser too. The one pace cricketers still believe that the base technique is your bank for T20 cricket.
SJ– Finally, your role in CPL as the Director of Cricket. You have also been in that role at Worcestershire here. What does that role entail in CPL? What was the success of CPL, you pretty much have full stadium int he Caribbean for the CPL games but not so for ODIs or Test matches?
TM– CPL is catching the imagination of the people in the Caribbean, but also globally. It is entertaining, it is what we align our imagination to Calypso cricket – flaring cricket full of colourful music. With all that – some stunning, athletic performances out in the middle. My role was brought in by the management a couple of years ago to bring some current cricket expertise to management level. The CPL is owned independently from the West Indies Cricket Board and that management felt that they didn’t have the expertise at that time. I advice them on all cricketing matters, basically – from cricketers to grounds, through the officials and everything possible. I also played an important role in recruitment. When it comes to trying to attract the international stars to be involved in the CPL, I play an active role to doing that. it is becoming an easy role to do because it is becoming a tournament people really want to be a part of.
SJ– We have Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel to be taken over by aRed Chili Entertainment – Shah Rukh Khan’s company and you have title sponsors also from India. excellent work!
It has been noted that you plan on having some CPL matches in the USA and Canada. A listener, David Oram asks – how good or bad is that for the Caribbean league itself, and the countries?
TM– I think it will be a positive. You can break into new markets. That can only be a positive for the Caribbean. Expanding your audience – there is a huge cricketing community in the USA. If the CPL in time does end up playing a handful of games there, I think it will be wonderful. The brand of the Caribbean league has the capacity to carry through to the American market. We have some major steps to make before any of this becomes a reality. It is not taking cricket away form the Caribbean, it is helping cricket grow in the Caribbean. What we have seen in the first three CPL is how big it has impacted the interest in the game, the following of the game, and most importantly – at junior level – the reengagement of the game of cricket, which we will hopefully see in five to ten years’ time for the fruits to bear with more West Indian cricketers knocking on the door, wanting to play the game that we are professionally involved in.
SJ– You have been a player, a coach, administrator, commentator – is there any particular line of work that you want to stick to, or you want to be an all-rounder like the player you were?
TM– It hasn’t happened by design. It has just happened this away. I stepped away from international coaching after the World Cup in 2007 in the Caribbean, when I was with Sri Lanka, mainly because of my life. I had a young family and I wanted to commit my time to them, by spending more time being around them during that critical development stage and seeing the kids through school. So, I just felt that it was an important sacrifice to make, though it would be wonderful to continue my crusade as an international coach. But it is a challenging role. Now, I have got to the stage where the kids have moved through school and are in university. The importance of me being there 24×7 is not as critical as it was earlier, in my view. So, I have got an open mind to where my future lies. I am very lucky to have the opportunities that I have got now. I am very happy doing each and every one of those things. But, who knows what tomorrow is going to bring!
SJ– On that note, thank you so much, Tom!
TM– Thank you!
SJ– Thanks for your time! Cheers!
Episode transcribed by Bharathram Pattabiraman