'The questions I'm being asked are tremendous'
Last September, Courtney Walsh chose Bangladesh as his first major international coaching job, joining them as bowling coach. He captured the imagination of many of the young quick bowlers in the country, and has started to understand the ins and outs of the more talented ones. In New Zealand, these bowlers have shown improvement in terms of their skills, resilience and courage. The day after the Christchurch Test, Walsh sat down with ESPNcricinfo to talk about the challenges of his new role and his plans for the future.
How has your first time as an international bowling coach been so far?
As anyone would expect it to be, there is a little bit of learning in it. I have been enjoying it so far. I am happy that I took it on. I see a lot of talent in Bangladesh cricket in terms of fast bowlers. It is a nice challenge to have. I am hoping that at the end of it we will be able to produce some top-quality fast bowlers. We have some good youngsters in the making and I am very confident that these kids can go all the way.
You've toured the subcontinent a number of times, but as a coach, has there been a culture shock for you here?
I was in shock seeing how the fans in Bangladesh support cricket. I didn't expect it. I never played in Bangladesh during my career but I played couple of times against them away from home. It was a shock to see how they embrace and love their team. There are some very good, knowledgeable supporters who know and understand what's going on with the team. It is a good shock to have and makes you want to do your best.
Because of the conditions in Bangladesh, fast bowlers are not really used much. Is that the first challenge you had, to train and look after these guys so that they can bowl long spells in places like New Zealand?
The head coach [Chandika Hathurusingha] had mentioned to me that at home the fast bowlers probably don't get used a lot. We have to build them up for away tours. I saw this as my first challenge. So that's one of the things that we have been working on. The communication from him was very, very good. I took it on board. The coaching staff has been helpful, but for me, the challenge was to try to get them as ready as they could be for this Test tour. The other major challenge was the amount of Tests that the guys might have played. So those were two challenges we looked at, and I saw it personally as something that we have to take on board. At the end of it, I could say that the guys have come out of it well. We were at a disadvantage with their experience. I think they have handled it well.
You said that you had idols when you first played for West Indies. But these guys don't have many idols in Bangladesh. Are they picking your brain properly and asking you the right questions?
They have started to, which is good. It's what I want. What I will do going forward is to get them to interact with other fast bowlers. I certainly don't know it all. We have Mario [Villavarayan], the strength and conditioning coach, who is willing to pass on whatever he knows. I was hoping that someone like Javagal Srinath [could help]… unfortunately, he is a match referee. From a cricketing standpoint, he would have been able to speak with them. It is difficult to ask him because of the job he is doing.
The plan is, when we get on the tours, we get them to speak to different fast bowlers so that they get that exposure. It is beneficial. They haven't got an idol to look up to. Mash [Mortaza] has been the most experienced fast bowler we have in Bangladesh. He is not around for the Test matches. For the one-day games, they can speak to him for experience, but these kids are going to be ones that the next generation of Bangladeshi fast bowlers will look up to. That's what we are trying to create.
What is the major challenge for a Bangladeshi fast bowler?
They showed they have pace in this Test series. Most of the guys were consistent with their pace. I think they have done work physically to get stronger. What we need to do now is work on the technical part of it, the thinking part of it - how they think batsmen and conditions out.
I am here to make sure the thought process is there. It might be one of the challenges, to get that message across as quickly as possible so we can adapt to it. I think the experience they would have gained here would have been very beneficial. It is about how we tweak it when we get to India and Sri Lanka. Then we have England. We have three different sorts of tours to work on, with different conditions in all. The good thing is that we have Tests in India and Sri Lanka, so they will get back on track.
You must have been heartened to see the pace bowlers take blows on the body themselves and then giving it back.
All the guys who played here, as far as I am concerned, have done extremely well. They gave us an idea what they can and cannot do. We know what they need to be working on, but the fight and courage they showed in batting, bowling and in the outfield was tremendous, especially after getting some body blows. They went back out and gave it their all. It shows character, good fighting spirit. They are proud to be playing for Bangladesh.
What is the next step for bowlers like Kamrul Islam Rabbi?
Some of the questions that Rabbi asked me over the last couple of days were just tremendous to hear. It shows that they have started to think. Subashis Roy has also shown such a keen interest to improve his game. They are now learning some of the rudiments of fast bowling. They are asking me good questions, so it is easier and better for me to communicate with them.
They become stars very quickly but many get lost in the system in Bangladesh. Have you seen any signs of that?
I haven't spotted anything like that as yet. I have spotted that they want to play for Bangladesh. I am hoping that with experience and performance they will set a trend of wanting to play 30-40 Tests and be good at it - get their names in that arena. It will be great for Bangladesh cricket if we can have a couple of fast bowlers to put their name on the map in Test cricket.
What is the most fun part of being a bowling coach?
Being able to pass on information to the guys and see that it is accepted and applied and tried as well. Being accepted by them as someone they look up to and willing to learn from. Those two will keep me going.
Do you realise that you are a strength to this team, that they haven't really had such a legendary cricketer in their dressing room?
I think from what I have picked up, they listen to me and look up to the information that I provide them. I am happy to help them to keep the team moving forward, and for them to understand Test cricket. And to be proud of representing the country. The character will be growing with time. I am sure with the help of everyone else around, they will adapt to it. I am particularly pleased with the response I have had from all the captains, in terms of my input and recommendations and whatever I can do to encourage the team. At the end of the day, what I want is to be part of a successful unit that is improving and playing good cricket.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84