In a tête-à-tête with the author, Joe Dawes – the former Australia cricketer who served as bowling coach of India and Kings XI Punjab – discusses his stint with Papua New Guinea (PNG), who have qualified for the next year’s World T20 in Australia.
How difficult has working in Papua New Guinea (PNG) been, considering their state of affairs and was it an easy choice for you?
Working here has its challenges but so does anywhere you get to go. It’s a beautiful place but can be violent and dangerous, but the players and staff are great people and passionate, so it’s easy to get up each day and work towards a common goal.
Three years back did you imagine that PNG cricket reach this level? I mean they just qualified for the first-ever senior Cricket World Cup.
We had a plan and we stuck to it. The boys and the organization bought into the vision and we had a great platform laid by those that have gone before me. It’s historic (the qualification) and a privilege to be able to be a part of it (the tournament) but it’s no surprise with the work we have done.
What advice will you give to the younger PNG players who are making their way into the national team?
Make the most of the opportunity cricket can provide for you and your family by working hard and buying into the team’s culture and vision.
How do you spot the talents in PNG and nurture them?
Most of the talent is based in one small area, so that helps early on but we are now spending time and money searching all over the country through our TID programs to try and find others.
What do you think is the most challenging part of coaching a side like the PNG?
Resources and the socio-economic state of the country. Unemployment is high and the economy is struggling at present. So to get extra funding for the game is tough. We are making progress and trying to create more opportunities for our players.
Will franchise-based cricket help the PNG players?
We have started our own franchises on a small scale and are hoping to slowly build it to be a focal point of our domestic cricket. I would love for our players to go to overseas leagues and gain experience and help provide for their families.
You’ve been coaching for a while now, what keeps you going?
I enjoy the challenge and have always loved helping people reach their potential as people and cricketers. Every job I have had has had different challenges and this one is no different. I also think when you achieve something like we just did it makes all the sacrifices a little easier to swallow.
What are the demands on the coach in T20 cricket?
Ensure your player knows his/her role and equip them with everything you can to achieve that role. Know your strengths as a team and try to excel at them.
How would you rate Assad Vala’s captaincy?
Assad continues to develop as a captain and a leader. He is a quiet guy but speaks when it is needed and tries his best to lead from the front in everything the team does.
What are your future plans now?
Start thinking for next year which is massive and I also have the BBL (Big Bash League) with the Adelaide Strikers coming up which I’m always excited for. We have only made some great steps as a team but have a long way to go. The future often takes care of itself so I’ll keep trying to change lives in PNG and enjoy the challenge.