Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) has decided not to pursue a contract extension with head coach David Whatmore on the heels of a hugely disappointing domestic season.
On the status of the incumbent coach, sources privy to the development said Whatmore, whose contract expired recently, has communicated to his confidants that he was not keen to extend his stay in Kerala. His decision came in the wake of the team’s relegation to Elite Group 'C' in Ranji Trophy, the country’s premier first-class tournament, in the ongoing season.
Top KCA officials will meet to discuss the identification and selection process of his successor immediately, it was learnt.
Whatmore, who took over as Kerala’s coach in the 2017-18 season, made an instant impact, guiding the team to quarterfinals of Ranji Trophy for the first time in history. In the following season too Kerala continued to produce results under him and went a step further by reaching the last-four stage, a feat that they had been dreaming of ever since their first class debut in 1957-58.
The 65-year-old was able to strike a chord with captain Sachin Baby and the rest of the players. He reminded the players of their abilities and re-energised them, which reflected in the team’s performance in the past two seasons.
There was very little to doubt the Australian’s coaching credentials when the KCA decided to rope in him as the head coach of the team.
Be it masterminding Sri Lanka’s maiden World Cup triumph in 1996 or guiding the Virat Kohli-led Indian under-19 team to World Cup glory in 2008, Whatmore was known for his magic touch in grooming underdogs into champions.
During his stint with Bangladesh in 2005, he oversaw Test wins for the first time in the nation’s history and stunned the all-conquering Aussies in a One-Day International. He had also coaching stints with the national teams of Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
However, Whatmore’s tenure with Kerala this seasons was mostly below expectations. His 'horses for courses policy' which had reaped rich dividends previously, came a cropper this season. Throughout the season, the team, which was weakened by the absence of key players Sanju Samson and Sandeep Warrier who were called up for national duties, was struggling to stay afloat in the highly competitive Elite Group A. The indifferent form of outstation players Jalaj Saxena and Robin Uthappa added to their woes.
Kerala lost five matches and drew two, including the one against the defending champions Vidarbha which was abandoned after two days’ of play due to a wet outfield. They ended their group engagements with just eight points from 10 matches and are placed 17th on the 18-team combined Elite Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ points table. Their only win in the season came against Punjab.
Focus on rebuilding
Taking cues from this season’s setback, the KCA has decided to begin the rebuilding process and start the team’s preparations for the next domestic season immediately. Putting the poor performance down to lack of exposure for the players, the parent body has decided to conduct an inter-district tournament modelled on the Challenger Series, a national List A tournament organised by the BCCI.
Six teams comprising players from the state U-19, U-23 and the senior squad will take part in the event, said KCA secretary Sreejith V Nair. It will be made compulsory for all players to undergo year-long intensive training, he added.