New meaning to player power at Northern Knights

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 25/05/2013

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A gruff Yorkshireman in charge espousing player empowerment? Welcome to the intriguing visions of new Northern Knights coach James Pamment.

The 44-year-old has taken over the reins as Northern Districts coach from Grant Bradburn and wants to give his players responsibility and an environment to grow in.

"I think there's two aspects," Pamment said in describing his approach to coaching.

"One is how you communicate and relate to the players and perhaps the other one is strategically and tactically how you set your teams up to play.

"First and foremost I try to pride myself on being a relationship developer.

"For the want of a better phrase I call myself a player-centred coach - the players are at the forefront of what I do and you channel your energies into providing an environment for the players to learn and grow.

"That's probably something that I hold high towards my coaching philosophy.

"I value hard work and I work extremely hard myself, so I like that to be mirrored in the players. We'll be a hard-working team. I like to think that we'll be quite a humble team."

Pamment, who has recently worked as the ND A team coach, high performance manager and New Zealand under-19 assistant coach, doesn't want the focus to be on him - not because he wants to shun the limelight.

"In cricket, there has been this shift towards the coach being quite a powerful figure. I'm not sure if that's right," Pamment said.

"There's so many decisions made in the heat of the battle that the coach has got very little influence over. You can talk about it pre-game and plan certain scenarios but ultimately to me the captain is the most important person in a cricket team.

"Once they step over the line it's his team and I'll be structuring my team with the captain as a powerful figure among the group."

Pamment will name his captain during the off-season after veteran one-day skipper James Marshall retired at the end of last season.

Bradburn previously employed a separate captain for each format of the game, with Brad Wilson in charge of the Plunket Shield first-class side and Scott Styris leading the Twenty20 unit but it appears likely Pamment will opt for one captain for all formats.

The former Auckland batsman and National League football goalkeeper wants his players to develop a wholly inclusive approach to improvement.

"I like working out with a player what kind of player they want to be, and aligning that very closely with what kind of personality they are.

"That's something I learnt quite early in my coaching and through playing first-class cricket and a reasonably high level of football is that you tend to find that the successful players - the ones that kick on and become world class or good international players - are the ones that align their performance closely to their personality.

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"I'll be big on that and I'll be guiding our players towards that. Part of what I hope to do over the next couple of years is guide the players towards personal mastery - so making sure that they've got the balance in their life and feel very comfortable with who they are as a person," Pamment said.

"I believe once we can assist guys to know that process then they as cricketers will start to come out. It's a powerful thing done properly."

Pamment feels such personal development is a necessity for his charges to succeed.

"It's a mental game and I believe that if you're not very comfortable mentally with who you are as a person, then I believe it's very difficult for you to go out and be a significant performer in the game of cricket."

One of Pamment's immediate jobs is to work on a list of contracted Knights players for the 2013/14 domestic season. He takes over in what looms as a transition period, with Marshall gone and the vastly-experienced trio of Joseph Yovich, Graeme Aldridge and Brent Arnel all in their mid-30s.

"It's very important for me to find out what their motivation is for playing and where they perceive their future lies.

"We've obviously got some senior players whose New Zealand ambitions have perhaps gone past them," he said.

"For me, it's really vital that I understand what their motivations are to play, they need to be great contributors around the group , their performance needs to be high and they need to be able to lead by example."

He is encouraged by the talent he inherits even allowing for the regular absences of a Black Caps group featuring Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and B J Watling.

"We have a very experienced seam bowling group. We made progress with Anurag Verma last season and Corey Anderson, when fully fit, is a genuine seam bowling option.

"There's good young bowlers coming through our districts - Tony Goodin and Cody Andrews are young bowlers who I think can make the transition to first class cricket in the next couple of years."

Pamment also likes the potential shown by some batsmen, led by Jono Hickey, who made a fine first of his introduction to the top level in the Ford Trophy one-day competition, while Joe Carter and Bharat Popli also displayed signs at A team level that they will be pushing for a place.

That will ensure Pamment is unlikely to look outside the region to recruit players. He's also in no hurry to advance the transition period.

"Those senior players are key to the development of those young players.

"We have got some players coming towards the end of their careers but they are still so valuable to us. We won't be moving them on lightly."

ian.anderson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato

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