Specialist Twenty20 coach job for the Northern Knights holds special appeal

Wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Seifert hits out for the Northern Knights in a Super Smash Twenty20 match.
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Wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Seifert hits out for the Northern Knights in a Super Smash Twenty20 match.

OPINION: Perfect time to brush up my CV.

Not because of the Commerce Commission giving Fairfax's merger plans the big fend, nor the threatened job cuts and strike action across the ditch.

Instead, it's due to Northern Districts seeking a specialist coach for their domestic Twenty20 campaign later this year.

Northern Knights spinners Jono Boult and Ish Sodhi are key Twenty20 performers.
MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Northern Knights spinners Jono Boult and Ish Sodhi are key Twenty20 performers.

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* ND see specialist T20 coach

Bar a couple of sessions with the Te Rapa Primary School XI in 2004 as a stand-in, there's nothing else concrete coaching-wise I can bolster my application with.    

But the beauty of this issue is that shouldn't matter. This coaching isn't - well, at least shouldn't - be about guiding players with flaws in their technique. 

As I see it - and it seems ND chief executive Peter Roach may also - a Twenty20 coach should be almost solely consumed with tactics.

Most T20 of them already are - seeking innovative and advantageous ways to play the format. Yet there appears to be room to be bolder.

"We felt ... that the direction of [the] T20 game had changed quickly in the last couple of years," Roach said.

I'm partly inspired by a book entitled "The Only Rule Is It Has To Work", by baseball analysts Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller.

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The duo oversaw the baseball operations of an independent minor-league team, propelled by a desire to best utilise advanced statistics in a sport that has embraced them more than any other code but at the same time is still beholden to how it's always been done.

I think Twenty20 cricket could benefit from that approach.

I also believe the way teams play in the format - and how they're coached and captained - are handicapped somewhat by tradition and a reluctance to embrace statistical areas that indicate how teams can gain an edge.

My portfolio would include how I feel domestic T20 sides don't maximise batsmen with the best strike-rates, how greater attention is required to fielding positions and more emphasis should be on spin bowling.

I may even unleash the radical tactical suggestion I floated on Twitter over summer of deliberately trying NOT to dismiss a struggling top-order batsman.

I'd come armed with spreadsheets and diagrams, including one outlining how half of the top-16 bowlers (with enough overs bowled to be considered relevant) in terms of economy rates in last season's Super Smash were spin bowlers - five were quicks, the other three medium-pacers - and visions in my head of a match in which the Knights bowled a minimum 16 overs of spin.

ND's side for the Super Smash competition won't be stacked with the best talent. It never is.

The association has so many Black Caps on its books, who are rarely available for domestic cricket, that they have to be smarter and sharper to win.

Why not take a calculated gamble that may find an edge other sides aren't using?

Did things work for Lindbergh and Miller with their baseball side? Yes and no.

Their use of data and analysis gave them definite edges in some areas.

But knowledge of the sport - and the players involved - from the team also couldn't be ignored, while they ran into noted reluctance to embrace their methods by some diehards.

So my first job would be finding a skipper on the same page - or else my 12th man is going to get exhausted running out notes and we'll take three hours to bowl our 20 overs.

 

 - Stuff

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