Cricket: Coach braced for new orders

David Llewellyn meets the man leading England's women forward
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The Independent Online
THE FIRST thing that Paul Farbrace did, once he had got his feet under the table as coach of the England women's cricket team, was to appoint a female assistant - the former captain Jane Powell.

"That appointment, above all others, was the most crucial one," explained Farbrace, the former Kent and Middlesex wicketkeeper, who was 32 last week. "I knew if we got that right we'd be a long way in the right direction."

It seems to be working. Mind you, after the 5-0 whitewash against Australia last summer there was only one way to go - forward. The fact that he is a man in a woman's world does not seem to bother Farbrace, well not any more.

"I suppose it has taken me six months or so to feel more comfortable in the surroundings," he confessed. "One member of the squad is actually older than I am. I have had to work out how I approach each player. They seem to appreciate having coaching staff around them and the fact that it is a man has not seemed to make any difference. They have been very receptive."

He is one of four national coaches employed by the England and Wales Cricket Board, with responsibility for the Eastern region. Farbrace also runs national age group teams at Under-13, Under-14 and Under-15 levels. And while he is paid to do the work, there is a vocational element to the job. "I regard it as an honour to be coaching a national team," Farbrace said. "The ultimate goal for a sportsman is to play for his country, but the next best thing must be coaching a national team."

He retired from first-class cricket four seasons ago and feels he did not quite fulfil his potential as a player. "I look back on what I did or didn't achieve and in some ways I feel it has made me a better coach," he said. "Perhaps I understand, and have some sympathy with, the talented players who don't work hard, as well as the less talented who practise every hour they can to improve."

As far as England's women are concerned he is really buzzing. In addition to Powell, he has brought in the former England fast bowler Graham Dilley, who is rapidly building a reputation for being an excellent bowling coach.

"I have also got Richard Halsall, who is at Cambridge University, to take charge of the fielding. He came highly recommended and I feel he also has an appreciation of women's cricket. He's watched a lot of it because his girlfriend, Clare Connor, is vice-captain."

According to Farbrace, England's bowling and fielding has improved dramatically, but he feels that more work is needed. With a World Cup looming at the end of 2000, plus a tour to Australia and New Zealand next January and February, as well as a home series against South Africa the following summer, there is plenty of opportunity for Farbrace and his team to get things right. To start with, he would like a victory in the one-off, four- day Test against India at Shenley Park that begins on Thursday.