Colombo: Tom Moody wears many hats. As a cricketer, he won the World Cup twice with Australia. He was Director of Cricket with Worcestershire and then coach of the Sri Lanka national team, after which he has held coaching positions with Western Australia, Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League and now Uthura Rudras in the Sri Lanka Premier League. He is also, occasionally, a commentator on television. Wisden India caught up with him to discuss coaching in modern-day cricket and much more. Excerpts:
You were the Sri Lankan national team coach till 2008. What's changed in Sri Lankan cricket between then and now, when you have come back as the coach of Uthura Rudras?
I do not think Sri Lankan cricket has changed a great deal. Sri Lanka still produces exciting and talented players. That is a constant. We have seen that over the last few decades when they have produced some of the game's greatest players. They will always continue to do so because the passion for the game is great in the nation, and the natural flair is there as well. With that combination you tend to unearth some exciting talent.
As a coach, how do you manage a team that has a combination of big stars and unknown youngsters?
That is one of the most exciting things about coaching - that you have got very experienced international players, and you have got very green and emerging players to work with. You have some of the great players of the game and role models in your hands. How they go about their preparation and training, and how they conduct themselves under pressure in games is the best learning experience for young players. From a coach's point of view, it is like being presented with rich and fresh ingredients to cook with.
You have seen quite a bit of cricket around the world. Do you think leagues like these are the future of the sport?
There are going to be a lot of leagues cropping up. Whether they all fit into the 12-month calendar or not is the next challenge that cricket faces. As it is, it is a very tight schedule and getting overseas players to this tournament was not an easy task. A lot of players have talked about workload issues. It is something that the International Cricket Council and cricket boards across the world have to think about very carefully, of how they blend with Test cricket, which is important, and the rest of the shorter formats.
You have worked with Yuvraj Singh during your time with Kings XI Punjab. To see him back in the reckoning after his cancer treatment must be a happy feeling?
I remember Simon O'Donnell being struck with cancer during Australia's 1987 World Cup campaign. I know very well what it is like to have a teammate who has been struck with a potentially fatal disease. He fought through, managed to get himself back to 100% fitness and back to playing again. To see Yuvraj do the same is such a great inspiration to not just cricketers, but everyone.
As an Australian, you must be pleased to see the back of VVS Laxman?
Probably not now, because he is at the end of his career, but it was different when he was the peak of his career. He was Australia's nemesis. He was an amazing and beautiful player to watch. He was a player who seemed to thrive in the face of great challenges. He scored runs against the Australian side when it was regarded as one of the greatest sides in the world. The thing that really sticks out for me about VVS Laxman is his ability to score runs under pressure. Some of the innings he played under difficult circumstances were quite outstanding. It is all good and well scoring volumes of runs, which is important, but what's more important in my view is when and how you get them. And he would get a lot of his runs when it really counted, like when India was chasing or on the fifth day of a Test match, he seemed to put up his hand.
Your thoughts on the current situation in Australian cricket...
Australia has certainly come down from where they were. The decline has been steady. But we need to look at it realistically. This Australian team convincingly beat India at home last summer when India was ranked second in the world. The biggest thing that stands out, and captures the media or people's attention, is that they are not as great as they were. But we are a competitive side. They will be striving once again, over the next three to five years, to be a great side.
What's your prediction for the 2013 Ashes...or is it too early to predict?
It is too early to predict. Australia have a whole summer to develop. We have some really good quick bowlers, who can develop during that time. Then there are bowlers like (Peter) Siddle who will continue to develop. Siddle's progress in the last 12 months has been very rapid. Given what has happened this summer, England have probably taken a step back from where they thought they were at the beginning of the summer. Who knows who will be fit or who will be injured in a year's time? But whatever it is, an Ashes contest is always a good one.