Former Australian cricketer Andy Bichel has made a successful transition from playing to coaching after retiring from first class cricket last year. Bichel has been working with the Kolkata Knight Riders' as their bowling coach and recently took up a coaching role with Papua New Guinea. I caught up with Andy during Papua New Guinea’s last warm up match for the ICC U19 World Cup against USA at Lincoln Green in Christchurch to find out how the new role was going.
1. When did you start your new role with PNG?
I started back in August so I have only been working with them for around 5 and a half months, but so far so good.
2. What does your role entail?
I am the Director of Cricket so I’m responsible for the development of the National Team, U19’s and the National Women’s Team. I am also responsible for the development of the local coaches in PNG so I work closely with them passing on knowledge.
3. How is the new role going so far?
I am really enjoying the role so far it’s a real challenge and something quite different to what I have been used to in my playing career. Everybody has been very receptive to me coming on board which is great so it’s been great so far.
4. How are the players in PNG developing?
There is a lot of talent in PNG, they are natural athletes and learn skills very quickly. The PNG players are lucky in that they get a lot of assistance from Queensland Cricket which is really helping in the development of the players. We have quite a few PNG players playing in Queensland and in other states around Australia and also here in Christchurch 2 of the U19 players have been playing here this season so that sort of exposure is invaluable. I feel the players are developing nicely we don’t have a huge pool of players to choose from so for us to be here at the ICC U19 World Cup is huge.
5. What were your first impressions of cricket in PNG when you first arrived there?
I was totally surprised by the quality of the players skills, these players are really skilful and have a great knowledge of the game, so that aspect took me by surprise. Cricket has a real following in PNG especially Australian Cricket as the locals are able to watch cricket through channel 9, so they understand the game and being able to have access to watching international cricket on TV helps in the development process.
6. What are some of the key aspects you are working on with the players here at the ICC U19 World Cup?
My main focus is working on the players doing the basics consistently well. We are working hard on bowling straight and in good areas, playing straight when we’re batting, and fielding well to back up our bowlers. The basic game sense fundamentals I am also focusing on, fielders angles, field settings, batting plans, bowling plans all those sorts of things that I think the PNG players haven’t been exposed to as much as a player of the same age in a Test playing nation, so in that respect we are playing a bit of catch up. The third area we are working hard on is to be professional in everything we do.
7. How would you describe yourself as a coach?
Throughout my playing career I was exposed to some great coaches, so naturally you recall all those experiences that you had with those coaches and pick out the good things and mould your own coaching style around what you learnt from those coaches. I have a Cricket Australia Level 2 coaching qualification and am starting my Level 3 this year so through my experiences and from doing my coach education I hope that I can become an effective coach, but that takes time.
8. How was the transition from playing to coaching?
That transition wasn’t too bad. When I retired I went back and played club cricket in Queensland which was something I hadn’t done for along time. I was the player/coach and captain of a team which hadn’t performed very well for along time and I learnt a lot from that experience and I think it helped my transition because I made it quite slowly, I didn’t stop playing and then immediately begin coaching.
9. What are your aspirations as a coach?
Its still fairly early days, I am enjoying the experience with PNG at the moment and will just see how things go. Coaching at the top level especially Test level is a hard job, the travel and time away from home is immense and I did it for along time as a player so at this stage I will just see where things take me, I would like to coach a first class team I think that would be a great challenge and something I could see myself really enjoying.
10. Lastly, which coach had the biggest influence on your career and why?
I would have to say John Buchanan. John was a great coach and someone I really enjoyed playing under. I think the reason why he was so good was because he was a great man manager, which is such an important aspect of coaching being able to get on with people, communicate well and get the best out of individuals to achieve the team’s main objective. John was also very good at putting a good management team around him and he sourced resources for the players which was great.