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They are the men behind the players, but they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. In an attempt to address that, I’m listing some of the best cricket coaches in the history of the sport.
Who is the Best Cricket Coach in the World?
All lists of this kind are open to debate, but many would argue that John Buchanan is cricket’s best ever coach. He was appointed to Australia’s top coaching role in October 1999 and was in charge for eight years until 2007.
Buchanan oversaw three Ashes series wins and was coach when Australia completed their third World Cup victory in 2007.
15 Best Coaches in Cricket History
It could be argued that John Buchanan had an easy job. After all, he was coach of Australia at a time when the country fielded some of the best players in the world. He didn’t always see eye-to-eye with some of them, most notably Shane Warne, but he got the best out of those stars.
Ricky Ponting was always full of praise for Buchanan, and he feels that the coach was an important factor behind that third World Cup success.
Many England supporters might have argued that Duncan Fletcher should be on the top of this list. When he became England’s head coach in 1999, the team carried the lowest ranking in test cricket.
Within six years, Fletcher transformed the side as they famously won the Ashes for the first time in 18 years. That 2005 series was one of the most memorable in the history of test cricket, but it was also the pinnacle for a side that started to break up, mainly because of injuries to key players.
Duncan Fletcher left his post in 2007 after an Ashes defeat and an early exit from the World Cup, but he left a legacy that turned England into a competitive side once again.
Mickey Arthur experienced some ups and downs during his coaching career. It didn’t always go smoothly during his spell in charge of Australia, but he enjoyed his best years with Pakistan from 2016 to 2018.
Under his stewardship, Pakistan won the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy as they rose to number one in the ODI and T20i rankings. Some of their top current players began to emerge during this period.
Arthur also coached South Africa for a spell and he’s now in charge at Derbyshire in the English County Championship.
He may have divided some opinions at times, but Ravi Shastri remains a highly respected coach who guided India through some difficult years. He took over the role in 2017 after serving as the team director for some time.
India didn’t win a major trophy under Shastri’s tenure and that may well be behind the reasons why they’ve moved on. However, he did get the best out of his players while his long career as an international cricketer made sure that he earned their respect.
Mike Hesson took over from John Wright as New Zealand coach in 2012. He could often be a controversial figure within his own squad, and he won few friends after suggesting that Ross Taylor should give up the captaincy in favour of Brendon McCullum.
There is no doubt that Hesson was successful in his time with the Kiwis which ran until 2018. He had helped them to become competitive in all three formats and he laid a platform for successful limited overs sides of the present day.
Hesson has also coached Argentina, Kenya and Otago.
A much travelled coach, Dav Whatmore was born in Sri Lanka, but he played test cricket for Australia after his family emigrated there in 1962. After his playing days were over, he returned to his homeland where he enjoyed his most successful period as a coach.
Whatmore was in charge when Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup, playing an attacking style from ball one which has since been adopted all over the world. Since leaving that post, Whatmore has also enjoyed coaching spells with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Zimbabwe while serving in the IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders.
One of the less familiar names on the list, Gary Stead had a modest playing career, featuring in five tests for New Zealand in 1999. A number of coaches have similarly modest records and, like this Kiwi, it didn’t hold them back.
Stead has since coached both the New Zealand women’s and men’s team and he has been behind some of the country’s best moments. He helped the women to a World Cup runners up slot in 2009 and did the same with the men ten years later. Stead was the coach as New Zealand lost that incredible 2019 World Cup final on boundary count.
New Zealand’s John Wright became the first foreign coach of the Indian men’s national team when he stepped into the hot seat in 2000. It was a tough task for an outsider to come in, but Wright had already earned respect as a coach and a player.
He oversaw great improvements in the team and was in charge when India came from behind to win that incredible test series with Australia. John Wright also took India to the final of the 2003 World Cup and, in later years, he coached his native New Zealand from 2010 to 2012.
Trevor Bayliss enjoyed the honour of becoming a successful coach for both Sri Lanka and England. He was an Australian who enjoyed a modest playing career before taking on his first coaching role with New South Wales in 2004.
Bayliss then took charge of Sri Lanka at a time when they fielded some of the most potent batters and bowlers in the game. Some may say he was lucky to inherit such a talented squad, but he certainly helped to guide them to more glory.
Bayliss later oversaw an Ashes victory for England against his native Australia in 2015, while he’s also coached Sydney Sixers, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings at domestic level.
Another much travelled coach, Gary Kirsten has enjoyed plenty of success in international and franchise cricket around the world. He was one of South Africa’s most prolific batsmen and features high on the list of leading run scorers in test and ODI cricket.
He was in charge of India between 2008 and 2011 and the country gave him his most successful moment as a coach. Gary Kirsten was in the dugout as India won the World Cup in 2011.
After that, he took up the head coach role at South Africa, but he wouldn’t enjoy the same level of success. Kirsten left that post in 2013, but he’s been active in domestic cricket since then. After stints with Hobart Hurricanes and Royal Challengers Bangalore, he guided the Gujarat Titans to the IPL title in their debut season of 2022.
Former England batsman Bob Woolmer helped to revolutionise the art of coaching in a career that was cut tragically short. His methods were controversial at times and they included the relaying of messages to South African skipper Hansie Cronje via an earpiece.
Woolmer’s most successful period came with the South Africans but, although he wasn’t directly implicated in Cronje’s match fixing scandal, it led to him moving on.
Pakistan would be his destination and, once again, he enjoyed a productive spell in charge. Woolmer sadly died in his Jamaican hotel room at the 2007 World Cup. He will be remembered for his great innovation and his role in developing cricket in South Africa and Pakistan.
Zimbabwean Andy Flower had the unenviable task of lifting England after Peter Moores had failed to build on Duncan Fletcher’s legacy. It’s to Flower’s eternal credit that he turned things around very quickly.
He even achieved something that Fletcher couldn’t – an Ashes win in Australia. He was an assistant coach under Moores before taking the top job in 2009. Within two years he’d overseen that 3-0 Ashes win as England rose to number one in the world rankings.
Flower left the England role in 2014, but has since worked extensively in the Indian Premier League. In 2023, we’ll also see him in the dugout at the International League T20 as he takes on the role of Head Coach at the Gulf Giants.
Darren Lehmann’s tenure as Australia’s coach eventually ended in the wake of the ‘Sandpapergate’ scandal. While he was cleared of being directly involved, it was tough for him to carry on after that controversial series with South Africa in 2018.
That was a shame for the Aussies because they had been turned into a fearsome unit under Lehmann. He took over the role in 2013 and, after a poor Ashes series in England, he helped the team win back the urn on home soil.
He’d turned the team into a fearsome unit, but it was one that may have gone too far in the sledging department. Since the sandpaper issues led to his resignation, Darren Lehmann has been in charge of the Brisbane Heat in the BBL.
Former opening bat Justin Langer had the task of rebuilding Australian cricket following Darren Lehmann’s departure. After six years in charge of Perth Scorchers and Western Australia, Langer stepped into the country’s top job.
It was a difficult balance between making Australia successful again without them crossing that line. He achieved that with Ashes wins and avictory in the 2022 T20 World Cup. Langer has since stepped down in slightly acrimonious circumstances, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be out of a coaching position for too long.
It could be argued that Ajit Wadekar was the first great cricket coach. Prior to the end of the 1990s, few teams actually had a coach. There was a manager on tours, but most of the tactics were devised by the captain and senior players.
Former Indian international cricketer Wadekar took up the management and coaching role for his country in the 1990s. He began to oversee the development of key players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. He was a successful coach and also something of a groundbreaker for the role.
There are many up and coming young coaches who could be entering this list in the future. Brendon McCullum has transformed English test cricket with an aggressive style of play that broke a host of records in 2022.
Across the cricket world, there are other new coaches who will be hoping to make their mark. Rahul Dravid of India and Australia’s Andrew McDonald are two that come to mind. For now, the names on this list are up there with the very best cricket coaches of all time.