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Mark Coles – My coaching has changed [after my experience in Pakistan]

Mark Coles flew to Pakistan, voluntarily coached the Pakistan women’s cricket team, and overcame several challenges to lead the team to success and growth.

We caught up with the Kiwi coach to talk about his experiences in Pakistan, the current state of the women’s game there and what he’s looking to get up to in the future.

Mark Coles poses with trophies alongside Pakistan captain, Bismah Maroof
Bismah Maroof and Mark Coles (Source: Supplied)

Kinza Tahir: Tell us a bit about your life outside of cricket?

Mark Coles: I enjoy spending time with my family, keeping fit and going for walks along the beach.

What was your experience like coaching the Pakistan women’s cricket team?

I loved it, I found it really rewarding and whilst being a long way from home, the players and the PCB looked after me.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to coach such a talented and lovely bunch of young women.

READ: Chatting with Pakistani womens fast bowler: Aiman Anwar

How do the facilities in New Zealand and Australia compare to those Pakistan? How much improvement is needed in different areas of Pakistani cricket to reach international standards?

The Facilities at National Cricket Academy in Pakistan are pretty good, they may need some money spent on it soon as it is getting a bit tired, I think the key in the female program is to get a Pakistan A team and U-19 team up and running as soon as possible.

We suggested some systems, but everyone has their own ideas, so I hope something happens soon!

The Pakistan women’s cricket team improved steadily when you were coaching them. What was going in your mind when you arrived and after the girls started winning?

We just tried to be 1% better individually every day and train making mistakes, I am a big believer that if you make mistakes at practice then in a game you will give the shot a go or bowl that slower ball without fear of failure.

It’s really tricky because we only had 3 girls who were sponsored, so a lot of hand me downs or bats that can be too heavy are floating around, it would be nice if a sponsor came on board and helped the girls out.

Tell us about the time when Pakistan won the ODI series 2-1 against the West Indies team?

We got thumped in the first ODI, but we knew if we played well we could push them we just missed out in the T20s, 1-2 with a super over, one of the players told us about her struggles and how she was so proud to play for Pakistan.

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We did not have one dry eye in the house, being vulnerable can bring a team together and I believe this helped us.

It was an amazing and inspiring story.

Most of the athletes in Pakistan were from poor backgrounds who couldn’t afford cricket equipment. How did that change your perspective when you talked to the girls and did it influence your coaching approach?

My coaching has changed, everyone has a story and some of these young ladies have some unbelievable stories, my approach now is to really have empathy and to get to really understand your players, recognise that everyone has a story and that we are all different!

It’s about believing in them, even when your backs are against the wall.

Mark Coles with Sir Richard Hadlee and others in Sri Lanka
Mark Coles with Sir Richard Hadlee and co. in Sri Lanka (Source: Supplied)

Imam Ul Haq gave his bats to the girls since they couldn’t afford to buy and had no sponsors. How was it like dealing with such situations and how did the girls come out of it?

That was tough because it was a lovely gesture from Imam, however, the bats were too heavy but we did manage to find someone who shaved them down to take the weight out.

It’s really tricky because we only had 3 girls who were sponsored, so a lot of hand me downs or bats that can be too heavy are floating around, it would be nice if a sponsor came on board and helped the girls out.

In one case one of our players had not been on a plane so it was such a new experience, and playing in Dubai the new squad members were overwhelmed with the city and the sights, we had to make sure they still ate properly and enjoyed new countries and cultures, they always found a Pakistani food place though!

During your stay, the security personnel were with you all the time. Did you have any experience outside of that in Karachi or Lahore without the constant protection?

Not really, I went to Multan and Islamabad which were lovely places but had security, I have seen pictures of places in the North [of Pakistan], and they just look beautiful!

I did have 10 minutes one day when “I escaped security” but when I went to leave for the office I had two guards on me, it did cause a stir when I came back by myself, I never felt in danger, so I was pleased I did it, even though it wasn’t for long and it was a bit naughty!

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When the women’s team travelled internationally, what was the transition like? How did it improve their cricket?

I think going overseas is great, in one case one of our players had not been on a plane so it was such a new experience, and playing in Dubai the new squad members were overwhelmed with the city and the sights, we had to make sure they still ate properly and enjoyed new countries and cultures, they always found a Pakistani food place though!

The Pakistani women's team poses for the camera
The Pakistani women’s led by Mark Coles. (Source: Supplied)

How much international exposure do the girls need in order to win big titles?

I think it’s vital, Nida Dar was the first but hopefully not the last, unfortunately, she faced some jealousy from some administrators which surprised me, I guess it’s because they never really made the most of their own ability. She was a great ambassador and it took a lot of hard work to set that up!

The girls were shocked when they saw Elyse Perry having 5 bats to use. How did you counsel the girls when they saw they had limited resources?

It was an understanding that the game has moved very quickly in Australia, Nida Dar experienced it when she played for the Sydney Thunder last year but it was also a motivation for them that when they make it they are well looked after in England, India and Australia.

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Do you have any plans of coaching the Sri Lankan or either Bangladesh women’s team if the opportunity arises?

I’d love to get involved with either of those countries, I feel I have a lot to offer in the female game but I am also open to coaching a Men’s associate team.

At the moment I am coaching a Men’s first-grade team here in Queensland and enjoying that.

I think my heart is in the female game and I do enjoy coaching Female teams who love to be challenged and want to get better.

What advice would you give to Pakistani women cricketers or even young girls from around the world who wish to play professionally?

Work hard, Believe in yourself, Enjoy the game and just try to be 1% better every day!


Follow Mark Coles on Instagram.
For more cricket-related content, follow Sportageous.
You can follow Kinza Tahir here on Twitter.

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