‘Too good to refuse’: Franks bucks the trend with Central Punjab switch

PAkistan seems like the place to be this winter, but away from the bright lights and crowded stadiums of the high-security England tour, two ambitious county system coaches are about to embark on an intriguing mission.

Paul Franks, assistant to Peter Moores at Nottinghamshire after two decades as the club’s uncompromising all-rounder, was appointed Central Punjab’s head coach for Pakistan’s domestic season, with the 43-year-old overseeing their campaigns in the four-day Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the 50-over Pakistan Cup.

Joining Franks as No.2 will be 38-year-old Bilal Shafayat, who since his own playing career has coached the Notts’ age group and second XI levels. Their four-month deal goes against the grain of seeking winter work on the Twenty20 circuit and at a time when the domestic setup continues to seek overseas coaches, it shows impressive ambition.

“It was too good to refuse,” Franks told the Guardian. “It happened through a bit of word of mouth and maybe Trent Rockets won the Hundred when I was Andy Flower’s assistant. Him and Pierre [Moores] are two amazing coaches who trusted me to do my job as I see it and that probably helped me.

“I worked in the T10 league in Abu Dhabi and the temptation would be to find more gigs in franchise cricket. But I wanted to get out of my comfort zone a bit, really experience a different culture and hopefully grow as a coach.

“Four-day, over-50 cricket may not be as fashionable at the moment, but I want to work across all formats. And I have the ambition to go as far as possible in my career. I want to help this team be the best it can be, but also learn from the players.

Franks describes the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy which begins next week as “unforgiving – even by county standards”, with six regional teams playing each other twice over a two-month period before a five-day final. Rather than home and away, the teams travel the country together, with Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan and Lahore as host sites.

Central Punjab is a merger of Faisalabad, Sialkot and Lahore under the lean national structure introduced in 2019, winning the first two titles before the end of last year’s mid-table. Babar Azam is their star, in theory, but Franks doesn’t expect the Pakistani captain to feature heavily due to international commitments.

Pakistan's Azhar Ali bats during day one of the first ever cricket test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Galle on July 16
Pakistani Azhar Ali will be one of Paul Franks’ proteges this winter. Photography: AP

However, players such as Azhar Ali and Faheem Ashraf will work for the Tests against England in December, and Franks hopes he and Shafayat will help others push for selection. “My style is really for them,” Franks says. “We will put structures in place and some non-negotiables, but whether in form or out of form, we will support them.

“Bilal speaks Urdu – I’ve learned a bit working with the UAE national team in the past – but he’s so much more than a translator, he’s a great coach in his own right and reads superbly. game. He will be an important link with the team.

Needless to say, the job won’t be in the same ring of steel surrounding the T20 and England Test tours this winter, but Franks is comfortable with what will be his first visit to Pakistan since a lesser tour. 19 years old in 1997.

“I’m someone who just wants to get into it,” Franks says, in the prosaic manner that earned him the nickname “The General” at Trent Bridge. And if England’s current setup needs any insight, a manager with international ambitions is keen to help.

“England have a lot of knowledgeable people in their support team, but if there are any local players they want more information on, or say the conditions at the test sites, I’ll be on your toes. yarn,” he said. adds. “I am ambitious and I don’t hide it.

“I hope that role goes even further. I want to learn about myself, play cricket in Pakistan and hopefully bring those experiences back to Notts next season.

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