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Jon Lewis Interview: Seamlessly juggling between Warriorz and England

Last updated on 01 Mar 2024 | 01:31 PM
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Jon Lewis Interview: Seamlessly juggling between Warriorz and England

In a exclusive, Jon Lewis opens up about various topics ranging from the Warriorz setup, his English job and the health of women's cricket

Coaching an international team and a Women’s Premier League (WPL) franchise is chalk and cheese. While there are certain challenges in coaching a team like England, where expectations are continuous and through the roof, the challenge with the UP Warriorz is completely different. 

In a tournament where the stakes are high and the season is quite short, one bad performance could very well make a franchise a bad unit. This is despite them putting up strong performances in the other games. That’s where someone with the experience of Jon Lewis is extremely handy. 

While Lewis might have just played 14 international games for England, he has taken the coaching stint like a horse to water. Post his playing days, Lewis has worked closely with England Lions (head coach), and England men’s team (bowling coach) but also travelled off-shore, where the Sri Lankan men’s side was under his tutelage (as a bowling coach). 

Juggling between an international and a franchise setup is quite tricky, and Lewis has been doing that for two seasons now. That’s where experienced campaigners on his side come in handy. 

It’s a team that boasts of top international-level finger spinners Sophie Ecclestone and Deepti Sharma. It has multiple World Cup winners, Alyssa Healy and Tahlia McGrath. Then, in terms of Indian domestic talent, the likes of Gouher Sultana, Kiran Navgire, Poonam Khemnar and Saima Thakor are proven experienced performers. 

Meanwhile, they also have the effervescent talents of Shweta Sehrawat and Parshavi Chopra, who remain amongst some of the few Indian girls who have touched a World Cup Trophy, winning the inaugural U19 World Cup in South Africa. 

For someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time in India, apart from his time at the WPL, coaching such an eclectic bunch of cricketers must be a tricky job. 

In this exclusive conversation with, Jon Lewis opens up in quite some detail about all the questions that we had for him, on various topics ranging from international cricket to managing the Warriorz setup. Here is the full transcript of the entire interview: 

Hey Jon, could you begin by just talking about your coaching style? As a coach, how do you look at the game? Is it numbers or gut feel?

Jon Lewis (JL):  I think it's a balance of both [the way he looks at the game]. Numbers are useful to help predict what may happen. Most of the numbers that you get are historical, [based on] things that happened in the past. You’ll notice from the game itself that it always develops and grows. 

My overriding view is that people win games, so getting people in the right headspace and performing to the best of their ability is probably the most important thing about running a cricket team.

You coach England and a WPL Team in India. These are not only two extreme conditions but two very different cricketing cultures. So how do you manage that difference?

JL: Again I think the most important thing about the differences between coaching and international side and franchise cricket is the time that you have and the pressures around immediate wins. 

So when you're coaching as an international coach, you're trying to grow and develop a team for priority tournaments, so to speak, like the World Cup or Ashes. 

But here in UP (Warriorz), everything happens so fast and everything's really quick. You've got to make sure that you are able to hit the ground running, get the right people at the auction and then put into place a good strategy for the team to play well, and play well fast because you need to start the tournament fast, and it's very hard to catch up from behind.

The UP Warriorz setup also has a lot of great support staff, including an ICC Hall of Famer Lisa Sthalekar. So how does someone like Lisa help you in your job? 

JL: Lisa's role here is very much around exactly what I've just said about getting people in the right headspace. A mentor is someone who will guide you along your journey. But Lisa also has some great skills for noticing people - when people are up and down, trying to keep them level, giving them advice. 

She has a really nice manner, and she helps connect the different cultures in the team very, very well. Lisa plays a very crucial role here, and the way she goes about it is very unobtrusive but also very smart.

Could you just talk about the Indian youngsters in the UP Warriorz setup and who impressed you the most from last season? 

JL: I think there's a lot of potential. There weren't a lot of results or performances. Some of our older players probably took most of the work on their back, and in the case of the younger players’ struggle, I think a lot was down to just the occasion rather than their skill or ability. 

What I do know is that they've gone away and worked incredibly hard because they now see the standard, and they know where they need to get to. So I think one season in, they’ve come back, and I'm really, really impressed with how they've improved, so I would expect better performances from my younger players.

You have both Deepti and Sophie in your Warriorz setup, how big a deal is it to have two all-phase spinners who are very experienced?

JL: Unbelievably lucky. We've got two incredible talents and two incredible spin bowlers. And they regularly show how good they are at the international level. Now, again, it's finding the right slot for them to bowl in, and how we use them to the best for the team at the right time. 

But yeah, I'm fortunate to have those two fellas on the team. 

What makes Sophie so special? Does this freedom you give her come from a degree of trust? 

JL: 100%, it comes from trust. Every time she has walked out to the cricket field for me, she has done incredibly well. I know that Sophie is an incredible talent with a huge amount of ability. A lot of that comes from her physical strength; she’s really tall and strong. 

She’s able to get the hand on the ball a better bit than the others who aren't that tall. She’s really an incredibly competitive person. I have a lot of trust in Sophie; I had a lot of trust in Sophie before, and now too, she’s a brilliant performer. I have watched her perform even before I took over the England job. 

You are bound to return to England for the New Zealand series scheduled right after the WPL. You might miss the knockouts or even more games because of that. Do you think your absence would affect the team? 

JL - I hope not. What I hope is that the team is in a really good headspace and playing really good cricket at that point in time. We have also got some really experienced coaches and support staff around us who have aligned with how we like to think and how we like to play. And you would imagine with someone like Alyssa [Healy] on the table, with an immense amount of experience, she would be able to take the team forward. 

Ashley Noffke is obviously the head coach of the London Spirits and the Brisbane Heat in other franchise competitions, so he’s incredibly experienced. And we have got enough on the bench to cover. It’s an unfortunate situation (not being available for knockouts). It’s not one that I would not like to happen, but it’s happening, and we have to deal with that. Thankfully, I’ve got the people in place to do that. 

What are the areas of improvement that you have identified with the English national side?

JL: The biggest area of improvement when I came into the side from watching them from afar, and from the time I took over, was around removing fear and fear of making mistakes on the cricket field. So we've tried to create a really safe environment for players that are able to express themselves to the best of their abilities and relax and play their best cricket.

So far, we've had some good results but also some poor ones as well. So, you know, that's something that will take time for players because, primarily, we've got a very young and exciting group of players coming through. So you'd have to expect inconsistency in performance. What you hope is enough players can guide them and I suppose, coax them through this part of their journey.

But I think that the biggest area is to try and take fear away from the players and create an environment that is it's really safe for them to express themselves.

There are so many English players at WPL this year. With the T20 World Cup this year happening in Bangladesh, do you think performances in the WPL would be a criterion for selection?

JL: I think it will be a contributing factor in terms of selection. I don't think it will be the standout factor. I think, more than likely, how they play for England will be the thing that gets them selected to play for England.

But if some say someone like Kate Cross or Issy Wong is outside of the squad at the moment and comes in and has a stellar WPL, and they do really, really well, of course, we'll sit up and watch because we know the quality of the opposition they're playing.

Now, there’s a burning question, what’s the health of women’s cricket. You said that the ceiling is high but the players are unaware of that? Could you expand on that?

JL:  I still really believe that for Women's cricket in particular, the ceiling is really high. The health of it is growing and growing really fast. I think that in this WPL, you'll see more and more skills from all the players in the competition. And when you grow that, and you grow competition within national sides and franchise sides, then people grow, and other people fall by the wayside.

So I've got a strong belief around competition driving development. The more competition there is, and the tougher the face of the competition is, individuals will find a way to get to the top. So that can only be good for the game, and that can only grow the game.

Also, in the case of women’s Test cricket, there's a call for WTC for Women's cricket, too early? What's the gap like between the top teams and the others?

JL: I would say the gap is big. I think there's some exploration to be done around how much Test cricket is too much Test cricket, where the big gaps are, and how to fill them. I think it will be really tough for some boards to implement Test cricket across the women's game. So we have to be really aware of that, and some will be really reticent to do so. 

And it can't just be driven by, I suppose, what we would call the Big Three teams in terms of England, Australia and India driving the narrative. It has to be a really considered decision, and it has to be really well thought out. We've had some Test matches, and we must play more Test matches.

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