Trevor Penney spent 17 years with Warwickshire County Cricket Club where he was omnipresent in one of the most successful sides in the county’s long history.
He played alongside Brian Lara, Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock in a team that dominated the game for much of the 1990s. When he decided to leave in 2005, Penney was picked up as a coach almost immediately, linking up as Tom Moody's assistant with Sri Lanka.
For the last 10 years, Penney has held coaching positions all over the world. He worked with state sides in Australia and IPL franchises in India with other stops in between, the most recent of which was a coaching role with the Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL).
Perhaps the highest profile of these stints was the one with Duncan Fletcher, who was then India's coach. It wasn’t until he was associated with India, says Penney, that he fully understood what it means to be a cricketer with the Indian national team.
“I had done a few IPLs and had seen what goes on and travelled there as part of Sri Lanka's touring side. I saw the players' enormous popularity but it wasn't until I was part of the Indian team as a fielding coach that I realised it is more than just cricket; the players are actually gods. You can’t understand that until you are in it,” says Penney.
“You could have security guards on your floor but they will be more interested in getting an autograph than protecting the floor. And there are people outside every hotel. It is just wonderful!
"Part of my role involved bringing the players back to being cricketers. They still have to work hard and practice because it took enormous mental effort just to come back on to a cricket field after being put up so high. It is not easy for Indian cricketers, that's for sure,” he adds.
Since Penney left under controversial circumstances in August 2014, Indians have struggled to perform overseas. Penney feels this is sure to improve because India have enough talent to bank on.
“Sachin (Tendulkar), Rahul (Dravid) and some others such as VVS Laxman had great careers and did well away from home. The new wave is here now and are determined to improve on that. It still hasn’t happened, they are still losing in away tours but I think they are getting closer to the inflection point where results would start to improve.
“In India they are treated as gods, they get to play on pitches and in conditions which favour a lot of spin and they dominate almost any team that visits. We won 80-90% of our games in four years in India, which is a huge amount.
"As soon as they travel, they are just normal blokes turning up on a cricket ground without the fame and everybody is screaming and shouting at them. Maybe it affects the players a bit but they are getting better. It wouldn’t surprise me if they turn it around in a few years' time.”
There was some success for Penney under the Fletcher regime but it ended on a sour note.
Following the Test series loss in England in 2014, a decision was made that things needed to change. Ravi Shastri was installed as Team Director and Penney and bowling coach Joe Dawes were sent "on leave”. It was a brutal send-off and Penney says that it was never really explained to him.
“You have four years with the team and you want to get through to the World Cup, that is the main aim when you start out. It was a fantastic side, especially in one day and T20 formats.
"Just prior to the England tour when Joe Dawes and I got eased out, we should have won the T20 World Cup but there had only been one really bad innings in the final that cost us. We won the Champions Trophy the year before and were playing really well at home, the team was developing.
“We went to England, won the second Test and everyone thought it was going to be a great series and then two Tests later I was removed as the assistant coach. It was pretty weird.
"I was told to go on a holiday for three weeks and was advised that someone will take over the one-day series. I sort of read between the lines that I won't get back the contract. And that was that. I didn’t really hear from anyone much again."
Penney was compensated for the rest of his contract and he became a free agent by October 2014, having been told to leave in August. A few months after that he was back with the Sri Lankans under head coach Marvan Atapattu, but it was disappointing to not see a job to its conclusion.
“There were a few phone calls from within the BCCI from guys that we knew so we sort of got to (understand) what was happening eventually, and they were nice enough and we sorted out a package which was good."
"It was so upsetting because you are not doing it for that package, you are doing it because you want to get to the World Cup with the team that you have groomed for four years."
“Had they said this is dreadful, the performances have been dreadful, you have been losing for years, that would've made sense but that wasn’t the case. It was just a couple of really bad games. Anderson was just on fire and no one could face them on those pitches. That can happen away from home on green tracks. I played county cricket for 18 years. I don't recall playing on pitches like that. Even I would've struggled.”
Penney says getting to the World Cup with Sri Lanka eased the pain but he still feels regret at it having ended the way it did. For him it has worked out well, though. Jobs like the one at the CPL mean he gets to have some time at home.
“The tricky thing is I did Sri Lanka for a couple of years, then I had six months on my own as a head coach and then I moved to Perth as an assistant to Tom Moody. Then I went to Queensland for a season as an assistant and then India for four years with Fletcher.
"That sort of ends up taking a toll. Cricketers always say they are going to retire and then after a 20-year career they go into something that takes them away from home again like commentating or coaching.
"I think for people who have done it for a long time, working in franchise cricket is a really good thing. You can have your base at home and hopefully get something like a stint in Caribbean Premier League or a couple of consultancy roles around the world where you are required to travel just four or five months a year, not living in a hotel room for 12 months like I had been doing for the last 10 years.”
Trevor Penney is on the management team of the Zouks in the HERO Caribbean Premier League (CPL) which runs from the end of June until August 2016. The CPL Player Draft takes place this Thursday, 11 February.
Published Date: Feb 12, 2016 08:27 am | Updated Date: Feb 12, 2016 08:28 am