James Foster was honoured to be named as the first homegrown head coach in the men’s Hundred, but the new boss of Northern Superchargers insists his breadth of experience is more important than his birthplace.
Last year’s inaugural edition of the the city-based tournament saw high-profile foreign imports dominate the senior positions in the men’s draw, with five of the eight posts doled out to Australians and one appointment each from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.
Local coaching talent was restricted to supporting roles, in stark contrast to the women’s competition where the likes of Charlotte Edwards, Danielle Hazell and Jonathan Batty were empowered.
But when Darren Lehmann relinquished his role at Headingley, the Superchargers decided to break the mould by recruiting former Essex wicketkeeper Foster.
The 42-year-old, regarded as the best pure gloveman of his generation, was a three-format format international with England between 2002 and 2009 but believes his experiences on the global franchise circuit – including in the Indian Premier League, Pakistan Super League and Bangladesh Premier League – outweigh the colour of his passport.
Speaking to the PA news agency and ESPNcricinfo ahead of this week’s launch, he said: “I’m incredibly proud to be the first English coach, it’s a great opportunity, but it’s not necessarily about that for me.
“There was a fair bit of bad press about it last year but maybe because of the journey I’ve been on in coaching I don’t see it. I wasn’t involved in The Hundred last year but I was asked ‘what are your thoughts about there being no English head coaches?’ and I said it’s a great thing for English coaches to work under foreign coaches. I hope the English guys involved last year were able to do that.
“I’ve deliberately tried to work under numerous people to gain experience and see other ways of doing things beyond the so-called ‘English way’.
“You can tap into great minds and in my career so far I’ve worked under the likes of Stephen Fleming, Mahela Jayawardene, Trevor Bayliss, Tom Moody, Shane Bond, Mohammad Akram, Andy Flower….there’s so much diverse experience there and I’ve been very fortunate to learn off these guys.
“It was a deliberate plan. Why wouldn’t you want to try and work under some of the best foreign coaches in the world? For the last three years I’ve been working under (England Test coach) Brendon McCullum at Kolkata Knight Riders, which has been an absolute joy.
“I’m absolutely not surprised about the success he’s had with the Test team. I worked under him in the T20 format but I understand how he goes about his business and what he brings to the table.”
The appointment of the New Zealander, alongside Australian Matthew Mott in the white-ball side, invited some awkward conversations about the ECB’s domestic pathway but, in Foster, they may have unearthed a future candidate for the top jobs.
“I’d love to coach at the very highest level, in international cricket,” he said.
“I retired from playing in 2018 and I’m just trying to gain as much knowledge as I can. In terms of the England set-up, maybe at some stage in the future, but I think it’s probably a long way off.”