By Pauline Stewart.
Meet Grant Bradburn, a local kiwi - almost! His mother-in-law, Pauline Brown, lives In Whitianga; Grant’s boat is berthed here and he comes with his wife, Maree and their adult children for holidays here. Grant just happens to be the Head Coach of the Pakistani cricket team. He currently lives in Pakistan, but The Informer had a chance to speak with Grant when he was here last week for a small break before his Pakistani team, which is between tours, goes to Sri Lanka early July.
By the way, Pakistan recently beat the Black Caps 4-1 as part of the One Day series.
Grant is very proud to be the head coach of a cricket team where 240 million people love cricket. He has worked for Pakistan cricket in two roles before, from the end of 2018 to 2021. Grant was then the fielding Coach for Pakistan and Head of High-performance Coaching.
A day not to be forgotten and an unlikely call
“Before Pakistan, I was Head Coach of Scotland for four and a half years, from 2014 to the end of 2018. We all lived in Stirling, Scotland which was an amazing experience. I will always remember June 10, 2018. That was the day Scotland beat England. It probably took two years in the making to where we wanted the team to think and play above their station and not accept mediocrity, being comfortable coming to a close second.
It was a most wonderful day, the first time ever that Scotland beat England. England was number one in the world at the time. That was the best way to finish our tenure. We were going to extend our time in Scotland, but a phone call from Pakistan changed all that. At first, I thought it was a crank or scam call - one of those calls where someone is trying to get you to invest or buy cryptocurrency – I nearly didn’t answer. The phone call was an invitation to come and join the Pakistani coaching team. So late in 2018, my first tenure in Pakistan began as fielding Coach and then evolved into Head of High-Performance Coaching.
“I returned to New Zealand after that and for the last year, 2022, I was Director of Sport at Hillcrest High in Hamilton. It was a way of reconnecting back home here in New Zealand as well as spending more time in Whitianga seeing family. My wife and I have a boat on the Marina and we both love to fish. I think I am more of the fishing assistant.”
Early this year, Grant was approached again through a phone call from Pakistan. This time he knew it wasn’t a crank call. Since the beginning of April, Grant has been the Head Coach of Pakistan cricket.
Coaching in Pakistan:
Living in Lahore is very different but a very good life. We have a deep passion for the people of Pakistan and the way they live. Cricket is the only thing in Pakistan creating universal passion apart from politics. Cricket has no competition with 240 million people. There is squash and kabati but they dim significantly beside cricket. We walk around the streets of Lahore, and everywhere you see small games of cricket - adults, children.
Unfortunately, my last tenure in Pakistan was when covid was raging and Maree and the kids didn’t get to visit. This time it is different.
Grant coaches the national mens team, that means at any one time there is a team of 17 and a large staff of 15 or more as well. Grant is responsible for all of them. There are about 60 players who are always in the wings poised for national selection. Grant works very closely with the selection group.
“Developing the younger players and understanding the required skill sets with a clear pathway to selection is where New Zealand is very strong,” says Grant. This is more difficult to achieve in a population of 240 million people and just about every young male in Pakistan aspires to be in the national men’s team.”
Grant sees a strong succession of quality players coming through. Talent is not the issue. identifying the talent and having a proper pathway for development and selection is the issue.
Floods and disasters: “It has been devastating for the entire country of Pakistan. A lot of the infrastructure in the major cities was destroyed. That devastation continues,” says Grant. “It can be a tough life for some people in Pakistan, but even with that, people are generally happy - that’s humbling. Very strong family values keep the country together. Even with the tension that exists politically and culturally between India and Pakistan, I have experienced a number of cricket clashes with the two countries and the players are good friends on the field and off the field.
“People are pleased to see you, especially when you are involved in cricket. It is a great privilege to do what I am doing and experience this great country.”
Home: New Zealand is still Grant’s home. “Cricket is in my family’s blood. My Dad was a Black Cap and played first class cricket for Northern Districts from 1957 to 1969. He was the 100th Test cap for New Zealand. I was a Black Cap. We were a father and son duo.”
Grant was also Head Coach of the NZ A team and the NZ Under 19 and had stints supporting the Black Caps and supporting their coaches. Sadly, His Father and mother, Wynne and Olwyn Bradburn passed away in 2008.
Grant has always been passionate about coaching. “In the early days of playing; it wasn’t a profession as a player, so I supplemented my income through coaching. New Zealand will be there in our future and long term, Whitianga will be our home,” says Grant. “We are fortunate to have family and friends living here and we have all the memories. Maree has been coming to Whitianga since she was a little girl.”
“For now, Pakistan is my home and my 100% effort.” Grant smiles, “When you lose a game of cricket in Pakistan, you feel that pressure, but you are only one win away from making the nation happy again.”
Caption: Grant in discussion with Pakistan player Mohammad Nawaz.