The odds on a Paul Farbrace resignation severely denting England’s hopes of a first 50-over World Cup title would have been sky high when England’s assistant coach was putting his young charges through their paces at Hampton School in the mid-Nineties.
Back then Farbrace was seen as a progressive coach – particularly when it came to managing the school’s U15s football team. Which just about sums up the nature of a career which has contained more than its fair share of surprises.
Farbrace’s decision to turn his back on England and take a job at Edgbaston was a shock almost as seismic as the drubbing handed out to Joe Root’s side in the opening two Tests in the Caribbean. It has also thrown England’s World Cup preparations into something approaching disarray.
For a man who appears to have an uncanny knack of making the right move at the right time, though, perhaps it shouldn’t have come as any kind of surprise at all.
And judging by the esteem that Farbrace is held in by those who have worked under him and alongside him, Warwickshire are lucky to have him.
“Different class,” is how Azeem Rafiq, the former England U19s captain and ex-Yorkshire all-rounder, describes him.
He was coached by Farbrace during his two-year stint as head coach of Yorkshire’s Second XI and acknowledges the enormous impact that England’s No.2 had on a county who were linked with a return for his services when Jason Gillespie left the club in 2016.
“From a players point of view, he was brilliant. Everyone appreciated how good he was behind the scenes, the work that he did that really laid the foundations for a lot of Yorkshire’s incredible success during that period.
“He came to Headingley and really refreshed the whole place. I remember my first session with him very clearly. We were really just given licence to express ourselves. He seems to get the best out of a lot of different personalities.
“I probably played some of my best cricket when he was at Yorkshire and a lot of that was down to him. He was the sort of coach who made you feel 10ft tall. He made you believe that you could take-on anything and succeed.”
It’s that kind of belief that has seen this England side bounce back from a humiliating World Cup campaign in Australia in 2015 to become one of the most exciting teams in the history of ODI cricket.
His infectious enthusiasm, coupled with his ability to relate to players at all levels of the game – forged during his time at a Hampton School that also numbers former England all-rounder Zafar Ansari, Toby Roland-Jones and golfer Paul Casey amongst its alumni – means he has had a huge impact wherever he has gone.
“Farbs was looking for a new challenge and this role came up,” Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, tells The Cricket Paper.
“And for two years he was absolutely outstanding. He was such a knowledgeable guy and a fantastic coach. He literally can coach any aspect of the game. But it wasn’t just his technical knowledge, it was his enthusiasm for the game and for the players that set him apart.
“For us, it was all too brief. He went back to Sri Lanka which was a great opportunity for him. From a personal point of view, it was obviously very sad to only have him for a couple of years.”
His role with Yorkshire followed a stint with Kent that remains one of the few blots on his otherwise impeccable CV. Appointed Kent’s team director in 2010 and later acting as the county’s director of cricket, the former wicketkeeper struggled to lift the gloom at Canterbury and left in September 2011.
He would take on his role with Yorkshire before the start of the 2012 season but the Second XI role belied the first-class stature that Farbrace enjoyed, not just in England but across the world.
“In professional sport, there’s a lot of self-doubt – you need to be going over that white line thinking that you’re the best player in the world,” says Rafiq. “When he came back to Second XI cricket he was perfect because he always made you strive to be a better player in a way that was enjoyable.
“And it’s a huge role – it’s one of the biggest roles at the club. You’ve got up and coming players wanting an opportunity, you’ve got players who have been left out of the first team and think they should be in the first team and then you’ve got those players who are in the middle. To marry all that and give people an opportunity to move forward is so hard. But he made it look easy.”
Sri Lanka would soon come calling, with Farbrace leading the country to World T20 glory in 2014 – a victory which would ultimately lead to him taking on his role with England, initially working under then head coach, Peter Moores.
The incessant travelling in the past five years, coupled with the departure of Trevor Bayliss at the conclusion of the Ashes has now hastened his departure and return to the county game.
“Obviously with Trevor Bayliss leaving at the end of this summer, they’re very close and have worked together for a long time,” says Moxon. “He may have been thinking of leaving with Trevor at the end of this summer, who knows. But with the World Cup and the Ashes it was a little bit of a surprise that it has happened when it has but all the travelling does eventually catch up with you.
“The beauty of Farbs is that he can work in any environment. He has done everything – he has probably done everything he can do in the game, apart from coach in the IPL.”
That may be one final thing to tick off. First up, though, is a brand new era at Warwickshire.
RICHARD EDWARDS / Photo: Getty Images