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The Thunder Downunder: The Australian Method

Coa2In the ten weeks since the conclusion of the 2007 World Cup every Test playing nation with the exceptions of South Africa and New Zealand have replaced or are in the process of replacing their head coach. Some transitions have been seamless. Other plans have come embarrassingly unstitched. However, one constant thread weaves its way through each and every country's coaching dramas, dilemmas and decisions. Australians.They were either departing, long-listed, short-listed, coveted, seduced, rejected or appointed. It would seem that cricket administrators the world over consider a coach in possession of a passport emblazoned with emu and kangaroo an important ingredient on the road to success.

Late last week Sri Lanka hired their fifth Australian coach in a decade when they recruited New South Wales incumbent Trevor Bayliss to replace the reluctant Tom Moody. The self-professed high-powered Sri Lankan selection committee, comprising such luminaries as Aravinda de Silva and Duleep Mendis, interviewed current Queensland coach Terry Oliver and John Buchanan's assistant Jamie Siddons before being captivated by Bayliss' presentation. After witnessing Trevor's salesmanship first-hand SLC secretary Kanangan Mathivanan said: "When we knew how good he was, we signed him up immediately because there are a lot of countries head-hunting for coaches at present."

Bayliss' good fortune at landing such a plum coaching position now leaves NSW without a mentor for the up-coming 2007/08 season. Former NSW coaches Geoff Lawson and Steve Rixon would both enjoy the opportunity of replacing Bayliss at the SCG but Cricket NSW administrators would be wise to wait for the Pakistan board to appoint their coach before they make a definitive decision.

Under tight security, Geoff Lawson flew to Islamabad on Saturday to personally submit his application as Woolmer's successor, while Rixon appears uninterested despite several advances from Pakistan chairman Dr. Nasim Ashraf. Former ICC high performance manager Richard Done and 1996 World Cup winning coach Dav Whatmore are also in the mix to become Pakistan's next coach.

Whatmore recently finished his 4 year Bangadeshi contract with his already impressive reputation intact. Although invited to extend his tenure, Dav declined, choosing instead to apply for the unadvertised position as the chief of Team India. That he was not considered for the short list, or the long list presumably, must have been a shock. The BCCI in their wisdom instead offered the job to recalcitrant South African Graham Ford and bizarrely interviewed John Emburey rather than talk to Dav. It appears that Bangladesh's victory and subsequent elimination of India at the recent World Cup has cut deep in Indian cricket circles.

Whatmore's best chance of an international job now lies in the Pakistan appointment but the fact the PCB were very keen to speak with Lawson after interviewing Dav doesn't bode well. Perhaps Whatmore will be offered the NSW top job after the international coaching positions are filled. But then again, perhaps not. The Blues have always employed one of their own as leader and as Dav has Victorian ties it would be a surprise if he landed the job.

Whatmore's assistant and Bangladesh U/19 and ‘A’ team coach, Darwin grade legend Shaun Williams, was appointed as the young Tigers interim boss for the soon tour of Sri Lanka. In a logical decision that led to an easy transition, Williams won out over highly regarded Australian team performance analyst Richard McInnes.

The BCB general secretary Mahbub Anam stressed that the Williams posting was on a series to series basis and that the board were hopeful of Dav’s return. He stated at a mid-week press conference, "Our door is still open for Whatmore. He is a great coach and the Bangladesh team has improved a lot during his four-year tenure." Reports have also indicated that the BCB have created a vastly improved salary package to induce Whatmore back to Dhaka if he fails in his bid to secure the Pakistan position.

Current English tourists, West Indies, replaced former Queensland and Australian Academy coach Bennett King after a dismal World Cup with assistant David Moore. Moore a former NSW wicket-keeper has been Bennett’s right-hand man since his Academy days and he has a tough job ahead of him to create a winning environment within the disparate Caribbean structure.

Assuming Pakistan choose Lawson, Whatmore or Done as coach, five of the nine Test playing countries will have an Australian at the helm of their international squads. The infatuation with the Australian way has been a cricketing trend for well over a decade with only South Africa and England not employing an Australian as head coach in that period. It should be noted, however, that Rod Marsh and Troy Cooley made a significant impact on English cricket during their terms as Academy chief and fast-bowling mentor respectively.

This fetish for employing coaches from the Australian system raises an interesting question. Do Australians manage cricket teams better than other nationalities?

Most Australian coaches of overseas sides have had mixed success. In fact no country with an Australian at the helm, Dav Whatmore’s Sri Lankans excepted, have defeated Australia in a Test series or World Cup match. The evidence suggests that having an Australian coach is no panacea for success but rather a nostrum, especially when playing the four-time World Champions.

It would appear cricket administrators are under the impression that the Baggygreen sheen will rub off on their own squads by the mere association with Australian methods and personnel. Ricky Ponting while visiting Bangladesh and India this past week put that myth into perspective.

“A coach is only as good as his team.” Punter said during a corporate function to promote Run Ricky Run, a charitable venture he is conducting with the sponsorship of a leading Indian bank. “He needs to be a good man manager and know his players but as for coaching, I’m not convinced. For example there is not a coach on Earth that could teach Anil Kumble how to bowl a better leg-break.”

After further questioning Ponting then debunked the myth further when he said, "If the national side hadn't been playing as well as it had been doing over the past few years, I don't think Australian coaches would have been much sought after. What a team needs is a man manager. Someone who manages time well, thinks outside the sphere of cricket and challenges the players everyday."

He then went on to say that the selectors role in managing generational change is more important than the work of the coach, "I think the Australian selectors handled it very well. Whenever there was a group of players of the same age on the verge of retirement, they brought on youngsters regularly."

Upon hearing of Ricky’s sentiments, Australian selector Merv Hughes agreed and humorously quipped during his regular Sunday morning television appearance, “No coach in the game of cricket should be regarded as a genius. A genius is somebody like Norman Einstein”.

With men like the moustachioed Mervyn masterminding the Australian method, is it any wonder that the burly blokes from Downunder are desired across the globe for their cricketing expertise?

In late breaking news, NSW chief executive Dave Gilbert announced this afternoon that NSW Second XI coach Matthew Mott will succeed Trevor Bayliss as NSW senior coach for season 2007/08.

[Nesta Quin]

June 19, 2007 in Australian cricket, General musings, News Pavilion, The Googly, The Thunder Downunder | Permalink | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

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Comments

fabulous piece Nesta.

The Aussie coach fixation is nothing new on these shores, it came to GB Rugby League about 15-20 years ago. After a number of hammerings at the hands of Aus teams as sort of unspoken belief developed that our players are no less talented than the Aussies, ergo it must be the aussie coaches that hold the secret to success.

I think that oversimplifies the issue, as development and preparation for success at the highest level starts much earlier than when you reach the elite - or at least it should do.

Posted by: lee | 19 Jun 2007 11:26:33

When I saw the little piece a few days ago about Bayliss, I have to admit I was stunned! I know so little of the Aussie meisters that I thought for a moment that it was Troy of that name being mentioned. Though thinking about it, Troy Bayliss could be a really cool move to pull!!Non?

Posted by: clare | 19 Jun 2007 21:53:20

Thanks for the comments guys.

It is bizarre indeed that Australia's tenth, eleventh, twelfth etc best coach is coveted by other countries setups. West Indies are a prime example. Bennett King and his replacement David Moore would probably coach an U/19 tean in Oz or be employed sweeping the nets and making the sandwiches at the Academy. Yet they get the job as head of the Windies even though the windies have among them some of the greatest cricketing minds of the last 30 years. I understand the politics of the regional nature of the Windies but it seems ridiculous here in Australia.

Also, and time will tell, that Whatmore may be without a job is hard to comprehend. Hopefully, he will be asked to head the Centre of Excellence now that John Wright has declined the invitation.

I never mentioned it in the article but Ponting reckons that the senior players teach the younger members of the squad far more about the rigours of international cricket than the managerial staff. Of course he would say that but I still agree.

Summing up I think that the term 'coach' is a misnomer at the highest level and that these men should be referred to as 'managers'.

Posted by: nesta | 20 Jun 2007 01:03:29

Nesta - I think its the importing of Australian attitudes (the 1% stuff) as much as the know-how. At the level of a conversation, I think Punter is right about the players teaching each other, but the structures need to be right - managing contracts, discipline, focus etc.

I think the bowling coach is the key to winning Tests consistently - how to reverse swing, when to attack and how, the right pace, length and line for the pitch and the batter, avoiding injury etc. Where batsman all seem to know their technical issues, bowlers seem to be mystified. Australians are miles ahead on these things.

"Darwin grade legend" - brilliant!!

Posted by: The Tooting Trumpet | 20 Jun 2007 23:14:10

Nesta - I think its the importing of Australian attitudes (the 1% stuff) as much as the know-how. At the level of a conversation, I think Punter is right about the players teaching each other, but the structures need to be right - managing contracts, discipline, focus etc.

I think the bowling coach is the key to winning Tests consistently - how to reverse swing, when to attack and how, the right pace, length and line for the pitch and the batter, avoiding injury etc. Where batsman all seem to know their technical issues, bowlers seem to be mystified. Australians are miles ahead on these things.

"Darwin grade legend" - brilliant!!

Posted by: The Tooting Trumpet | 20 Jun 2007 23:14:54

Thanks for the comment Toots. The bowling coach does seem important and I would reckon that's why there is a huge push in NSW for McGrath to be the Blues bowling coach.

It may surprise some to find out that Glenn is playing grade cricket for Sutherland this coming season. God help the poor openers who have to face the new-ball attack of McGrath and Stu Clarke each Saturday.

It is common knowledge that Troy Cooley did very little last year in the Oz set up because the bowlers would seek out McGrath rather than Cooley. I expect that you will see Glenn in tracksuit in 2009 as the Baggygreen bowling guru. Also expect some tongue in cheek press conferences from the great man with the 5-0 prediction prominent.

Posted by: nesta | 21 Jun 2007 00:57:48

I expect Glenn will be back in 2009 as bowling coach... but for which team? Come on now, it's not impossible!

Posted by: The Tooting Trumpet | 21 Jun 2007 07:56:50

I can't imagine what would induce Glenn to aid England win the Ashes. It's incomprehensible. I can't get my head around it. And I'm sure Glenn wouldn't be able to either. in 7 Ashes series I don't think McGrath played in a losing team in a live Test match. He lives to defeat England. I've heard him say it is better than sex. And for a glimpse into Glenn the husband and father read this extract from an interview he and the lovely Jane (he even steals your women) gave on the ABC before the last Ashes.

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/enoughrope/transcripts/s1115161.htm

Posted by: nesta | 21 Jun 2007 09:10:12

I sounds crazy now, but stranger things have happened. McGrath has really enjoyed international and domestic cricket here and he is a big hero to us Brits.

Warne is feared and respected for his cricket, but he has baggage and is too much like a footballer (soccer player) to be taken to our hearts.

But it's not like that with McGrath - we know the cancer story and we know what Jane and he went through and how they dealt with it (thanks for the link - it's always good to hear of such courage). We know how great a bowler he was and how he made himself that as a boy from the Bush. In short, Glenn McGrath never has to buy a drink in Australia, but he'd never have to buy one here either.

Against that background, in a few years time, might he be bored? Might Jane want her kids to get an English education (not saying anything against Aussie education, but it seems a helluva pull for many sportspeople, especially if the mother is English). Might Glenn fancy a few years over here after spending quite a few of his last 11 summers (winters) in the England?

About as unlikely as a recall for Ryan Sidebottom I'd say... You have been warned.

Posted by: The Tooting Trumpet | 21 Jun 2007 20:09:41

There's always a chance Toots but 2009 would be too soon. I cannot envision Glenn conspiring to lose the urn that he worked so hard to win back. Maybe 2013 but I'd doubt it would be sooner.

This little exchange has me thinking about the truly great player - McGrath, Viv, Border, Gavaskar, Imran etc - and how few of them take up positions as coach. The coaching caper seems to fall to the lesser lights.

If Alan Donald doesn't deliver and if I was an ECB man I'd set my sights on Waqar Younis. He currently lives in Sydney and is likely to lose his job as NSW bowling mentor if McGrath wants it. (I have a feeling he isn't interested. When asked about it the other day he emphasised he was playing for Sutherland and spendng time with family. He did say however that he'd pop down the SCG and help out when it suited).

Waqar successfully applied for Australian citizenship a few years back and reports suggest much of Bracken's improvement is down to him. If you need a calm and professional fellow to teach reverse swing and white ball technique Waqar is one of the best.

Posted by: nesta | 22 Jun 2007 03:03:13

Nesta - I agree about 2009 being too soon, but Glenn will be needed by Aus in 2013 as he'll be part of the plans to win back the urn after consecutive series defeats!!!

Very few really great players appear to have been great coaches in any sports (certainly not soccer). These days, the Media offer a much easier ride and comparable money, so I don't see many more doing the hard coaching yards.

Waqar is an interesting call, particularly in the circumstances. I've pushed Wasim hard for many of the same reasons - I think he has connections in England. I'd be happy with either, so long as they get the reverse swing back.

Good Luck to Glenn - in grade cricket, will the scorers shout out "Bowler's name?" to identify him?

Posted by: The Tooting Trumpet | 22 Jun 2007 07:45:07

Nesta - I agree about 2009 being too soon, but Glenn will be needed by Aus in 2013 as he'll be part of the plans to win back the urn after consecutive series defeats!!!

Very few really great players appear to have been great coaches in any sports (certainly not soccer). These days, the Media offer a much easier ride and comparable money, so I don't see many more doing the hard coaching yards.

Waqar is an interesting call, particularly in the circumstances. I've pushed Wasim hard for many of the same reasons - I think he has connections in England. I'd be happy with either, so long as they get the reverse swing back.

Good Luck to Glenn - in grade cricket, will the scorers shout out "Bowler's name?" to identify him?

Posted by: The Tooting Trumpet | 22 Jun 2007 07:48:25

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