Mickey Arthur wants Steve Rixon back
Steve Rixon was conspicuous by his absence at Allan Border Field as Australia's Test team reconvened to face New Zealand. Out of contract after his short-term Cricket Australia deal ended with the South Africa tour, Rixon continues to deliberate on his future.
The new head coach Mickey Arthur said he would soon speak to Rixon about prolonging his time as the team's fielding coach, following marked improvement to Australia's catching and ground work in Sri Lanka and South Africa. Rixon was disappointed to have again missed out on the national team role, but it is clear the team does not want to lose him altogether.
Though he has been given "significant scope" by the team performance manager Pat Howard to set out a vision for the team, Arthur said he would prefer to work with Rixon rather than see him move elsewhere after a fruitful first stint.
"Steve's not with us at the moment, I'm going to meet with Steve and have a chat with him and see where that takes us," Arthur said. "I need to build a relationship with the support staff, and the support staff we've got I've been really impressed with so far, they've certainly ticked all the boxes I want. Steve's an unbelievable cricket coach and a fantastic man, and we'll meet.
"His contract finished at the end of South Africa. So I'll sit down and chat with him and we'll plot a way forward. At this point in time I do [see him as part of the coaching staff]. His expertise and knowledge is fantastic so I wouldn't want the team to be deprived of that."
Rixon had plenty of support within the team to be named the head coach, the captain Michael Clarke and the senior fast man Brett Lee among those in favour. Ricky Ponting, still Australia's most sprightly fielder at 36, said Rixon had made a very useful difference.
"I don't what the situation is with Steve right now, but he's a good taskmaster, he makes you do your work and makes it enjoyable as well," Ponting said. "We have a bit of fun around the hard work we did with him anyway. The thing with fielding is that you can expect perfection but you're never going to get it, but I think the last few series we've got a bit closer to fielding the way we want to field.
"The other thing with fielding, as Mickey made it very clear to us last night is that you can measure fielding. There's a lot of things in our game that you can't measure, but fitness is one and fielding is another that you can measure. We're all being measured on the way we field these days and the way we do things. It is only one catch here or there that can be the difference in a whole series, as we saw in a couple of Ashes series against England."
The turnover of staff around the Australian team in South Africa has been orderly but not without its difficulties. Arthur remarked that it was a relief to simply train after round upon round of meetings over the past 36 hours.
"It's been really hectic getting to meet all the players, trying to get my structures through, spend some time talking about our philosophies and vision and where we want to go in the next couple of years," Arthur said. "It has been meeting after meeting so it was really good today to get out onto the training ground."
Presenting his views to the team he had previously helped to unseat as the No. 1 side in the world, Arthur mused on the irony of the moment, but also saw value in the weaknesses he had once spotted as an opponent that now could be addressed as a mentor.
"It was kind of surreal presenting to guys that you've plotted against for so long," Arthur said. "I've spent a lot of time with Michael, we've discussed where we want to take the team and what we want to do with the team, so we're all on the same page.
"I do think that [outsider's perspective] is beneficial, because I've looked at them with a really analytical eye for those years. We've tried to badger out the weaknesses, certainly in my time in South Africa, so I can bring that knowledge to them. And I guess it has given me greater insights because I've really studied their techniques.
"But then also working in the system for the last two years as well has really helped me because I've seen the emergence of these young guys. It gives me an unblinkered view, there is not that much emotional attachment to any player because I'm coming in from the outside and I think that's a real positive."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo