McDermott named Australia's bowling coach
Craig McDermott pipped his old pace rival Allan Donald to be the man charged with shepherding Australia's pace bowlers after they slipped to innocuous depths during the Ashes. The appointment of Troy Cooley's replacement was announced in Brisbane on Thursday after Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's head of cricket operations, had completed his final round of interviews.
"It's great to be back as part of the Australian team set-up again and I can't wait to get started working with the bowlers and the rest of the team," McDermott said. "We've got some challenging tours ahead in the coming months but I'm excited at the opportunity to be part of the group that helps get Australia back to number one in all forms of cricket."
McDermott wasted little time identifying the potentially explosive but more often wayward Mitchell Johnson as a key to the Australian team's fortunes. Johnson maintained a very close relationship with Cooley, but the countless hours they spent together did not always result in fruitful spells on the field.
"I thought Mitchell had his head in a really good space in Bangladesh," McDermott said. "If he can get it together he's like no other bowler we've got in the country. His arm speed is phenomenal and when he gets it right, he's unplayable. He was working on a couple of things in Bangladesh and if he gets it right he will bowl well and he'll be around for a long time."
In the 15 years since his retirement from international cricket in 1996, McDermott has tried various pursuits, not all of them successful. But in recent times he had worked as a pace bowling coach at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, and was taken to Bangladesh as interim pace bowling coach for Australia's short tour in April, where he gelled successfully with the players.
"Not everything is a quick fix. It's a long-term thing. Certainly I'd like to put an emphasis on that part of our bowling," McDermott said of encouraging Australia's bowlers to pursue a fuller length. "If you pitch it up you're a much better chance of getting lbws, caught behinds and clean bowleds.
"We've got more than enough (bowling) depth for Australia to be top in all three forms of the game. It's a challenging time but I enjoy a challenge."
McDermott was chosen out of an initial field that included Jason Gillespie and Andy Bichel in addition to Donald and the little-known Allister de Winter, with his previous involvement in the Australian system a major selling point. A long and successful Test career, in which he took 291 wickets across 71 matches and excelled in a wide variety of conditions, also helped.
"His impressive record as an international player, during which he successfully overcame a number of setbacks, combined with his recent record at the Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence and with the Australia team in Bangladesh, all impressed us that he was the outstanding candidate for this role," said Brown. "He will provide valuable support to the new Test Captain, Michael Clarke, coach Tim Nielsen, and the playing group."
Justin Langer, retained as batting coach the same day McDermott was appointed, quantified the Queenslander's value.
"He had an unbelievable work ethic when he played," Langer told ESPNcricinfo. "He played in an era with some great players and also a tough era. He went through the AB times and the Bobby Simpson times. That experience will be invaluable.
"I think he'll also bring quite a worldliness to the group, because he obviously went away from the cricket scene for some time and had varying degrees of fortune in his business life. He'll bring that worldliness to the group, which I think is pretty invaluable in this day and age.
"Often young professionals now, they gain this change-room existence where they come in and they become professional cricketers and all they really get to know is the change-room and their team-mates. I think any outside sources or influences who can talk to them about life after cricket and about being a good person off the field, or the different challenges that come with being a professional cricketer and the rewards that come with that, will be valuable."
Donald is now likely to remain with New Zealand where he had begun a fruitful relationship with the national side during the World Cup, while de Winter will go back to preparing the Tasmanian pace attack for their tilt at defending the Sheffield Shield title.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo