Tim Nielsen interview August 7, 2007

'We can be a team remembered as a great one'

Tim Nielsen speaks about his appointment as Australia's coach

After three years as a national assistant and three winters at the Centre of Excellence, Tim Nielsen has graduated to the Australia head coaching position. As he prepared for his first official duty during the pre-season camp later this month, he spoke to Cricinfo about how his team can be remembered as a great one, how he differs from John Buchanan and coping with the extra pressure

In charge: Tim Nielsen took over from John Buchanan after the World Cup © Getty Images

What are you looking forward to most about the new job?
The competitive side of things. At the Centre of Excellence there was a lot of training and not many games, so it will be good to be involved in matches again.

You start your term with the Twenty20 World Championship. Is that a good way of settling in?
The tournament in South Africa is really exciting. It's the future of the game and a real test for the players. If they haven't got everything working in that arena they'll be found out quickly. The games don't go all day, so it will be a good way for everyone to get the feel back after a long break. For me it will be a chance to get to know the players again. The seven one-day games in India [the series starts on September 29] will be really challenging, especially because of some of the venues chosen, and will be an opportunity to work collectively at where we want to go.

Can Australia stay at No. 1?
Very much so. When Shane Warne was sanctioned at the 2003 World Cup lots of people said we couldn't cope without him. We showed we had the ability to cope when things didn't go right and the team has continued to do that. That's when it's important for people to step up. The one-day side was in transition in the years before the 2007 World Cup. Now a new era is being created for the Test team. There have been four changes - Martyn, Langer, McGrath and Warne have gone - so there are massive opportunities for people. We can be a team remembered as a great one and not for the one in the past.

It's not about finding a one-for-one replacement. It's not about someone jumping out and replacing McGrath or Warne. It's about opportunity, changes and different roles for players

You said on being appointed it was impossible to replace superstars. How will the gaps left by Warne, McGrath and Langer be covered?
It's not about finding a one-for-one replacement. It's not about someone jumping out and replacing Glenn McGrath or Warne. It's about opportunity, changes and different roles for players. They really have the opportunity to stand up, particularly in the bowling department. Brett Lee and Stuart Clark have shown everything in support roles and I think they will thrive with the step up. The other guys need to support them. For a long time when they needed a wicket they would go to McGrath or Warne. Now the go-to guys will be different.

What did you learn from John Buchanan during the three years as his assistant?
Buck taught me a positive way of looking at things in a different light. I have a more traditional outlook, which is sometimes to my detriment. He opened my eyes to scoring 400 in a one-day game - we never thought that was possible - and other things about raising the bar. One of my main jobs under John was to look after the video analysis, and that really opened my eyes. The visual and statistical things really helped us to cover more bases. There tends to be a bat-versus-ball focus, but with data you find lots of things if you look hard enough. When it came to new areas John was second to none.

Nielsen spent three years as Australia's assistant coach before joining the Centre of Excellence © Getty Images

How will it be different working with the Australian players compared to the squads at the Centre of Excellence?
When you're in the bubble of international cricket you can start to take things for granted. There's a lot of emotional and physical stress, but being there is what a player might have been looking forward to for 20 years. What got them there will hold up if they can relax and execute their games. The best players are the ones who are technically adept, think well under pressure and are not overawed.

When did you start coaching?
I'd spent ten years playing for South Australia and retired to coach as Greg Chappell's assistant in 1999. I was the first full-time assistant coach in Australia.

And then you got the Australia assistant's job?
I had a go at it because I thought if I wanted to do this coaching caper I'd better get some experience with interviews and find out what people were looking for. I landed the job and worked with Buck for three years from 2002. It was a great time for cricket, but not so good for family. There was pressure being away for two months at a time, that was the toughest thing, but during that time we won the World Cup and the Ashes at home.

Why did you move on to the Centre of Excellence?
It came up at a good time to try something else. I'd spent three years away with the Australian team, so moving to Brisbane with the family was a really positive experience. I spent three winters heading up the program from February 2005.

Are you prepared for the extra attention this summer?
I feel ready to cope, but the reaction under pressure will be the way to tell. Sometimes things jump out of the box and that's why it's important to have lots of good people around, get their opinions, and work out the best way to go forward.

Tim Nielsen is a product of the Cricket Coaches Australia programme

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo