Australian news May 16, 2011

McDermott brings empathy to the job


Australia's new pace bowling coach Craig McDermott believes empathy can be his most valuable addition to the dressing room, after a career he admits had plenty of "bad days at the office".

Handed a Test debut at 19 in 1984 and then shuffled in and out of the Australian team until he re-emerged at his fittest and most incisive to make a place his own in 1990, McDermott knows very well the range of emotions and anxieties that can grip a young player. He was appointed to replace Troy Cooley as the man to guide the current crop of fast bowlers while preparing the way for the next, and is in a pivotal role for a pace battery that was made to look very ordinary indeed during the Ashes.

"Everybody has a bad day at the office and I certainly had my fair share of bad days at the office when I was playing cricket," McDermott told ESPNcricinfo. "I was dropped a number of times, re-selected a number of times and then stayed in the team for a seven-year period straight towards the end, so I've been through all the roller-coaster stuff and you've got to have a plan A, plan B and plan C.

"We've got a number of young players in and around the team now and some young quicks who may get a guernsey over the next one or two years. So I think it's good to have somebody there who can actually talk them through the nerves and the butterflies in the dressing room where you walk in there for the first time and you're standing next to Ricky Ponting at 150 Tests. (For them) it's the opposite end of the scale there by a big margin.

"There's a lot of feelings and emotions to help those younger guys through, and even guys who've played 10 or 15 Tests, it's not a lot of games and they're still settling in; there are some things off the field that you can give them advice on."

Allan Donald was the most high-profile applicant for the job, but McDermott's coaching apprenticeship at Cricket Australia's Centre of Excellence gave him worthwhile knowledge of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, and James Pattinson among others, all expected to push for Test spots in the near future. He has also spent time with Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus during the Ashes, and has "some ideas of my own" about their faltering progress during that series.

"I've had a little bit to do with most of the guys during the Test series against England before the first Test and on a couple of other occasions on very short camps and then in Bangladesh," said McDermott. "I've found it quite easy to fit back into the dressing room scene because I've been there before myself. It certainly has changed a little bit from when I was playing and it's all for the positive and I really enjoyed Bangladesh with the new squad and under a new captain.

"I think it's going to be a difficult period for Australia, we've got tough series, Sri Lanka, South Africa and then India out here, which all adds up to a tough summer. We've got our work cut out, but I'm sure if we do the work and execute correctly I've no doubt we can come up trumps."

Truism though it might be, hard work is a key to McDermott's coaching philosophy, because it was by that route that he pushed himself back into the Australian team and stayed there as the spearhead of the attack before Glenn McGrath emerged from Narromine. He was perhaps the first Australian cricketer to commit himself fully to the fitness regime of a professional athlete, and reaped handsome results whenever he wasn't struck down by freak injuries: a twisted bowel ended his 1993 Ashes tour, while a badly sprained ankle culled him from Mark Taylor's 1995 Caribbean triumph. McDermott isn't sure Australia's bowlers are as fit as they need to be, in order to avoid the fatigue that can blur the mind and cause the ball to be sprayed around.

"That becomes part and parcel of planning, the top of end of the game is actually more in the head than in the body," he said. "You've got to be physically fit no doubt, extremely fit to be a fast bowler for a long period of time, but certainly the mental side of the game, it is very important to be able to think batsmen out and spot their weaknesses, and to be able to execute your skills, being able to pursue those weaknesses in batsmen.

"It's okay putting one ball or two balls in the right spot, but you've got to do it 25 times in a row to build up pressure. Execution only comes with hard work and practice and being fit enough to be able to execute for long enough, you don't want to have fatigue come into it.

"I think we've got a number of players who can do that, we've just got to make sure we do the work and making sure we're physically fit enough to execute for long enough to create problems for batsmen. Glenn McGrath was strong, fit and bowled a lot of balls in the right spot, there's no secret to that. It's been no secret that's the way to get batsmen out since WG Grace."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Basil on May 18, 2011, 13:02 GMT

    I like McDermott, but I'm disappointed Donald didn't get the gig. I think it would have been good to get someone outside of the inner sanctum. Let's not forget, Donald was a brilliant bowler... just don't get him to teach running between wickets.

  • Rajaram on May 18, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    What was impressive about Craig McDermott in his playing days, was his never -say-die spirit. He never quit. He kept plugging away.He was down at times, but never out.I hope he brings that into the new players.

  • Cameron on May 17, 2011, 22:11 GMT

    The greatest bowlers in history were their own men and didn't need coaches because they new themselves and their game. Perhaps though McDermott can make something of the brittleness that is Mitch and co, but I'm not expecting miracles. Hard, traditional work ethic is something I like to hear however.

  • Bryn on May 17, 2011, 16:17 GMT

    right first and foremost, aus need to find their best bowling attack. there is so many quality bowlers around that can become the next greats. but they need to find out which ones are going to be the next greats

  • Jason on May 17, 2011, 12:42 GMT

    McDermott was part of the Aust resurrection from the easy beat aussies of the mid 80's to the powerhouse team of the early 90's. He didnt do this on the natural ability that McGrath and Warne had but on a strong work ethic and a big heart. This is exactly what Aust needs at the moment. Of course it is one thing to have performed with passion and desire but another thing to be able to pass it on to inconsistant players like Mitchell Johnson. Good luch Billy!

  • Lou on May 17, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    If he genuinely believes that accuracy is the key, he is going to be a very disappointed man with the current Aussie attack.

  • James on May 17, 2011, 10:17 GMT

    Tremendously good appointment. It has long appeared to me that Australia's bowlers could not hit a practice stump 25 times in a row. Now they will have to. Thank goodness. Nothing as frustrating as watching an Oz bowler bowl a useless ball. We did not have to put up with that with Statham and Trueman.

  • 6 on May 17, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    mcdermott is one of the greats but i do not know if he can fix the disastrous bowling attack that is the australiens. this is coming from a true blue ausse. v

  • Tim on May 17, 2011, 9:07 GMT

    Australia has such talent in their fast bowling ranks but they aren't performing consistently. This is a job any coach should want. If McDermott does well Australia could be a world power again very soon. This won't happen overnight but I hope to see steady improvement over the next year or two. @fazald, rushing things to have all wrongs righted by the Sri Lanka/South Africa series' would be a mistake. Real change takes time, Australia need to accept they won't win every series like they did in the 2000s. We will still be as competitive as possible but while we rebuild development is more important than results.

  • Fazal on May 17, 2011, 3:22 GMT

    McDermott has a huge task of putting right the wrongs of his predecessor Troy Cooley who was instrumental in producing one of Australia's worst bowling attack in the history of the game.He would have to get started straightaway to mould the bowling attack to test standards so that they would be ready for our forthcoming test series against Sri Lanka, South Africa and India this year.

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