Australia news October 13, 2011

Howard's lack of cricket experience not an issue - Clarke

Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, does not believe Pat Howard's lack of cricket experience will be a problem after he was appointed to one of Cricket Australia's most senior positions. Howard, a former rugby international, was on Thursday unveiled as the general manager of team performance, a newly-created role in which Clarke and the head coach will report to him.

A self-confessed "terrible legspinner" whose main cricket experience came at school, Howard will be responsible for installing Australia's new coach and full-time selector, and faces the challenge of helping the team rise back up the Test rankings. Clarke said Howard's off-field record, which included a high-performance position with the Australian Rugby Union, was impressive, and his new job was not a role that required someone with cricket expertise.

"His job is not to be the head coach or the captain, he's been very successful in this role and he's done it before [in rugby]," Clarke told reporters in Sydney, before flying out for Australia's tour of South Africa. "He's played a lot of sport and he knows his cricket well enough, so I'm not concerned at all that he hasn't played cricket at the highest level. Now it is about communication between the CEO, James Sutherland, the head coach, the chairman of selectors and the captain to work out what we need to do to continue going forward."

The most pressing issue now is the appointment of a coach, after Tim Nielsen stepped down following the tour of Sri Lanka. The expanded head coach position features much more responsibility, in line with recommendations from the Argus review, with the new mentor set to direct the coaching strategies throughout elite cricket in Australia as well as within the national side.

The former South Africa coach, Mickey Arthur, and Australia's fielding coach, Steve Rixon, are likely to be among the leading candidates, although it could take up to two months for an appointment to be made. On Thursday, Howard indicated the importance of ensuring Clarke and the new mentor could work well together, and Clarke confirmed he would have some input into the appointment.

"I'll probably have an impact in regards to the coach, and it is down to James [Sutherland] and the general manager to make these decisions, but I'm confident there will be communication as we try and get the best people for the job," he said. "We all want to see Australian cricket get back to being number one in all forms of the game and whoever gets these selection roles will have that mindset."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo