Australia seek coach before home summer
Australia could realistically have a permanent head coach before the start of the home summer, according to Cricket Australia's new general manager of team performance, Pat Howard. The first Test against New Zealand begins on December 1, just a week after the Test squad returns home from South Africa, where Troy Cooley has been the acting head coach.
Howard started his new role this week and immediately flew to Cape Town to meet the Australian squad, including the fielding mentor Steve Rixon and the assistant coach Justin Langer, who are both likely to be candidates for the head coach position. Rixon is considered a front-runner due to his strong relationship with captain Michael Clarke.
The new position is an expanded role compared to the job that was occupied by Tim Nielsen. Following the appointment of Howard and the national selection manager John Inverarity, it is the one remaining major role to be filled. The new coach will report to Howard, who said he was optimistic about finding a candidate before the New Zealand series.
"The process is well and truly in train," Howard said. "It is realistic yes, it is better than hopeful, but we have to get it done and as part of the process is to make sure not only that they are appointed but that they hit the ground running so part of the process is thoughts of how are we going to able to do this and move it forward.
"But the reality is there are always negotiations, contract negotiations, current employment status. When I left my job I had two months' notice but fortunately my previous employer were good and let me go early. There's a whole heap of conditions but to know where we are going for the New Zealand Test is the absolute ideal."
In one of his previous jobs, as high-performance chief with the Australian Rugby Union, Howard was central in the appointment of several coaches including Robbie Deans, the current Wallabies mentor. Cricket Australia have launched a global search for Nielsen's replacement and Howard said it was important to keep an open mind.
"Often the trap in sports is names come to mind first," he said. "But any time you go and recruit in a normal sense and a corporate sense and a world sense, you think what are the skills I need in this situation and let's get those right first. So that's been the start of the process, getting that right and trying to steer people away from names, know what you want then start dealing with the recruitment process.
"Head coaching experience matters and I mean that in terms of there's assistants and there's heads ... success, demonstrated success and the ability to consider where Australia is today and where we want to go to. Those factors have all got to be weighed up."
If Australia want someone with previous head coaching experience, that would enhance the prospects of Rixon, who led New Zealand during a successful period and also won titles during his time in charge of New South Wales. He has also spent time in charge of Surrey and has been an assistant to Stephen Fleming at the Chennai Super Kings.
The other major positions that need filling are the two part-time selector roles, which Howard said Inverarity would have a say in determining. For the time being, Andrew Hilditch's panel remains in a standby capacity - Hilditch is the selector on duty in South Africa - but Inverarity is expected to choose his first squad for the Test series against New Zealand.
"John's heavily involved in the process," Howard said of picking the other two selectors. "There are some areas the Argus review talks about and so we can say, John, here are some frameworks here are some ideas. There are a long list of candidates to get through."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo