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November 23, 2011
Having guided Australia through the turbulent first eight months of his captaincy, Michael Clarke is decidedly relieved to have a settled support staff - even if the new head coach Mickey Arthur was not his personal choice for the job.
Clarke returned home from a dramatic but ultimately satisfying tour of South Africa on Wednesday, and though he has a surfeit of injuries to contend with, can look forward to tackling the home summer with a strong network around him.
Along with Arthur, the team performance manager Pat Howard, the national selector John Inverarity, selectors Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel, Clarke will dial into the first major phone hook-up for the new selection panel on Thursday evening, to deliberate on the team for the first Test against New Zealand in Brisbane.
The assembly of cricket experience and sporting intellect is striking, and Clarke also spoke warmly of the assistant coaches Steve Rixon, Justin Langer and Craig McDermott. Rixon was Clarke's preference to become head coach, but pointed out that Arthur's appointment would allow him to benefit from the knowledge of both.
"I'm stoked we've got a coach. Mickey has done a fantastic job in the past with South Africa, and I'm really excited and looking forward to working with him," Clarke said. "I've only spoken to him a handful of times either playing against him with South Africa or over the phone since he's taken over with WA.
"I think Australian cricket needed a coach to be appointed sooner rather than later and I'm stoked that James Sutherland and Pat Howard have put a certain amount of people through a process and Mickey Arthur's come out on top, so I'm looking forward to working with him.
"In my opinion I believe the coach needs to have the support staff around him that he wants and he needs, but if Stumper [Rixon] is the right man for the job, I'm sure Mickey will be more than supportive to see them around, as with Justin Langer and Craig McDermott.
"They're all under contract, I'm not sure how long to, but that's a bonus for our team if you've got some very good cricket minds there, helping us out trying to get us to win games. I think really you've probably got the cake and eating it too with Mickey Arthur and Steve Rixon."
As Arthur's predecessor Tim Nielsen observed, Clarke's draining first few months in the job benefited from the enthusiasm of a new leader. The broadening of support beneath Clarke will now allow him to concentrate on his batting and tactical thinking as the captaincy starts to become less of a novelty.
"It'll probably make a few of our live a lot easier, that's for sure. I'm as excited as anybody to get a coach on board," Clarke said. "There's been some things happening off the field for the last six months, but our job is to perform on the field.
"The communication for me personally with James Sutherland has been outstanding, he's kept me informed on everything that's been happening, from the general manger to the selectors, to now the head coach, so they've tried to do their best and we've tried to do the same. It's nice that it's finished, we have our new general manager, our selectors and a head coach, so it's another reason to be excited for what lies ahead."
Clarke delivered a chuckling "good luck" when informed that Arthur had likened the captain/coach relationship to marriage, but spoke frankly of the need to build a rapport in coming days. Only seven remain between now and the start of the first Test against New Zealand.
"Since Mickey took over the job in WA, we've been in communication, talking about the WA player,s so there's been back and forth communication for a while now," Clarke said. "But the relationship is crucial, no doubt, straight away I respect him for everything he's achieved as a player but also as a coach.
"His success with the South African team is something that I'm sure would've played a part in him getting this job. He's a true gentleman, a fantastic man, and I look forward to learning as much as I can from him and working together.
"To me it doesn't matter where you come from, if you're the right man for the job, the best man for the job, then I believe you deserve to get it. The benefit of Mickey coming on board is he's got some other great coaches around him in regard to Steve Rixon, Justin Langer and Craig McDermott. So some pretty smart cricket minds there, working together I can only see us having more success."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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