McDermott's legacy must be maintained
Among the more succinct lines uttered by John Buchanan in his time as Australia's head coach was a stated desire to ultimately make himself redundant. Buchanan argued that if he was doing his job successfully, then the players under him would soon learn to make their own decisions, leaving the coach to concentrate on more strategic matters.
In less than 12 months as Australia's bowling coach, Craig McDermott has gone close to achieving this goal. He adopted a mantra simple enough to be quickly taken in by the bowlers in Australia's pace battery. It read a little something like this: be as fit as you can possibly be, pitch the ball up to allow it to swing, tempt batsmen into driving, and so open up the possibility of catches in the slips, or bowled and LBW dismissals. At the same time McDermott counselled the captain Michael Clarke to not be afraid of a few cover drives whizzing through the field, for in those runs came the promise of wickets should a batsman miscalculate.
Now that McDermott has left the job, far more quickly than many in Cricket Australia would have liked though they understand his family-oriented reasoning, his message is simple enough for it to be carried on by those same bowlers in his absence. Likewise Clarke should not need too many reminders that the drive is far from a dirty word in the field.
McDermott's exit is unfortunately timed in some respects. Most of the other outstanding candidates for such a role are now safely locked away by other national teams, England's David Saker and New Zealand's Damien Wright among them. Allan Donald is at home with South Africa, and another past applicant, Andy Bichel, is happily employed part-time as a selector with little inclination to take on the punishing schedule dictated by the job of bowling mentor.
Of the next tier, Jason Gillespie is in his first season as the coach of Yorkshire, Shane Jurgensen is coaching Bangladesh, and Joe Dawes has gone from Queensland to India via South Australia. Allister de Winter, Tasmania's bowling coach and a rival candidate to McDermott last time, has been promoted in his state to coach the Hurricanes Big Bash League team. Damien Fleming, another with the right kind of experience and approach, has carved out a career juggling media, coaching and all-round joviality that would be somewhat curtailed by full-time touring duty.
Australian newspapers will today carry an advertisement for the position of bowling coach, emphasising the role's importance and the characteristics required by anyone wishing to apply. If there is anything the new man can add to the mix it is a more varied approach to the challenges of bowling in limited-overs matches: McDermott's methods proved to be just the thing Australia needed in Test matches, but in ODIs and Twenty20s a certain inconsistency remains. That task will likely be handled by staff rotated through the Centre of Excellence on Australia's next tour, to Ireland and England for six one-day matches.
The major requirement of McDermott's successor will be to ensure that his predecessor's basic tenets are kept close to the minds and training patterns of the bowlers. Peter Siddle and James Pattinson must be reminded of the success they enjoyed by bowling full and swinging it, Ben Hilfenhaus kept committed to the strong body action and subtle variations at the crease that make his outswinger doubly dangerous, Ryan Harris reminded that it is just fine to be pushed down the ground every now and then. Younger bucks like Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins will need a mentor to take them through the butterflies and doubts of their early steps in the international game, and in this area another coach with a Test match past would help.
McDermott, of course, will not be lost entirely to the Australian set-up. He will still work as a consultant at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, giving him the chance to influence the development of Australia's younger quicks, much as he did before assuming the more senior role. In this he will be able to continue imbuing the young with the same simple lessons he brought with refreshing directness to the national team. Even though McDermott will no longer be able to perch himself watchfully at the long on fence, as he commonly did during the past year, his influence will remain.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here