Bowling coach 'a tough job to fill' - Damien Fleming
The former fast bowler Damien Fleming believes Australia will struggle to find a bowling coach with international playing experience to replace Craig McDermott. Cricket Australia is on the hunt for a new mentor for the attack after McDermott resigned last month having served only a year in the position, citing the heavy touring demands as a reason for his decision.
It is those travelling requirements - Australia have four overseas series and six home Tests before next year's long Ashes tour - that Fleming believes might dissuade former internationals. Instead, he thinks it could be men with solid first-class credentials such as the Tasmania bowling coach Ali de Winter, who helped rebuild Ben Hilfenhaus' action, and the former Victoria and Tasmania player Damien Wright, now a mentor with New Zealand, who could be the front-runners.
Fleming has a young family and said he was not interested in such a full-time role at this stage, and he is not the only former Test bowler to rule himself out. Andy Bichel was interviewed before McDermott's appointment last year but has already declared himself out of the running this time, preferring to split his time between his part-time roles as an Australia selector and the Chennai Super Kings bowling coach.
"It's a tough one to fill, I think," Fleming told ESPNcricinfo. "The guys being thrown around are more the guys who didn't play international cricket, but guys who have been in the system for a while. Ali de Winter has been in the system for years and what a great job he did with Hilf. Damien Wright gets good reports and he's with New Zealand at the moment. Even what David Saker has done with England.
"The role is probably more attractive for guys who haven't played a lot of international cricket. It would be exciting [for them] to be part of an elite coaching setup. Guys who have played for Australia know what it's like to be away for ten months of the year. The guys from my era probably have young families. When I think of bowling coaching I think of Warne, McGrath, Gillespie, Kasprowicz, Bichel, those types, but they're probably all in the same boat as myself."
Kasprowicz is a Cricket Australia board member and Gillespie has commitments as the head coach of Yorkshire, and while landing Warne or McGrath would be a dream for CA, it is unlikely either would be interested in the role. Fleming said his choice would have been Gillespie, who coached the Rhinos in Zimbabwe's domestic competition before moving to England.
"If you're looking at an ideal candidate who'll tick the boxes you'd want a great fast bowler who played 70 or 80 Tests and was very good in one-day cricket," Fleming said. "Maybe someone who has had some setbacks, maybe they've had to come back from injuries or poor form and had great skills and are able to pass them on. How many people like that are there around? There's not a lot.
"I would have liked Jason Gillespie, but he's signed a three year deal as Yorkshire's coach, so he's not going to turn around on that. Personally I like what Dizzy has done. He's done it the hard way, he's gone and been a head coach in Zimbabwe and now he's doing that in Yorkshire. But he's only young, so maybe after a few years he might be in a position to want to bring the family home and do it."
Whoever wins the job will be tasked with continuing the development of a bowling group with plenty of youth - James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc - along with several men with mid-range experience, such as Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle. Despite the inexperience of the younger bowlers, Fleming said the new bowling coach should be less concerned with technique and more focused on the mental and tactical side.
"Generally you don't lose physical skills and you don't lose talent, but you lose confidence," he said. "Those fast-bowling coaches who can get in there and get to know their players, and walk down to fine leg and have a quick chat to get them back on track, that's worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, as opposed to waiting until the game is over, doing an assessment. We want coaching in real time.
"For those elite bowlers at the moment, hopefully their skills and techniques are well and truly up to international cricket. It's more about keeping their confidence up and pushing them tactically and how they change formats, the way you train for Test cricket will be different to T20, so your coaching methods need to be flexible as well."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here