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Bowling coach 'a tough job to fill' - Damien Fleming

Brydon Coverdale

June 1, 2012

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Peter Siddle tosses the ball to Ben Hilfenhaus, England v Australia, 2nd Test, Lord's, 1st day, July 16, 2009
Australia's bowlers are waiting to find out who their new mentor will be © AFP
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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

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Posted by whatawicket on (June 4, 2012, 13:39 GMT)

i would go for waqar get those aussie bowlers to reverse the bowl. troy cooley it was said got the poms quicks to do it, but his own countrymen could just could not do it. waqar could just be the man for you.

Posted by te_ak on (June 4, 2012, 12:06 GMT)

whats needed is to teach these new young fast aggressive quicks [cummins, patterson, etc.] accuracy, to land every ball on a penny...

someone like stuart clark would be good...

thats what i see as the biggest improvement in the english quicks... also with vernon philanders rise...

Posted by Meety on (June 3, 2012, 23:22 GMT)

@smudgeon - LOL! Yeah he'd probably be available!!!!

Posted by smudgeon on (June 3, 2012, 14:03 GMT)

anyone got Martin McCague's number? i assume he's not busy...

Posted by popcorn on (June 3, 2012, 13:26 GMT)

Here is one more reason why I think we should have a Spin Coach IN ADDITION TO a Fast Bowling Coach - and my man for that is Brad Hogg.During BOTH times that Rajasthan Royals played Delhi Daredevils in the IPL, Brad Hogg got Virender Sehwag out to his left arm CHINAMAN Spin bowling - and Virender Sehwag s one of the best players of Spin in World Cricket.

Posted by c3vzn on (June 3, 2012, 10:32 GMT)

@Shrii Ram Waqar offered? He'd be perfect then! Doesn't he already live in Australia?

Posted by Wefinishthis on (June 2, 2012, 17:24 GMT)

Coaching isn't our problem. Poor selections and the lack of quality young batsmen in the shield competition are our biggest concern. We definitely don't need a spin coach at all. Lyon currently has a better test average and economy rate than Swann and a better strike rate than Ajmal and whilst the selectors keep inexplicably picking Beer over O'Keefe as his backup, there is some pressure there on Lyon to perform which is excellent and if you compare to the quality of spinners in other teams, our spin department is world class. All our other bowlers require is more consistency and accuracy. We're still failing to heap pressure and rip through top orders like McGrath used to, but Pattinson and Cummins have shown potential, they just need to stay fit. When you see we only have 2 batsmen averaging over 50 and they are both past their prime, it seems a batting coach is what we need. It's just a shame that Cook, Trott, Kallis, Chanderpaul or Sangakkara aren't available to coach us!

Posted by Reverend-Cavalier on (June 2, 2012, 8:19 GMT)

If I was running or leading cricket Australia, I would pay whatever it would cost to get Dennis Lillee and Shane Warne to be with the team as coaches. Both were aggressive in their approach, always on the sniff of a weakness in batsmen, psychologically had it all over their opponents and most importantly, both masters of their craft. Both also knew how to enjoy success and plan through defeat. Seems to fit nicely with Michael Clarke's vision of leadership and how to play the game.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (June 2, 2012, 4:54 GMT)

A bowling coach is needed only when a bowler is woefully out of form and confidence.Anyway such bowlers should be dropped to work with exxperts. General Strategies can be framed even by the captain and senior bowlers. Just bowl full and on the fourth stump as Billy said. No need to have a vowling COACH for this simple thing.

Posted by Maccanui on (June 2, 2012, 1:11 GMT)

Gavin Larsen's probably available for the right price? He has international experience as an opening fast bowler.

Posted by Meety on (June 1, 2012, 14:00 GMT)

@Sivakumaran Subash - great list, but.... I would say that 3 of the 5 you mentioned have strong careers in broadcasting & Ambrose does not appear to be the sort of profile that would be a good coach, (he was my favourite of all the WIndies pace legacy).

Posted by Meety on (June 1, 2012, 13:57 GMT)

@hmmm - interesting, but I think he sort of does that already in the Short Forms. I think he'd already be playing a mentor role. I think it would be VERY hard to be an official coach whilst still PLAYING international cricket.

Posted by Meety on (June 1, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

@Green & Gold - you are 100% right, no arguements, but that COULD be the Arthurs role & he "cherry picks" expertise on a needs basis. I am only playing Devil's Advocate atm, as I think that ultimately a senior bowling coach for a fixed contract will be what the powers that be will decide upon, but where does that leave Doherty, Lyon & Beer? No one says that Craig Mac helped them to any significant extent. @Hatsforbats - "...I see no need to rush in a replacement..." - that's sort of where I was coming from. Lets hold back & pick some short term skills/needs based assignments? On the topic of batting, after the Newlands debacle, I was wanting two heads on a platter Haddin (which at the time I was unaware of his personal issues) & Langer who I think is out of his depth. With Langer, don't get me wrong, I think he'd be the perfect ASSISTANT COACH. He'd be the "front man" when communicating with the playing group & can liaise between players & Arthurs/coaches, IMO.

Posted by jplterrors on (June 1, 2012, 13:19 GMT)

it could be a 1st Intl bowling gig for Ian O'Brien who has just retired.

Posted by   on (June 1, 2012, 11:59 GMT)

how about Damien Fleming coach the bowlers, he is a guru and a student of the art of fast bowling, if not the get wasim akram,

Posted by hmmmmm... on (June 1, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

Given all this - what about Brett Lee? He still wants to be part of the team, has experience and probably looking for a transition strategy in his career (unless he is planning to continue his Bollywood career...)

Posted by HatsforBats on (June 1, 2012, 9:36 GMT)

@Meety, yeah I can see where you're going with that, and it has its merits. Honestly, our bowling stocks are in good order with a natural heirarchy within the squad that will help sustain McDermott's success. Micky Arthur has an experienced head on his shoulder and could play the mentor role, I see no need to rush in a replacement. Considering the relative merits of our batting coach and the lack of young batsmen putting their hand up, I'd like to see more focus placed there. Greg Chappell is on of the best batsmen of the last 50yrs and did wonders with Watson, maybe he needs a more direct role in the team?

Posted by nzcricket174 on (June 1, 2012, 9:35 GMT)

Why is Australia only considering Aussie coaches? Are others no good?

Posted by   on (June 1, 2012, 9:32 GMT)

Can you bowlers do without a coach? Besides the skills that McDermott has taught the Australian bowlers should stay with them until they retire. I don't think they would all of a sudden forget to how bowl a good delivery overnight. If they lose the skill of bowling they shouldn't be playing in the national team.

Posted by popcorn on (June 1, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

I like Ali de Winter as Australia's fast bowling Coach. He has proven himself, "reinventing" Ben Hilfenhaus. I also think we should have a spin coach - Stuart Macgill or Brad Hogg.

Posted by Green_and_Gold on (June 1, 2012, 7:59 GMT)

@Meety - you have interesting ideas on rotation however a coach usually needs time to watch, advise and monitor progress of players and quite often what one coach says will be different to another. It may take 12 months or longer to see long term differences in players. If coaches changed at short term periods then you may not see as much progress being made.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (June 1, 2012, 7:45 GMT)

Australia can do wat england do: Give rest to coaches also.

The bowling consultant needs to tour only during test series and important odi series instead of every single match. In the free time he can work with benchies back home.

Posted by Meety on (June 1, 2012, 7:22 GMT)

@HatsforBats - no worries - it was a thought bubble! LOL! I was thinking along the lines of bringing thru specialists for short term work, probably with specific goals in mind. I was thinking that Cooley had success with England, but was not so good with Ozzy bowlers, during the end of the Cooley period, Hilfy was getting advice form Tassie staff & found inspiration. Whilst Craig Mac has been praised for his efforts whilst the bowling coach, Starc learned heaps from Akram. So whilst Cooley "underperformed" in Oz, he had success elsewhere, who's to say the next coach is not going to be a dud, at least we wouldn't be having to put up with 1 or 2 years of underperformance. Whilst I get that too much info can be overwhelming, I would imagine if Arthurs does some strategic planning, incorporating opnonents, pitch conditions etc, maybe there is some short term expertise we can have consult? @jonesy2 - Wasim has stated he is ALWAYS willing to help, but he only has success with LEFTIES!

Posted by HatsforBats on (June 1, 2012, 6:00 GMT)

@Meety, no offense but I think the idea of rotating coaches is a poor one. Like Fleming said, a lot of the work comes down to confidence and that can only be nurtured over time. I do agree with spin & pace coaches though. Getting someone like Waqar, Walsh, Dizzy or Donald would be great; anyone but Cooley! Otherwise, an old hand from first class could pay dividends.

Posted by jonesy2 on (June 1, 2012, 5:49 GMT)

meety that sounds like way too many cooks to me, that would boggle the minds of the players. i would love to see wasim akram the aussie bowling coach. just look what he has done with mitchell starc after just a few consultations. they should also get a spin bowling coach. kasper or waqar would be awesome too

Posted by _Australian_ on (June 1, 2012, 3:54 GMT)

I really sometimes wonder why a bowling or batting coach is needed. With all the coaches, fielding, batting, bowling etc. What is the role of the head coach. With the advice from the centre of excellence, fellow team mates, captain, head coach, coaches at state level and city level plus the advice from former players, surely that is enough. But as is the way of the modern game my opinion would be going the way of a non Australian influence to give fresh insight. A Wasim Akram type would fit the bill perfectly.

Posted by   on (June 1, 2012, 3:08 GMT)

Cricket Australia, Otis Gibson will be available soon. Look no further.

Posted by   on (June 1, 2012, 2:56 GMT)

Why is Australia not considering great fast bowling icons like Curtley Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Ian Bishop, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram?

Posted by Meety on (June 1, 2012, 2:52 GMT)

Maybe there is the opportunity of splitting the role up, with several bowling coaches who specialize in different facets & who have differing availability to tour? For arguements sake, say Warney for the next tour of India or Kasper (assuming he wasn't on the board, as he was a bit of an asian specialist), maybe Dizzy could be available in the County off-season? Maybe Akram can hold a lefties clinic? Just hope Cric Oz can look outside the box, for a solution & not think we HAVE to have ONE bowling coach for an entire 12mths. I think Ali de Winter does get a big tick for the Hilfy project, & should also get a look in on the basis of what he has been involved with @ Tassie. Given that bowling can loosely be divided up into TWO categories Pace & Spin, why do we seem to be obsessed with having a former pace bowler fulltime? The next time we tour SL, Greg Matthews maybe a good bowling coach? Perhaps we can look at appointments on a project basis, as opposed to a fixed period basis?

Posted by   on (June 1, 2012, 2:37 GMT)

Australia should consider waqar's offer....he could be a great mentor

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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