Lillee may walk away from CA
Dennis Lillee may walk away from his fruitful work with Mitchell Johnson and other Australian pacemen due to a dispute over money with Cricket Australia. It's the second time the former fast bowler and respected coach has reached such an impasse with the governing body.
CA's contract with Lillee expired in the new year and he has not had his preferred terms for a new deal met, meaning his ongoing work with the likes of Pat Cummins and James Faulkner is now up in the air. CA had rehired Craig McDermott as the Test bowling coach ahead of the home summer, while Ali de Winter mentors the bowlers in the limited-overs formats. Lillee has maintained contact with Cummins in particular, but does not want to be giving out his advice without significant recompense.
"They [the young bowlers] are good and they do need direction. But at the moment I'm out of contract and as again with Cricket Australia, they're quibbling over an increase, so I don't know if I've got a contract," Lillee told SEN Radio. "Out of the goodness of my heart I am still in touch with him, he's a good lad and he's got a big future, but I'm over that, I've got other work to do. Not particularly Pat but then everyone comes on board and Cricket Australia think 'here he is, he'll just continue to do it anyway'. So I'm taking a stance."
Responding to questions about contract negotiations with Lillee, a CA spokesperson said: "A number of our consultants come out of contract outside the Australian summer, including Dennis Lillee. We are currently working through that recontracting process. Dennis is clearly a great asset to Australian cricket and we want to ensure he stays involved with the game."
Lillee's appointment had come at a time when Australia's coaches were wracking their brains for a way to extract the best from Johnson, who missed the 2011-12 home summer due to a foot injury after losing much of his earlier confidence and enthusiasm for the game amid a mess of technical problems. Much of his rehabilitation took place in Perth under the guidance of Lillee.
"Not only did I spend a lot of time with him, but most of the time John Inverarity was the guy who came down to most of the sessions I had with Mitch," Lillee said. "If I was a young fast bowler who got injured and lost his way and technique was all over the shop and the chairman was there, wouldn't that give you a fillip?
"That gave him confidence that he was wanted, then he worked bloody hard at all the technical issues and all the fitness issues - he had to go through a very rigorous regime before I'd even touch him with the technical side. We showed him what to do, he did the work, so it's over to him and look at the result."
Other pupils have included Faulkner, who has impressed many with his maturity at a young age and willingness to fight with ball and bat. Lillee's work to help add to Faulkner's pace and also grant him the ability to swing the ball back into right-handed batsmen has also been placed on hold. Australia's pace resources are a primary reason why the team's current success over England and South Africa stands a strong chance of being sustained in future years.
"He's working on improving his technique slightly, which will give him more pace and actually give him that one that comes back into the right-hander regularly at will," Lillee said. "He's close to it, but when you're playing a lot it's hard to put the time in that you need. But he's working on it, he's really convinced it's going to help, he's made some improvements and he will continue to.
"I think it's fantastic at the moment that we've built up this battery of quicks, then also we've got so many reserves around at the moment that I think it's great for Australian cricket. It's no mistake that we're doing well because the quicks have set the scene and bowled so well that the batsmen don't have to make that big a score, the quicks are doing the job. It's certainly the era of the fast bowlers at the moment in Australian cricket."
Having worked with the national setup through Pace Australia in the 1990s, Lillee spent more than a decade without any formal responsibility to mentor the best young bowlers in the nation after falling out over remuneration. However, he was appointed as a pace bowling advisor to CA in January 2013, a move prompted partly by the return of his fellow West Australians and former team-mates Inverarity and Rod Marsh to the national setup as selectors.
CA had described Lillee's role at the time of his appointment: "The Hall of Famer will provide coaching services, guidance and mentorship to Australia's up and coming fast bowlers as well as the current national men's team. Lillee will be available face-to-face and on mobile to the squad, but won't travel extensively abroad with the national team. He will work closely with full-time bowling coach Ali de Winter as Australia prepare to tackle India in a Test series next month and then the highly-anticipated Ashes series starting in July."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here