Brydon Coverdale
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Australia news

Australia should look worldwide for a coach

Australia must not be afraid to consider a foreign head coach after Tim Nielsen's wise decision not to reapply

Brydon Coverdale

September 21, 2011

Comments: 38 | Text size: A | A

Ricky Ponting and Tim Nielsen watch Australia train, Pallekele, August 7, 2011
Michael Clarke has taken over the reins from Ricky Ponting. Who will take over from Tim Nielsen? © AFP

On the day he resigned as Australia's coach, Tim Nielsen said he felt like he had been interviewed for the job every day for the last four years. By choosing not to reapply for the expanded role recommended by the Argus review, Nielsen has avoided the indignity of sitting a formal interview for his own position - and being rejected.

The reality is that Nielsen could not have won his job back if Cricket Australia was committed to the changes recommended by the Argus review. The report, written by a panel including former captain Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor and Allan Border, stated that one of the major issues with the team's disappointing on-field performances had been: "an ineffective coaching structure".

It went on to add in parentheses: "One could conclude that the coaching has been more reactive than proactive". The report's authors also said: "It is critical for the development of elite players' skills, physiology and psychology that they have the right coaches available to assist them. The panel queries whether we do, given the performance decline of the team in the past four years."

Nielsen is a good man and over the past month he has handled a difficult situation with dignity, having been informed of the Argus recommendations while Australia's tour of Sri Lanka had already begun. But when all is said and done, he coached Australia to two Ashes defeats, including the 3-1 humiliation at home last summer.

Since then, Ricky Ponting has stood down as captain, the bowling coach, Troy Cooley, has moved on, the fielding coach, Mike Young, has been dismissed, and all four selectors have departed or are on the way out. Nielsen's decision means Australia can start next summer with a clean slate. And as soon as Cricket Australia fill the newly created position of general manager of team performance, the search for a head coach will begin.

Now Australia must cast the net worldwide to find Nielsen's replacement. There is no room for hubris. From Bob Simpson to Geoff Marsh to John Buchanan to Nielsen, it has always been Australians in charge of the national cricket side. But if the best man for the job is an outsider who brings fresh ideas to the organisation, Cricket Australia must be open-minded to such a change.

It has worked for other countries. The New Zealander John Wright and the South African Gary Kirsten both enjoyed successful tenures as coach of India. The Australians Tom Moody and Trevor Bayliss were highly regarded in Sri Lanka. The Zimbabwean Andy Flower has been a revelation as coach of England, helping to make them the world's best side.

Australian fans have a sense of ownership of the national cricket team, and some might resent importing an outsider. They should remember what the Dutch manager Guus Hiddink achieved for the Socceroos, or how popular the New Zealander Robbie Deans eventually became after taking over as the coach of Australia's rugby union side. As Argus himself showed with his insights, sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to identify the way forward.

One of the most obvious candidates is a South African, Mickey Arthur. His international credentials are sound, his reputation flawless, and he is already living in the country, preparing to enter his second season as coach of Western Australia. Arthur has already declared that he would be silly not to consider the job if an opportunity came his way. If he hasn't applied, Cricket Australia should ask him to do so.

They would also be remiss not to approach Flower and see whether he would be interested in a change of scenery. A wonderful Test cricketer and captain of Zimbabwe who has mentored England during their most successful period in recent history, Flower should be at the top of Cricket Australia's enquiry list.

Whoever gets the main job, it will be a very different role from that which was occupied by Nielsen. The new head coach will be a selector, and will work with the state coaches and the Centre of Excellence head coach to develop strategies to filter down throughout Australia's elite cricket

Of course, if the right man is Australian, all well and good. Steve Rixon is the leading home-grown candidate, having been a successful coach at state level with New South Wales and internationally with New Zealand. He has the advantage of being part of the set-up, as the fielding coach, but is not tainted by past failures, having only joined the team management this year.

One possibility is splitting the job, with a specialist coach to guide Australia's Twenty20 side and another to take on the Test and ODI outfits. The Argus report outlined such a demarcation as a potential way forward. In that instance, Darren Berry's aggressive thinking, which steered South Australia to the Big Bash title last summer, could be ideal for the T20 squad.

Whoever gets the main job, it will be a very different role from that which was occupied by Nielsen. The new head coach will be a selector, and will work with the state coaches and the Centre of Excellence head coach to develop strategies to filter down throughout Australia's elite cricket.

And for such a key position at such a critical time for the Australian team, it is vital that Cricket Australia get the right man, wherever he comes from.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by RandyOZ on (September 24, 2011, 8:04 GMT)

Marsh is gone. It's time to get someone in there who actually has a 'Plan B' if things start going sour. I want to see things shaken up a bit every now and then. I think the main problem is Clarke is going to have to like the coach but not many people like Clarke himsefl!

Posted by Meety on (September 23, 2011, 23:53 GMT)

@Dinker Rkn - I think Marsh's appointment to SL will be a good fit for Sri Lanka. SL have a good history with Ozzy coaches, unlike India or West Indies. Marsh performed his role with the Ozzy side well, I don't think he put his hat in the ring for the position with Oz, & as youngkeepersdad sort of alluded to, it would be difficult coaching your son. Imagine if he was part of a panel that dropped him??????

Posted by ygkd on (September 23, 2011, 23:38 GMT)

I don't mind the idea of foreign coaches, but please pick ones who haven't got a son up for selection in another team.

Posted by brisCricFan on (September 23, 2011, 20:23 GMT)

@Dinkr Rkn: Geoff Marsh has previously had a go at the helm... Nobody in recent memory has ever had a second chop at it.... He did a great job during the rebuilding period and was in charge when the Aus dominance began

Posted by Nduru on (September 23, 2011, 14:54 GMT)

@RandyOZ. Flower's only good because of the Aussies backing him up? What a lot of rubbish!

Posted by   on (September 23, 2011, 11:46 GMT)

interesting to see that no one here suggests or comments about Jeoff Marsh...Ofcourse now it is pointless since he has gone to Sri Lanka but considering the enthusiasm among Srilankan fans regarding his appointment one would think Aus would hate to lose him....surely no one thinks so here..everything is between Mickey Vs the Rest..has the SL Board erred again???? any comments...

Posted by Micgyver on (September 23, 2011, 8:05 GMT)

I actually like Mickey Arthur,he's a proven coach who will do well for W.A but for me the coach has to be Aussie.The talk is of Steve Rixon but personally i'd love to see either Tom Moody or Darren Lehmann take charge.

Posted by sixandout on (September 23, 2011, 7:50 GMT)

Mickey Arthur? No thanks. If they make him Australia's coach, they'll lose me.

Posted by brisCricFan on (September 23, 2011, 6:07 GMT)

Sometimes the great players don't make the best coaches... and more mediocre players have a better mind for things... John Buchanan was hardly a world class player now was he... Personally, I think some of the recently departed greats are too fresh out of the system and would run the risk of being a 'mate' to the players and not the coach. The coach has to have the respect and fear of the players in equal measure to be successful... especially now he weilds the selectors knife. Tom Moody definitely has the credentials but I wouldn't be displeased with a short burst of Mickey either...

Posted by   on (September 23, 2011, 0:26 GMT)

It would be a pity if the Aussies snap up Anil Kumble as their coach while India still fails to utilize his services.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2011, 18:33 GMT)

My Take: Batting Coach : Shahid Afridi Fielding Coach: Kamran Akmal Bowling Coach: Mohammad Sami

Posted by RandyOZ on (September 22, 2011, 15:28 GMT)

Flowers only any good because of the Aussies backing him up. Theres no way we need to look further than our own backyard.

Posted by nadu_1975 on (September 22, 2011, 14:50 GMT)

Since the Aussies still have Ricky at their side in tests and ODI, it will be interesting to consider Tom Moody for the coach. It is very critical period for the Aussies . They had hit the rock bottom with the Ashes double defeat compounded by the failure to defend the world cup. Now things can only go up. Things are brighter, they have banged the Lankans at their home(Shastri/Sunny repeatedly commented on the sub-continent scenario,but look how dominating the Aussies were). Another option is Dave Whatmore it will be really interesting to see.

Posted by Dashgar on (September 22, 2011, 13:22 GMT)

As soon as Mike Hussey retires he should be made a coach. Langer is also a great man to have in the system. In any sport the best coaches are the ones who had to work the hardest to eke out all the potential they had. Few superstars who made the game look easy make good coaches. I don't think its rocket science picking a new coach. We need someone with experience internationally, whether that is an Australian or an International coach.

Posted by CricketChat on (September 22, 2011, 13:19 GMT)

Aussie's fall from pedestal is due to one simple reason. Many top level players exiting within a short span as also decline in performances of other players (Ponting, for example). Hayden, Martyn, Gilchrist, Lee, to some extent, Tait and other fast bowlers. Similar to the time when Greg Chappell, Lillie, Marsh left at the same time, though not as dramatic. India is in the same boat after ascending to No.1 rank. They don't need foreign coaches, they need to rebuild the team. Within 2/3 yrs, they will be at the top again.

Posted by serious-am-i on (September 22, 2011, 12:50 GMT)

I will not be surprised if I see greg chappell as the coach of Australia. My personal opinion should be an international coach who is not known for his bad habits. Come on friends Andy Flower isn't a great coach, just because he lead the team to few series wins he doesn't become a great coach. He is a good coach agreed but not the great.

Posted by HatsforBats on (September 22, 2011, 11:51 GMT)

As an Australian, and despite the fact that Fosters was just bought by the Poms (they're welcome to it, we don't drink it, but please don't hurt our Cascade!), I don't care who get's the job. Be they South African, Kiwi, Pom, Indian, Pakistani, German, or Martian, as long as the best person for the job. Having said that, in Aus we have some of the greatest players of all time, and some great coaches who have plied their trade overseas with success. A foreign coach for the sake of it will be a disservice to the coach himself and the talent in our own country. But a foreign coach can offer something that no Australian coach can, an outside view. And if that comes in the right form, like Flower has with England (without all the players that came with it), than that would could provide enormous benefit at this time.

Posted by shilsen on (September 22, 2011, 11:07 GMT)

@RandyOZ - Look at what's happened to England? You mean the fact that they're currently the World No.1 team, after having destroyed Australia in the Ashes and utterly humiliated India? Australia's got some excellent talent available among the players, but they need to avoid the foolish jingoism espoused by you and some others if they are to recapture their original position. Pick the best coach, wherever they originated from, and take it from there.

Posted by MrSmith101 on (September 22, 2011, 10:09 GMT)

Flower? Haha. 2 steps forward, how many steps can you count back?

Posted by   on (September 22, 2011, 10:02 GMT)

Would be interesting to know Ian Chappel's reaction to all this hype regarding Aussie coach selection.I remember him saying in 2007 that a coach can make at the most 5% difference to a team's performance.and here I can see all devoted Australian cricket fans like @Meety,@RandyOz,@Hyclass and many others sharing their views about who should be the next coach which surely is the right thing to do.A great coach can take this new look Aussie team to lofty heights especially after their very good away series victory against Srilanka(agreed unpredictable pitch and many other fators contributed to the result but Aus clearly was the better side which is no small feat against the in Lanka).Especially when you consider that Aussies landed in Colombo on a virtual grave without ashes....hope to see Aussie cricket emerging stronger...and this is from India and @popcorn do you watch only Aus-Eng series...missing your patriotic Australian support comments here..

Posted by KAIRAVA on (September 22, 2011, 8:43 GMT)

How about considering Sandeep Patil as the coach of the Australian national team ?

Posted by   on (September 22, 2011, 7:58 GMT)

Gary Kirsten, that would make my year.

Posted by smudgeon on (September 22, 2011, 5:46 GMT)

I hope that whoever is picked, Australian or otherwise, they're the best for the job. Last thing we need now is a high profile "superstar" coach who doesn't know their backside from their elbow.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2011, 5:16 GMT)

Shane Warne - Spin Bowling Coach Glenn McGrath - Fast Bowling Coach

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (September 22, 2011, 5:03 GMT)

The best coach in world cricket is Andy Flower. He should be sounded out. If only to force England to offer him a new expensive contract to retain him. Indications are that Mickey Arthur & Steve Rixon are the front runners and both have the necessary international experience. I don't care that one is S African and his Shield experience is helpful. Australia needs a big increase in quality in this role. Flower vs Nielsen was an utter mismatch.

Posted by Ben1989 on (September 22, 2011, 4:34 GMT)

@TFjones, so you're going to drop watto from t20's? I know what you mean mate, but if you drop him from the t20 side we'll have no chance! (albeit I don't care a lot for t20 results..) mickey arthur or rixon, whilst arthur is 'foreign' he has an aussie mindset in regards to cricket which is what we want, either one would be great & don't think we should be looking any furthur aside from these two... btw- yes we certainly need a spin coach to solely concentrate on our spinners, might actually produce a world class spinner again if we do this!!

Posted by Buggsy on (September 22, 2011, 3:16 GMT)

Wow, some of these comments are just over the top. It doesn't matter where the coach is from, we need the best person for the job. And ex-superstar players don't always make for good coaches, look at some of the disasters in the NRL. I'm sure many Australians will be happy for a foreign coach if he's producing results.

Posted by RandyOZ on (September 22, 2011, 3:14 GMT)

No Brydon, we don't wanna cast the net wide. Look at what's happened to England, you can't tell they aren't South Africa and below par players lie Kieswetter are being picked!

Posted by Meety on (September 22, 2011, 0:03 GMT)

@AidanFX - I agree re: Langar, I think he is a fantastic bloke & would like him involved in Oz cricket somehow, but I don't think he is the guy to be helping out with batting. I would say Lehman would be a great batting coach, & would be better placed then, to apply for the Head role X years down the track. @ tfjones1978 - I don't think we need a coach for each format. I think too many Cooks spoil the brew. I think an Assistant who can take a hands on role in the Short Formats would be the better way to go. Accountability will always ultimately rest with the Head Coach though. @Jim Wheeler - I sort of agree, with the ONLY exception being Mickey Arthur. All though it would be hard to cop a Saffa running the show! LOL! We have plenty of excellant candidates. @Truemans_Ghost - I think you nailed it. I think that a "foreign" coach would spend too much time trying to change everything IMO.

Posted by   on (September 21, 2011, 22:05 GMT)

I don't agree with that whatsoever. An Australian will fill the position because what over choice is their.

You don't maintain a winning percentage in tests and odi's over all test playing nation's by not having a good system already. ok Australia isn't at it's best right now but if history is anything to go by it tells you that the Australian team will bounce back. same thing happened in the 80's after lillee and marsh retired, after bradman and after other great Australian teams. We have a little dip and then we come back strong.

We don't need foreigners for the head job.

Posted by Truemans_Ghost on (September 21, 2011, 14:08 GMT)

Equally it would be a mistake to take someone on because he was foreign. A good proportion of the most successful "foreign" coaches have been Australian. Although England haven't had an Aussie head coach, the Cooley and Saker have been great bowling coaches and many of Flower's virtues- his tough uber-professionalism are those you would associate with Aussie cricketers of the last couple of generations. Although there is no reasons why they shouldn't go with a foreign coach, I would have thought Australia needs to less than any other cricketing nation.

Posted by   on (September 21, 2011, 14:02 GMT)

i wont accept an outside head coach, we were the pinnacle of cricket for a long time because we played an Australian style of cricket, we pick an out side coach the we play the way they were taught from there country, teams overseas wanted aussie coaches because eveyone wanted to play like us, now that the are no longer the champs ppl are talking about picking overseas coaches!!, we have the best ex players to give advice to pass on to the current players, ponting clarke n hussy and j langer would have given some advice to the young fellas and craig Mcdermott would have helped with the quicks on what lines and length to bowl on different tracks. so if u think a foreign coach would help australian team then u got rocks in your head!!

Posted by   on (September 21, 2011, 13:58 GMT)

Greg Shippard must be a chance and has enjoyed great success at Domestic level and in the IPL as well but he probably won't get the job because he is Victoria's coach

Posted by AidanFX on (September 21, 2011, 13:49 GMT)

Well we need a new batting coach - JL is not the right guy, we in general need more coaches, it is not just a question of getting the right Senior coach. In this day and age its necessary to have a spectrum of coaches and the right ones. I reckon if we stick to a coach within Australia you might want to poach S Waugh. Rixon or Arthur would also be suitable candidates. One thing that needs to happen to improve the Aussie side is the coaching and professional standards need to arise across domestic cricket. Copeland's lack of body mass for a decent bowler isn't good enough. We need to look at the AFL which is getting richer and subsequently more innovative and more professional by the second. Our players need to train harder and get fitter and stronger and mentally tougher. Australians have historically been tough nuts, no reason Aus need to lose this way, just need to apply it with the times.

Posted by tfjones1978 on (September 21, 2011, 13:08 GMT)

There should be three coaches, one for each format of the game. This will allow specialising of coaches talents on each particular format and selection focus for that format. Australia should look at having completely seperate Test & T20I sides. If a player is regularly in the test side they should be dropped from T20I side.

Posted by   on (September 21, 2011, 11:58 GMT)

Agree with Jonesy. I think there is a need for at least two specialist bowling coaches - one fast, one spin - a fielding coach and both a head coach and an assistant coach.

Posted by CricketMaan on (September 21, 2011, 11:48 GMT)

Duncan Fletcher is available, may you Aussies could try? Duncan is a capable and excellent coach, but his style of management will never work with Team India or BCCI, so what ever he does will fail, on the contrary he could work well with an Australian set up where Cricket matters..(er..until Big Bash)

Posted by jonesy2 on (September 21, 2011, 11:12 GMT)

they should get 2 fast bowling coaches. one foreign, a spin bowling coach. a head coach, and an assistant, one of them foreign.

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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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