Nielsen stands down as Australia's coach
Tim Nielsen has stood down as Australia's coach after helping the side to a series victory in Sri Lanka. Nielsen, who took over from John Buchanan in 2007, made the announcement after Australia played out a draw in the final Test at the SSC in Colombo, saying he accepted it was time to go as part of the fall-out from last summer's 3-1 Ashes defeat.
His decision means Australia will have an interim head coach - possibly one of the assistants, Justin Langer or Steve Rixon - for their upcoming tour of South Africa. Nielsen faced the prospect of having to reapply for the job as head coach after the Argus review recommended a more wide-ranging brief for the team's mentor.
Nielsen said the past month since the release of the review had been exceptionally taxing, and felt hurt that he was asked to re-apply for the job given how closely CA had seen him work over the past four years.
"It has been a tough month," Nielsen said. "I feel as though through something totally independent and external to what I do, I feel as though my role has been changed and my job has been spilt to other applicants. I understand that, I can understand where they're coming from, we are trying to improve our sport.
"The only thing I'm a little disappointed in is that my role as Australian cricket coach doesn't just cover Test match cricket. We've maintained our No. 1 ranking in one day cricket over the last four years while I've been here, we've improved our T20 cricket and made some dramatic changes there to play in the last World Cup final. I feel as though we're on the right track.
"All of this has been brought to a head by the fact we played a very good cricket side in England last year and they outplayed us and beat us, and that happens sometimes. For 15 years before it was Australia doing it to other teams, and they had to lick their wounds. Now we've had a look at how we're going to improve and move forward, and the result is this.
"I feel as though whoever is given the opportunity is going to get a group of players who are in form, who have had some success, and I hope by it happening now, the place is in a better position than it was, maybe three or four months ago when it all happened."
Criticism of Australia's coaching process seemed to reflect directly on Nielsen, though this was fervently denied by CA after the review was released. Nielsen also noted that many of the recommended changes to the structure were those that he had pushed for himself as coach.
"There's that personal side to it, no doubt. That's the hard part, and that has played a little bit of a part in my thinking," Nielsen said. "I feel like I'm doing an interview for the job every day for the last four years. Because they've changed some structural things, and things I can honestly say I've been talking about and championing for a while.
"I would've appreciated an opportunity to work in the new system and the new role moving forward, but when you get beaten like we did by England, a very good cricket side, there is always fall-out, and we had to make some changes, and they've done that. I don't hold any grudges about that, but I also would've backed myself to do the job, given the opportunity. Because of those things it is just the right time I believe."
The new position will be a more senior role, and will involve setting the direction of all coaching at elite levels within Australia. Nielsen, 43, has decided not to put himself forward for the new job, despite Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland saying less than a fortnight ago that he hoped Nielsen would be "a front-line applicant".
"Tim has been national coach during a period in which we have had a long list of great champions leave the game and has been a strong support for new players coming into the side over that period," Sutherland said. "I was delighted when he agreed to renew his contract last year and had encouraged him to apply for the new, expanded and redesigned head coach role that the CA board approved last month after the tabling of the Australian Team Performance Review.
"However, I have spoken to Tim and understand and respect his decision to now begin a new chapter in his professional life. He has contributed greatly to Australian international cricket in roles as assistant national coach, head coach at the Centre of Excellence and during four years as national coach. We all wish him well in the future."
Nielsen, a former South Australia wicketkeeper, took on the head coach role after spending three years as an assistant with the national team under Buchanan, and then becoming head coach at the Centre of Excellence. He guided Australia through 15 Test series, nine of which the team won.
He now intends to move into another, yet to be announced cricket role, though it will not be with CA.
"I'm a cricket coach, I'm a cricket person," Nielsen said. "I wasn't good enough to play cricket for Australia so I've been living the dream as players talk about, as coaches talk about, this has been the greatest job I could do and I'm very proud of the fact I've been able to do it for four years, which I feel is a long time in international sport. I certainly will be looking at other opportunities and considering anything that's out there to use my skills and maintain contact with the sport I love.
"We've had some tremendous times, some really positive wins as a group, and we've had some tough times. That's the nature of international sport, that's the nature of what I do. It's basically got to a stage where we've sat down as a family and said are we willing to put ourselves in these positions, are we willing to put ourselves under this sort of pressure.
"In the end I thought it was best for myself and for the team that I move on now to give whoever takes over the role to start in a really positive environment, which I believe we've set up over the past two to three months and been displayed here over the past six or seven weeks."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo