Andrew McDonald has moved out as head coach of the Rajasthan Royals after being with the team for just one season of the IPL, despite having signed a three-year deal in 2019. The development comes in the wake of the Royals appointing former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara as the team director.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the franchise has been trying to negotiate a new role with McDonald, who played very little part in the team's recent acquisitions at the 2021 IPL auction. "Rajasthan Royals and its Head Coach Andrew McDonald have mutually decided to move in different directions with regards to the leadership structure," the Royals said in a media statement on Sunday.
As part of that, the Royals have also decided not to seek a replacement for McDonald, as they expect Sangakkara to double up as the chief coach. Sangakkara would be assisted by the assistant coach of West Indies' white-ball teams Trevor Penney, who has been appointed as lead assistant coach. The rest of the Royals coaching staff will comprise Zubin Bharucha (strategy, development and performance director), Sairaj Bahutule (spin-bowling coach), Rob Cassell (fast-bowling coach) and Dishank Yagnik (fielding coach). The franchise has also moved out Amol Muzumdar from batting coach to "out-of-season" high-performance batting coach.
At last week's auction, the Royals picked up South African allrounder Chris Morris, who became the most expensive individual player bought at an IPL auction, Shivam Dube, Mustafizur Rahman and Liam Livingstone, among others. McDonald, currently serving as head coach of the Australia T20I squad that is in New Zealand, was largely occupied with national duty at the time of the auction.
McDonald's position came under the scanner after the Royals finished bottom of the table in the 2020 IPL, which was held in the UAE because of a difficult Covid-19-related situation in India. Incidentally, it was back in 2018 that the Royals had last made the IPL playoffs, and they had played without a designated head coach then. Bharucha was the head of cricket that season, with Shane Warne the team's mentor, and Bahutule, Muzumdar and Yagnik members of the coaching staff.
McDonald's exit is part of a number of changes the Royals have made recently. Sanju Samson was appointed the captain after the franchise decided to release Steven Smith, who led the franchise over the last two seasons.
Smith's performances as captain and batsman were criticised in an end-of-season review after the last IPL. Smith struggled to make an impact with the bat last season, having started the tournament as an opener and then gone down to the middle order, later admitting he had failed to "find my hands" in terms of feeling comfortable at the batting crease until he returned to Australia duty in the home ODI series against India.
McDonald's appointment had been something of a game-changer when it was confirmed in late 2019 that he would be permitted to coach the Royals as well as the Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred, while also serving as senior assistant to Justin Langer with the Australia national team. That mix of roles was sold as an advantage for the Australian set-up, but McDonald is now going to have more time on his hands at home this year rather than heading to India for the IPL.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig