When new Melbourne Renegades recruit Shaun Marsh caught wind of whispers that his former Perth Scorchers opening partner Michael Klinger was in the race to replace departed coach Andrew McDonald, he shot a text immediately to captain Aaron Finch.
You won't find a bad reference from anyone who has ever dealt with Klinger in Australian cricket, but a reference from Marsh carried extra weight given Klinger had no head coaching experience to assess, aside from his combined role as player, captain, and T20 mentor at Gloucestershire in the T20 Blast.
For Finch, who sat in on the interview process for the coaching role, that reference, Klinger's work at Gloucestershire and his phenomenal record as a player was enough to seal the deal.
"I think what really won everyone over was the experience Maxy [Klinger] has had at Gloucestershire," Finch said. "To run their T20 program, a lot of captaincy experience as well and then ultimately to take a side that wasn't on paper the highest-profile side and to continually make the finals with Gloucestershire, I think his experience in that regard shone through really well."
Klinger's appointment was a whirlwind experience. He was all set to be the Melbourne Stars' batting coach this season working under new coach David Hussey. He was also in the mix for the Australia selector job but withdrew after getting the Renegades role, with the job eventually going to George Bailey.
But the Renegades do things a little differently. Having a captain sit in on coaching recruitment is unusual but given the way Finch operated with McDonald last season in terms of strategy and selection, to ultimately take the title, it made sense.
The Renegades are a data-driven team built around maximising resources. Their title last season was a masterclass in how to squeeze the most out of the sum of their parts, with a squad cobbled together from all corners of the globe.
They are far from an old mates' club. The Renegades made the decision to release title-winning experienced player, and long-time Victorian servant Cameron White to recruit the country's most inform senior domestic pro in Western Australian Shaun Marsh to bolster their top order.
We have guys coming from all over Australia but the good thing is the culture and the comradery that Andrew has built up in previous years is obviously going to be there, and I'll certainly look to continue that
Michael Klinger won't be reinventing the wheel
Klinger joins the squad with no intentions of shaking that mentality up despite experiencing a lot of success with Australia's best example of a one-team, year-round culture in the Perth Scorchers.
"I think the biggest thing is getting the group really close as quick as you can and to be honest," Klinger said. "Andrew McDonald was very good at that and with only a few changes we've already got a really good camaraderie within the group, and a good atmosphere and culture, so there will only be a bit of tweaking at the start and obviously the guys getting to know me at the start of the tournament.
"The Scorchers and some of the other states where it is, not a combined program, but you have similar staff and you're looking after guys over 12 months of the year and that can be a big advantage as we've seen and this will be different. We have guys coming from all over Australia but the good thing is the culture and the comradery that Andrew has built up in previous years is obviously going to be there, and I'll certainly look to continue that."
Klinger shares a similar philosophy to McDonald in the use of data. McDonald detailed the level of the Renegades planning to ESPNcricinfo in a podcast earlier this year after claiming the title against the Melbourne Stars. He outlined that he and assistant Andre Borovec worked with their analyst to nail down key match-ups and plans for each game, but they only disseminated that information to three senior players - Finch, Dan Christian, and Tom Cooper - so as not to overload those who didn't need it.
"I'm big on using the data," Klinger said. "That's something I'm really big on is getting the information. The key with that is how you distribute it to the players because some players love it, and some players don't. As a head coach and as a coaching staff you need to be really flexible with that. You certainly don't want to overload players with too much information if some guys just like to go out and watch the ball and hit it and play on instinct and don't like that information. So, in terms of the players using it that will certainly be up to them but we'll certainly provide them with a lot of information."
But there is no sense that Klinger will be a carbon-copy of McDonald. The former coach was very flexible in his approach to individual preparation, encouraging players to come up with a formula for themselves and working with them to execute their skills in games, provided the ends justified the means. He will have senior assistants in Borovec and Lachlan Stevens which will aid with continuity from that perspective.
But they will add former Australia fast bowler Shaun Tait as bowling coach, replacing Dimitri Mascarenhas. Klinger has also called upon former AFL player Brad Green as a leadership consultant. Prior to his 254-game career with Melbourne Football Club, Green represented Tasmania and Australia in cricket at underage level. Green has also been an assistant coach at two other AFL clubs. Klinger's former coach, Justin Langer, used a lot of AFL coaching and leadership philosophies at the Scorchers. Klinger himself spent a week at Melbourne Football Club earlier this year, the club he supports, shadowing the coaching staff to get an inside look at how they operated.
Finch believes Klinger's meticulous nature could well have a huge impact on all of the Renegades players.
"How structured Maxy is and disciplined he was as a player - that's something that not just experienced players but young players in particular can really learn off, the preparation, the attention to detail I think is so important," he said. "People can often gloss over that in T20 and see it as you take your chance, you go out and smack a few but there's a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a T20 innings. That will be great to work with Maxy on that and our other senior players."
The Renegades have been thrown some curveballs on the eve their title defence. Pakistan pair Usman Shinwari and Faheem Ashraf have been withdrawn, meaning a new overseas player is needed to be found at short notice, with Lancashire's Richard Gleeson filling the breach while Harry Gurney will return for the entire tournament.
However, Klinger is confident they can go back-to-back. "We know we've got a good list," he said. "We've got a good mix of experienced players and some really good young guns coming through. My job will obviously be to support them and mentor the experienced ones and keep developing the younger ones and give them the best opportunity in a relaxed atmosphere to go out and play with freedom and aggressively."