HENRY: Upcoming tour a tough initiation for new bowling coach
Cricket Australia have just released their advertisement for the position of National Bowling Coach, but it would seem that there has much pre-announcement buzz, with up to 20 people expressing interest, following a spread in the national broadsheet.
Like fast bowling, advertising positions for which there are very few properly qualified candidates is not neuroscience.
There is an argument that suggests the best candidate should be head hunted. Cricket Australia is not a public service arm and legislation is not de rigeur for tenders or HR appointments.
Ostensibly, this is to replace the former incumbent, Craig McDermott, who surprisingly resigned his job citing ‘family and excessive travel’ as reasons.
The amount of travel and commitment to the job should not have come as any surprise to the former Test bowler as the Future Tour program is set 3-5 years ahead. Hence, the citation of ‘future’.
The schedule isn’t a precise document, but it is clearly indicative.
McDermott was appointed after his short time at the Centre Of Excellence as Bowling Coach, following 15 years divorced from any elite versions of the game as he pursued interests in property development.
He often looked uncomfortable and testy in the Caribbean and not enjoying his return to the touring life, so perhaps it is better for all concerned that he withdraw from a mentoring role as the travel commitments for the national team are considerable.
It is a pity after a home summer where the seam bowling was as good as it has been for many a year, consistent and penetrative against a batting lineup that should have tested any attacking unit.
The most telling statistic showing in the form of 85% of opponent’s dismissals coming off the front foot.
There are other coaches, such as Alistair De Winter at Tasmania, who can certainly take some kudos for Ben Hilfenhaus’ return to strike power after such an impotent Ashes. Damian Wright’s work in Victoria, before joining the Black Caps and Joe Dawes at the Redbacks, prior to his move to India, can rightly feel they have contributed to the work of the national representatives.
The National Bowling Coach position should also include a comprehensive knowledge of slow bowling, unless Cricket Australia want an appropriate specialised coach to travel with the team as well – they don’t specify any particular speciality.
Nathan Lyon’s lack of experience and Craig McDermott’s lack of expertise with slow bowling was a factor early on in the Caribbean when Nathan bowled poorly, for obvious technical reasons, in the first Test in Barbados.
Lyon has played so little first class cricket that he just hasn’t met many of the pitfalls and challenges, and hence learnt how to deal with them, that he may have otherwise learned over a lengthy Sheffield Shield apprenticeship; factors that “pep talks” from non–bowlers will not solve.
That is no fault of anyone in particular, but if Nathan stumbles with the Ashes on the line, it would be nice to have the best possible coach whispering in his ear.
National coach, Mickey Arthur, has said that the upcoming ODI’s (and Australia ‘A’?) matches in the UK are a part of the grand scheme for regaining the Ashes in 12 months time.
Fair enough, given that both Mitchell Johnson and Pat Cummins have been selected for the full international matches having not played since November.
Both suffered foot injuries at the Wanderers in that memorable victory.
Johnson was about to be dropped after a lengthy poor run of performances in any case. His absence made a marked difference to the Australian attack as pressure was mounted from both ends and the swing bowlers got an unscathed pill to shine: the double whammy of accuracy plus movement that doesn’t happen if the guy at the other end can’t hit the seam.
With all the talk now being about the depth and strength of fast bowling, and basing recent and future successes on said bowling, it seems that the selectors and coaching staff are using the England journey as practice games (and it is perfect to treat the ensuing Australia ‘A” matches for whatever development purpose).
This is dangerous territory.
The Poms will be searching for any advantage, real or perceived, as they look forward to defending the Ashes they won so bloody emphatically on our home soil.
In 2009, they grasped the straw of a Twenty20 win at Bristol to infuse waning self belief.
If Australia take these five ODIs with any notion less than full tilt, they will run second and reinforce England’s mental edge.
Mitchell Johnson has had no vehicle to regain form having not played any matches and Pat Cummins has played one Test match wherein his second innings bowling was genius level.
Nets are nets. They are simply the first step on the comeback trail. Matches that count are most of the next 38.
Mitchell Johnson needs to perform in matches, he needs to compete, he needs to be put under pressure and earn his spot in a team that has bowled exceptionally well since his absence.
The Sheffield Shield exists to deliver such examinations.
Patience from the selectors would be a considered virtue, especially as there is so much in-form fast bowling talent around at the moment.
This short tour may just be a severe examination of the new bowling coach.
Geoff ‘Henry’ Lawson returns to The Roar with his first article since 2009. He joins our expert cricket writers, and will offer thoughts as the Australians take on all comers with one eye on the upcoming Ashes.
Geoff Lawson OAM is a former Australian cricketer and the former coach of the Pakistan cricket team. Nicknamed "Henry" after the Australian poet, Lawson was a fast bowler for New South Wales and Australia.
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