I am going to get straight on the front foot with this issue when I say I was very surprised that Cricket Australia decided to extend Pat Howard’s contract for another two years as high performance manager.
Former Australian fast bowler Stuart Clark went one step further on Fox Sports’ Bill & Boz show, saying: “I wouldn’t have signed Pat Howard again – I wouldn’t have signed Pat Howard in the first place.
“I think he’s useless, personally.”
The easiest way to attack Howard’s appointment is to cite the fact that he never played high-level cricket and is an ex-rugby player. This is definitely a concern but I don’t think a lack of top-level experience should rule him out. Many coaches, managers and executives in all levels of sport are excellent in their roles without top-level experience.
But it does leave Pat Howard open as an easy target when things go wrong in Australian Cricket and surely putting an ex-first-class or Test cricketer in the role would be easier to market for Cricket Australia.
There must surely be an ex-player or top level coach who could be transitioned into the role who could bring a different skill set to the role and perhaps endear him or herself to the Australian cricket community a little more than Howard has done.
Shouldn’t the high performance manager at least have had some experience in coaching cricket? Isn’t there a pathway for a high performance manager to move through the cricketing ranks and not be seemingly plucked from nowhere?
Speaking about Howard’s contract extension James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia, was glowing.
“Pat is a dynamic, passionate executive and the board and I are delighted that he has agreed to extend his term.
“He has led the evolution of a new team performance structure and success-driven culture for both men’s and women’s cricket in Australia and we see his ongoing contribution as integral to our future plans.”
With Howard’s contract up for renewal, it would have been the perfect time to move him out of the role and try someone else. I wonder what Steve Smith thinks about this?
My main concern about Howard’s reappointment has nothing to do with his prior experience in rugby but revolves around his inability to manage the Australian cricket team’s performance.
Let’s start with the Test team. It was under Howard’s watch that ‘Homeworkgate’ transpired and Australia had an embarrassing soap opera-style tour of India in 2013, complete with accusations and drama being played out in the media between Pat Howard and Shane Watson.
I guess some credit should be given to Howard for overseeing Mickey Arthur’s departure and installing Darren Lehmann in the lead-up to the 2013 Ashes, but Australia will have to live with the horrific memory of the 2013 tour of India for years to come.
But the on-field performance of the Test team is my greatest complaint. We have shown an inability to perform overseas consistently, having lost both 2013 and 2015 Ashes series in England. Our record on the subcontinent has got much worse under his reign despite the recent tour of India.
Last summer the Test team disintegrated in Hobart, resulting in a complete turnover of players and Rod Marsh stepping down as chairman of selectors.
The only Test series Australia have won recently are the ones we should win, at home against other teams that struggle in our conditions. The notable exception to that came in 2014 in South Africa.
We should be doing better and performing consistently better overseas. There is no shortage of talent in Australian cricket but is it being managed properly?
In my opinion, Howard has not set up a high performance structure that is working well. Some of my other gripes are Australia’s failure to come to terms with international T20 cricket, Greg Chappell’s appointment as a selector and seeing some of our best coaches move overseas.
Looking ahead Howard has two years to turn things around and prove all the doubters wrong. Will he make it to 2019?