Laura Wolvaardt wasn’t letting it get past her in the covers.
National coach Tim Nielsen is the Julie Bishop of Australian cricket – no matter what, he keeps his job unchallenged. While there has been significant scrutiny of the captain lately, Nielsen has presided over the same period of mediocrity with little recrimination.
Since the retirement of Bobby Simpson, the role of the Australian coach has evolved but not for the better. In Simpson’s day the coach was an ex-test captain who was part mentor, part ball machine and part father figure of the dressing room. However, each successive appointment has taken the role closer to that of technical director.
My fear is that statistics and plans have replaced heart and intuition as the coach’s stock in trade. That certainly has translated into the way the Australians have played, they go into series with plans in place – no doubt backed up by a myriad of video review session.
But when those plans don’t work there does not seem to be a brains trust around which can chart a new course.
You would not exactly call John Buchanan and Tim Nielsen inspirational guys to have around the dressing room. Every time you see these blokes at matches they inevitably have their head buried in their laptop computer digesting the “business intelligence”.
When a bowler returns to the dressing room after a session of busting their gut in the middle you can imagine Nielsen providing such insight as: “32 per cent of your deliveries in that session were bowled on the leg side.” Call me a luddite, but the role of the head coach or manager in any sport should surely be chief mentor, leaving such technical detail to the boffins and assistants.
Tim Nielsen and John Buchanan are not cricketing laymen, each played first class cricket – Nielsen 101 matches and Buch seven. However, what Ponting has needed is a sounding board – someone who knows what it is like to make the big calls in hostile international arenas.
In these modern times there is no doubt a role for technical review and for technically minded coaching. My gripe with having these men in the top job is that there is a whole bunch of intellectual property in the heads of retired captains and test greats which is going un-utilised.
We need to find a way to bring some of the great cricketing minds which this country possesses into a place of influence with the national side.
Any other country would kill to have the likes of Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor at their disposal. Even the highest performing CEOs these days undergo formal mentoring from those that have gone before them.
The best example of how insular the Australian cricket team has become is Ponting’s overly defensive reaction to Shane Warne’s recent twitter comments.
Ricky, a word of advice: when Shane speaks and the topic is spin bowling I would listen.
A strength of the Australian team culture is that they have always been unified behind their leader. However, like a dictatorship, the strength can also be a weakness because it does not allow for dissenting voices and a plurality of ideas.
There are some ex-Test players in the tent such as Justin Langer. However, I doubt he would ever tell Ponting his tactics are wrong. Langer’s experience was as a subordinate of Ponting’s and he continues to be a sycophant to his hero.
Tubby Taylor is the obvious guy for Cricket Australia to bring into the fold. He is almost universally respected and was one of the best tacticians of the last 25 years. If the next captain is either Clarke or Ferguson they will be verdant.
Taylor would be the perfect mentor.