Cricket: Gatting lands coaching job at Middlesex

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MIKE GATTING was yesterday appointed director of coaching at Middlesex and will be responsible for the club's entire coaching from first XI to the Under-17 side.

The role is a new one, encompassing far greater responsibility than that enjoyed by Gatting's predecessor, John Buchanan, with whom the county simultaneously announced they had parted company.

Buchanan had attracted the attention of Middlesex after recently guiding Queensland to two Sheffield Shield triumphs (the first in the State's history). A working party was set up when the County's long- standing coach, Don Bennett, retired at the end of the 1997 season and recommended that Buchanan be brought in.

But the methods of the man nicknamed "The Professor" did not go down too well with certain of the more senior players in the Middlesex squad. Buchanan was a meticulous operator who used a video camera linked to a computer to record and analyse every ball faced and bowled by Middlesex players to help iron out technical aspects of their game.

It transpired that the players refused to turn up for a team meeting before their NatWest Trophy quarter-final tie at home to Hampshire, which they were expected to win but, in fact, lost by an embarrassing 144 runs. The troubled London side went on to finish next to bottom in the County Championship.

There were efforts made to re-engage Buchanan for a further year and he indicated he would be willing to do so, but after a great deal of post- season shilly-shallying the club issued a statement which announced Gatting's appointment and paid tribute to the Australian.

Alan Moss, the Middlesex chairman, said: "John did a very difficult job extremely well. It is a great pity, after the immense effort that he has put into modernising our coaching methods, that given the difficulties this season, we mutually agreed that it was in the interests of both parties not to take up the second year option."

So Middlesex revert to the the time-honoured tradition of appointing their coach from within. After Don Bennett's near 50-year association with the club (30 as coach) enter Gatting. His playing career spanned three decades from his debut in 1975 and at 41 he could be in for a long reign, always provided he can steer the club to the sort of success - 14 trophies in 22 years - they enjoyed in Bennett's care and under the captaincy of Mike Brearley and Gatting himself in that time.

As for the man himself, Gatting confined himself to a brief: "It is a much larger role than I originally envisaged. I am very excited about the opportunity to take Middlesex back to the top of the county game."