Comment: Why don't Australia greats like Shane Warne coach the current crop?

Pity that wisdom of some wonderful players is not being passed on

Is greatness contagious? That is one of the last remaining hopes of the flailing Australian touring party, as they trust that the mere presence of Shane Warne, around the camp, talking to Ashton Agar, imparting secrets, will somehow get them close to the quality of former Australian teams in England.

As well as being outbatted, outbowled and outfielded so far, it is fair to say that the Australians have been outcoached. Their most dominant spell in the series so far, Agar's 98 at Trent Bridge, was the raw outpouring of a teenager, while England have – that mad morning aside – been far more disciplined, thoughtful and technically skilled.

Disruption is natural, of course, when coaches change and replacing Mickey Arthur with Darren Lehmann on the eve of the series was never going to be smooth. But for all the talk about the man at the top, the coaches beneath him are just as important, and in that area Australia are paying heavily for their apparent negligence.

There is, for the first time in a generation, an expertise deficit at the top of the Australian team. That is obvious to anyone who has watched them struggle first in India then in England in Test cricket this year. The first explanation is the retirements of two giants of the game, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, last Christmas.

But they were not the only two to leave the Australian set-up. The bowling coach Craig McDermott and batting coach Justin Langer – with 176 Test caps between them – both quit their posts in late 2012. McDermott now runs a fast-bowling clinic and Langer coaches Western Australia.

In their place are Ali de Winter and Michael Di Venuto, respectable domestic cricketers in their time but with nowhere near the accumulated nous of the two who have gone.

"To have strong-minded Test players in those positions is really important," the Australian cricket writer Malcolm Conn told The Independent. "They were outstanding. McDermott remade Peter Siddle. He wasn't in the side two years ago and McDermott rebuilt him into one of the most reliable fast bowlers in the world. There is no question those two are a huge loss, when you see the contributions they made to Australian cricket, and the blokes that replaced them, they just don't have the same impact, as good as they may be in their particular disciplines."

The downturn of the Australian side, particularly under pressure, since McDermott and Langer left last year is marked. Working alongside De Winter and Di Venuto is the peculiarly versatile Steve Rixon, a former wicketkeeper who coaches that discipline and fielding but also spin bowling. While England are well-stocked with specialist coaches Australia seem either to be under-resourced or just unable to deploy their resources in the most effective way.

"For reasons that are hard to understand, Rixon is still spin-bowling coach," Conn said. "Given Australia's lack of spinning depth, it would be nice to have someone who could be around on a more regular basis to help the spinners. They've got a batting coach and a fast-bowling coach. But how many former players would be capable of doing the job? I'm not sure who you'd appoint."

Which is why Warne has been increasingly present on this tour, giving Agar advice on field setting and bowling. This is something that captain Michael Clarke and Lehmann are particularly keen on, often insisting that the door of the dressing room is always open to all former Australian players, a policy Clarke set soon after becoming captain two years ago. Legends of recent teams often show up, but as a Cricket Australia spokesman said, "there is no real plan as such".

Warne has been particularly present, even in Chennai for the Test in February, while Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath have also come in to offer advice during this series. McGrath presented Agar with his cap at Trent Bridge and suggested how Australia might best use the slope at Lord's. Ricky Ponting was invited too but was playing for Surrey.

But there is a difference between talking and coaching, and Australia might put too much trust in the hope that the former can be a substitute for the latter. Warne was a genius but genius cannot be transmitted through conversation. Warne has often made his contempt for coaches clear, following Ian Chappell's adage that they were just for taking you to and from the ground.

"International players know how to play, you don't need a coach getting too technical. You can forget that you just need to bowl the ball," said Warne in 2006. But the most talented can afford to think in such simple terms. The current Australia team, based on the first two Tests, might be in need of some more guidance.

The problem, then, for Cricket Australia, is how it makes best use of former greats. England have Graham Gooch, Graham Thorpe and Ashley Giles in coaching roles.

But since Langer and McDermott left, Australia have almost no formal way of conveying years of expertise, experience and success from their veteran players to their youngsters who need it most; just a vague hope in the powers of occasional osmosis.

Where are they now? Legends' new roles

Of the Australia team that completed the 5-0 thrashing of England at Sydney in the 2006-07 series only Michael Clarke is still playing:

Matthew Hayden Has done various media work since retirement in 2009

Justin Langer Was Australia batting coach from 2009 to 2012 before taking over Western Australia

Ricky Ponting Recently retired from all cricket after season with Surrey

Michael Hussey Channel 9 commentator

Andrew Symonds Works on Network 10

Adam Gilchrist Independent columnist and Network 10 commentator

Shane Warne Sky Sports and Channel 9 commentator. Occasional adviser to Australia team

Stuart Clark Was general manager at Sydney Sixes in the Big Bash League but stepped down in 2012

Glenn McGrath Channel Nine commentator and charity worker

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick