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

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola, writes Ian Herbert
News
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn