England begin hunt for new bowling coach

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The Independent Online

England made it clear today that they will trawl the world to find a new fast bowling coach. This is their habitual response when any specialist role needs filling, but this time they may need to follow it to the letter.

The anticipated announcement today that Ottis Gibson, the present, highly respected incumbent, is leaving to become head coach of the West Indies, puts England in a hole. There may be plenty of applicants for a job that Gibson performed with quiet distinction but there is not one whom England might actively pursue.

Names that are being bandied about tonight without much conviction included the former South Africa fast bowler, Allan Donald, who was offered the permanent job once before, Dougie Brown, the well-qualified former Warwickshire all-rounder and recent internationals such as Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough.

The first issue to decide is whether England need a temporary replacement to travel with them later this month to Bangladesh where they are playing three one-day internationals and two Test matches. Although there will be a natural reluctance, not to mention difficulty in offering a contract which is so specifically short term, the particularly alien nature of sub-continental pitches means that England's seam bowlers probably need all the advice they can get.

Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, will meet team coach Andy Flower some time this week to discuss their options. But he seemed certain that they will not be rushed into an appointment. When Gibson was hired in late 2007, England were so certain they had the right man - and they were right - that the interview process was overlooked.

“We'll have a long discussion about how to proceed but I would think the intention will be to go through due process of advertising the job and inviting applicants wherever they are,” said Morris. “If we decide that a bowling coach is needed for the tour of Bangladesh it will be a strictly temporary role.”

The simple short-term option would be for England to ask the England Performance Centre fast bowling coach, Kevin Shine, to make the trip to Bangladesh. He has worked with all England's seam bowlers before and although he was not deemed to be a runaway success in previous stints with the national team he would be more comfortable now and should have no trouble taking over for six weeks.

It is the long term about which England will be more particularly concerned - not least the Ashes tour next winter. Bowling coaches have played a key part in recent years in England's triumphs. Troy Cooley, the innovative Tasmanian, began that trend in 2005 when he helped the mastery of reverse swing which became telling in a series of slender margins.

After Cooley decamped for his native Australia - the England and Wales Cricket Board having demurred in offering him a longer contract - Gibson eventually stepped in. He made a swift impression in his first series, five one-day matches in Sri Lanka in 2007. After England were hammered in the first match Gibson impressed on his charges the need to bowl well-disguised slower balls and gave them a quick masterclass which paid wonderful dividends. England won a one-day series in Sri Lanka for the first time. Gibson's influence last summer against Australia last summer - he taught them simply to be more disciplined - was again noticeable.

The likelihood is that England will require a high qualified paper coach. Gibson reached level four and was almost a one-off: there was little either he did not know about the theories of fast bowling or how to put them into practice. Famously, after acquiring his coaching certificates, he returned to the professional game as a player and took 80 wickets for Durham in his final season at the age of 38.

Donald is known to want a coaching role. Since he turned down the England job last time because of his young family in South Africa he has struggled to find work at home. Although the regime change in South Africa might re-open doors for him, he was clearly eager on England's recent tour of his country to be offered something worthwhile soon.

Gough would be effervescent but while his intelligence as a fast bowler should not be under-rated it would be too big a role for him at present. He is in any case pursuing a media career. His fast bowling partner with England, Andrew Caddick, has expressed interest in coaching but it would be much too soon for him. Brown is a possible. Highly qualified, a former stalwart county pro he has the passion and knowledge of all good coaches.

Ian Pont, a maverick fast bowling coach, has innovative ideas and worked at Essex when Flower was there as a player. He would be a left-field and hardly a choice to court universal popularity but he seemed intent on applying last night.