Arthur named new Australia head coach

2011-11-22 07:45

Australia has embraced one the architects of its downfall by appointing Mickey Arthur as its first foreign coach, assigning him the task of returning the once all-conquering team to the top of international cricket.

Arthur will take over for the two-Test series against New Zealand starting December 1, having been appointed today on a contract that extends through the 2015 World Cup, which Australia and New Zealand are co-hosting.

It was Arthur’s South African team of 2008 that exposed problems ahead for the then top-ranked Australians with a 2-1 Test series victory – Australia’s first Test series loss on home soil in 16 years – followed by a 4-1 domination of the limited-overs series.

Since then, Australia had slumped to No. 5 – a rapid fall emphasised by England’s commanding Ashes win in 2010-2011 – before clawing back to No. 4.

The humiliation of that home Ashes defeat prompted a major independent review of the structure of the national team and domestic game.

And that has led to an appointment that would have been inconceivable for Australians only a few years ago.
Australia finally has gone where every other major Test nation has been, putting parochialism aside and looking abroad for a head coach.

Arthur got the job ahead of a field of 70 contenders including former Australia Test players Steve Rixon and Tom Moody – who both have experience as coaches of national teams – and ex-Test opener Justin Langer.

The Cricket Australia review effectively made the coaching position vacant, with Tim Nielsen invited to re-apply for the job. When he opted against nominating for an expanded role, Arthur came into calculations.

The former Proteas coach didn’t expect to face any extra difficulty from being the first foreign coach of Australia.
“I don’t think it will matter,” Arthur said. “You get respect straight away when you get the job, but you’ve actually got to earn it. I believe I can earn that with any team I’ve been with.

“Ultimately, you want a guy that is perceived to be the best for the job, irrespective of the nationality.”

Cricket Australia announced Arthur’s appointment in a relatively low-key news conference at its headquarters only hours after Michael Clarke’s team achieved a remarkable comeback win in the second Test in Joburg to level the two-Test series in South Africa. The news flashed around the country within seconds.

“Australian cricket is in a very exciting phase, there’s a lot of really good young players, coupled with some very good legends in senior players,” said Arthur, who promises to bring an “unblinkered” approach to the job.

“Being in charge of an international team is always a challenge, and there will be challenges that come along the way, but I believe that I’ll have the ability to handle them down the line.”

Troy Cooley served as interim coach for the just completed tour of South Africa and will return with the squad this week. The Australians have to prepare immediately for a two-Test series against New Zealand and a four-Test series against India.

The coaching overhaul was the last in a series of changes in a tumultuous year for cricket in Australia, which also including Ricky Ponting standing down as captain but vowing to continue as a batsman in the national setup.

Earlier this month, Cricket Australia appointed former rugby union international Pat Howard to the newly created role of general manager of team performance.

Howard has overseen the recruitment of Arthur, as well as John Inverarity as a full-time selector to chair a selection panel that includes Test great Rod Marsh and retired fast bowler Andy Bichel.

“Mickey was the standout candidate in the review process we went through, has an outstanding record with South Africa from 2005 to 2010, where during his reign he steered South Africa to be No. 1 in all three formats (of the game),” Howard said.

The 43-year-old Arthur played 110 first-class matches in South Africa before moving into coaching and had vast experience in the domestic competition before taking over as Proteas head coach in 2005.

His first two Test series were losses at home and away to Australia, helping shape his perspective on international cricket.

He led South Africa to nine straight series wins during his tenure before quitting the Proteas job last year, moving to coach Western Australia in Australia’s domestic competitions.

Arthur, who has a tenuous family link to Australia via his Australian great grandfather, said he and his family were planning to become permanent residents of Australia.

Arthur’s appointment follows a recent trend in Australian sport. Outside cricket, Australia’s national rugby team, the Wallabies, appointed its first foreign head coach in 2008 when New Zealander Robbie Deans took over. The national football team is coached by a German.

In international cricket, England’s team, now coached by Zimbabwe’s Andy Flower, has Duncan Fletcher, also from Zimbabwe, to thank for much of its resurgence in recent years.

New Zealand’s John Wright led India to the 2003 World Cup final during his tenure as coach from 2000 to 2005 and South African Gary Kirsten helped the Indians secure the title in April.

Sutherland acknowledged a foreign appointment would attract some criticism.

“I always expect a reaction, but if we go back to the Australian Team Performance Review ... it was about finding the right people for the job,” he said. “We’re very confident we have the right person in Mickey Arthur.”

In his new role, Arthur will be responsible for planning, preparing coaching staff and taking joint responsibility with captain Clarke for the day-to-day team performances.

He will also be part of the national selection panel and will work with the six state coaches and the head coach of the Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence in Brisbane on coaching and player development.

Arthur urges patience in Australia’s road to regaining its top Test ranking, and a pride-restoring Ashes win over England in 2013.

“We should probably start by thinking how we’re going to beat New Zealand,” he said. “We beat New Zealand, we beat India. We take the little steps one at a time and hopefully then we’ll have an Australian team capable of going to England and winning the Ashes.”

Australia dominated international cricket for a decade from the late 1990s and was regularly No. 1 in the Test and limited-overs rankings – twice winning a world-record 16 consecutive Test matches under coaches Geoff Marsh and John Buchanan, both worked in the wake of Bob Simpson’s successful stint as the first full-time national coach.

Its sharp decline over recent years came after a cluster of retirements of great players, including Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and openers Langer and Matthew Hayden.

The loss to England particularly exposed a failure to groom a new generation of players.

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