Peter Robinson

Coaches sweat as Aussies plot

2005-05-17 10:53

The new South African cricket coach will be named on Thursday. If you believe the weekend papers, it's already a foregone conclusion.

Mickey Arthur, the Warriors coach, will take over from Ray Jennings. Then again, about a month ago Rod Marsh, the former Australian wicketkeeper, was also a foregone conclusion.

This, it is now suggested, was disinformation, deliberately leaked by the United Cricket Board, or its professional arm, Cricket South Africa, to mislead everyone.

Why the UCB, or CSA, should wish to do this, though, has not been made clear. So now we're left with Arthur or Jennings for the job, with Arthur the red-hot tip.

Leaving all other considerations aside for the moment, it has to be said that the whole process has been handled about as badly as you could imagine.

It's taken too long, allowing for too much speculation while the South African team has been in action, and if it is the case that Arthur is the man, then someone at the UCB has been talking out of school.

Wet finger stuck up in the wind

Of course, there is always the possibility that someone other than Arthur or Jennings will get the job, but a wet finger stuck up in the wind suggests that it's either one or the other.

Without favouring either man, it's hard to believe that one of them hasn't been set up. If Arthur is named as the new national coach on May 19, then Jennings, the incumbent, has been done a gross disservice.

Whatever you think of the man, no one deserves to hear that his contract will not be renewed via the media before his employers have not formally spoken to him.

If, on the other hand, Jennings stays in the job, then Arthur is made to look a fool. On Monday this week the UCB's own website fuelled speculation that he might be the man by carrying a story in which he neither confirmed or denied that he was getting the job.

If nothing else, the UCB should have issued some sort of statement which, while it might not have quashed the rumours, might at least have protected the two men at the centre of them.

Arthur is one of South African cricket's nice guys. Whether that is a desirable quality for a national coach is entirely another matter.

Add to this, he lacks experience, both in the international arena, and in dealing with the media in the broader sense of the word.

At the end of the year, no one needs to be reminded, wait Australia. A tour of Australia is the most intense test of any player and any coach.

Nowhere to hide in Australia

There is, literally, nowhere to hide. Order a cup of coffee and the waiter will ask how you fancy facing Shane Warne. Catch a taxi and the cabbie will remind you that South Africa lost to Victoria last weekend.

Any cracks in the team will widen under the pressure. Any weaknesses will be exploited. The process of appointing the South African coach will have been noted in Australia.

Neither Jennings nor Arthur needed to be exposed to the speculation that now surrounds them. And, bet your life on it, whoever is South African coach at the end of the year will be reminded of this speculation when he arrives in Australia.

Send your comments to Peter or discuss this column now in our debating forum.

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