Challenges ahead for CA: Townsend
The most controversial summer of international cricket has finally lurched to an underwhelming finish with Twenty20 captain Aaron Finch set to follow his World Cup-winning coach Justin Langer out the door.
It seems years ago that Australia fell one SCG wicket short of an Ashes whitewash – the third in five home series.
For all the glory of that success, and the World Cup triumph that started the season, cricket has been mired in controversy, conspiracy and mediocrity.
Thank goodness the summer is over and football is looming large on the horizon.
The BBL is cooked – which is no surprise given that Cricket Australia put its golden goose in the oven and turned up the heat – while the leadership traumas are still bubbling though not with the ferocity that marked the tumultuous exits of Langer and Test captain Tim Paine.
Still, it might pay selection chairman George Bailey to watch his back. Both Langer and Paine were victims of a successful NSW-based conspiracy that comprised players, management and the media, and was designed to usher new faces into the captaincy and coaching roles.
Pat Cummins has slipped seamlessly into the Test captaincy and don’t be surprised if he adds the white ball roles – if only until after the imminent World Cups in 50 and 20 over formats.
Finch is only just hanging on in both and, at 35, with a dodgy fitness history and a T20 average of exactly 20 in the past eight months and six single-figure scores in his past eight innings, may not have much time left in the game.
Andrew McDonald is the frontrunner to become coach and is auditioning well enough with a 4-1 start in the underwhelming series against Sri Lanka.
McDonald has had his eye on the top job for some time but he is a good man manager, has a strong pedigree on and off the field and will bring a calmness to the position that augers well for his relationship with players unhappy to be confronted about their flaws.
Michael Lewis, the author of Money Ball and a prominent interpreter of modern American themes, once wrote a book named Coach about his high school baseball coach. Lewis’ passionate and sometimes incendiary coach Billy Fitzgerald had plenty of parallels with Langer, including his later day problems with the players and their families uncomfortable with his demands for commitment and excellence.
“The past was no longer on speaking terms with the present,” Lewis wrote about the disconnect between the coach’s early players, who thrived under his direct approach, and the modern-day athletes who were appalled to be instructed to work harder and play with intensity.
New Cricket Australia chairman Lach Henderson has plenty on his plate but he is a sharp operator, has a dry sense of humour that will help him through some of the challenges ahead and should have the full support of the board after the late change of heart about the need for an external candidate to take the chair.
Whether he is willing or able to take on the forces that have influenced Australian cricket this summer will provide his sternest test.
This column has argued previously that the appalling management of the Langer affair, and Paine before that, make most of CA’s senior administrators unfit to remain in their positions. Henderson should usher the majority of his board out the door but how could he do so after getting their support to sit in the top chair?
John Townsend has been an award-winning sports writer for more than 30 years. He was chief cricket writer at The West Australian for 23 of them, covering a record 122 Tests including four Ashes tours, and four World Cup campaigns. He has also covered more than 500 WAFL and AFL matches. He will write a weekly column for SportFM this year.