‘Split the role’: Calls for coaching shake-up as part of Twenty20 vision

Australia’s topsy-turvy ride towards the Twenty20 World Cup in the UAE this month could be the last under the current coaching structure.

Justin Langer is in charge of the Test, one-day international and Twenty20 teams, but there are growing calls for a revamp given the workload and diverging formats.

Previous Australia coach Darren Lehmann told the Herald and The Age that the national T20 side should have a separate mentor, a role that almost went to Ricky Ponting three years ago.

T20 cricket is the one format Australia’s men have never mastered, unlike the national women’s team, which has won five of the seven titles on offer and is the reigning champion.

Australia had the No.1 ranked Test and T20 teams midway through last year, but missed out on reaching the inaugural World Test Championship final after a series loss to India last summer.

Australia’s T20 ranking has since plunged to seventh, below Bangladesh and just above Afghanistan, after an under-strength team lost 4-1 on tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh in July and August.

Australian players not involved in the IPL left on Thursday for the T20 World Cup, which will run until mid-November.

Limited-overs captain Aaron Finch, right, with coach Justin Langer.Credit:AP

There is another T20 World Cup in Australia next year, having been postponed from last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By then Australia may not only have a new coach, with Langer’s contract ending midway through next year, but with it a new structure to manage all three formats.

Australia had no qualms splitting the captaincy more than two decades ago when Mark Taylor was dropped from the one-day team and replaced by Steve Waugh.

Likewise, later in his career, Waugh was dropped from the limited-overs side for Ricky Ponting. Australia now have Tim Paine as Test captain and Aaron Finch as white-ball skipper.

John Buchanan, who oversaw the most successful period in Australian cricket and guided Langer for most of his playing career, believes there should be a head coach overseeing specialists in each format.

Geoff Lawson, who coached Pakistan to the final of what was originally called the World T20 in 2009, believes the roles should be split. Greg Shipperd, who has steered the Sydney Sixers to the past two BBL titles, believes either option is practical.

All three agree with Lehmann that the role is too demanding for one person.

“It is a huge effort to manage all three forms, particularly when you’ve got World Cups and so on,” Buchanan told the Herald and The Age.

“I’d lean to a structure where you’d have a Justin Langer as head coach, who oversees the long form and short form of the game.

“The short-form guys would do all the preparation, all the analysis, have everything ready to go with some oversight with the head coach and then vice versa for the long form.

“The head coach doesn’t have to go on all the tours but, as a head coach, you always feel like you should be there.”

Lawson, who has been an assistant coach to Shipperd during his successful reign at the Sydney Sixers, feels T20 has become such a specialised game it needs its own structure.

“These days, with the amount of cricket that’s played and the amount of travelling and the diversity of the formats, the Australian Twenty20 team should really just have its own coaching staff,” Lawson said.

“The players are now very different. There are very few Test players playing T20 and, right now, a couple of those who cross over aren’t going very well. Maybe that’s a symptom [of playing all three formats]?”

Lawson was referring to Australia’s two most important batsmen during the past decade, Steve Smith and David Warner, who have both been dropped more than once by their IPL franchises and are currently not playing leading into the T20 World Cup.

Finch, a short-form specialist, is ranked No.3 among the world’s T20 batters, while the next highest Australian is Mitch Marsh at No.22. Marsh resurrected his international career as the only batter to have a decent white-ball tour of the West Indies and Bangladesh.

Australia’s leading T20 bowlers are white-ball specialists Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa, who are ranked sixth and seventh in the world. Next is Josh Hazlewood (No.34), who is playing with some success in the IPL, despite being regarded more as a quality Test bowler.

“Instead of paying Langer all the money as head coach, Cricket Australia should split the role and bring in a specialist who can give it his full attention,” Lawson said.

“A lot of the guys in the T20 squad are playing T20 cricket all over the world. The requirements are very different for preparation, playing and coaching staff.

“The games have drifted further apart with the way they’re played and their attitudes. That’s been borne out by Australia’s recent T20 performances.”

Shipperd was a highly successful state and BBL coach with Tasmania and Victoria before guiding the Sixers men’s team to back-to-back titles.

“I’ve done that [all three formats] as a state coach, but it’s a much bigger, wider, more challenging job at international level,” Shipperd said.

“I wouldn’t have a problem at all with the notion of splitting coaches on assessment of the personalities, who would be doing the job at a particular time.

“It might be the perfect combination you get working together strongly, but you’ve got definitive roles in either areas.

“The obvious one might be that Justin takes the Test and one-day team and someone else could do the T20 role into the future.

“Or you could have the head coach being the cricket manager with say [assistants] Andrew McDonald doing Test cricket and Michael Di Venuto doing white-ball cricket.

“You’ve got separate coaches and an overall connector. There are a couple of models you could work towards reviewing the pain and strain of the people who are doing it [national coaching].”

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