Home ยป 'The boys absolutely love him' – Pat Cummins praises interim coach Andrew McDonald – ESPNcricinfo

'The boys absolutely love him' – Pat Cummins praises interim coach Andrew McDonald – ESPNcricinfo

by Arifa Rana

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Interim head coach remains favourite to take over Australia men’s coaching job full-time after 1-0 Test series win in Pakistan

Cricket Australia’s search for a new men’s coach may have narrowed to one following Australia’s triumphant 1-0 away Test series over Pakistan, with captain Pat Cummins full of praise for the role of interim coach Andrew McDonald in the team’s victory.

“Fantastic,” Cummins said of McDonald after the win in Lahore. “Not unexpected. He’s a great operator. The boys absolutely love him. Very diligent, very thorough, strategic, very organized. He’s a huge part of this tour win.”

McDonald was thrust into the interim role after the messy exit of former coach Justin Langer just weeks out from the tour of Pakistan, as he turned down offers to work in the IPL to lead the Pakistan tour.

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Cummins’ praise for McDonald’s quiet work behind the scenes on the tour is noteworthy given the Test captain’s careful answers when asked similar questions about Langer both during the former coach’s contract renewal process and after his resignation.

“His preparation, and all the support staff’s. It’s not just the 11 players who walk out; we’ve got a squad of 30-odd people who have been working so hard this month, and it’s also important. I’ve said before it’s not my place to employ the coach, but Ronnie [McDonald] has been fantastic.”

McDonald had been the senior assistant under Langer, in charge of the bowling group since late 2019. Cricket Australia added a trusted assistant for the Pakistan tour in Andre Borovec, who had worked very closely with McDonald when he was previously in charge of Victoria and Melbourne Renegades, while also bringing in a similarly friendly face in Fawad Ahmed as spin coach at short notice when full-time spin coach S Sriram was unable to tour.

Daniel Vettori, who had worked with McDonald as his replacement at Birmingham Pheonix in the Hundred last year after the Victorian was unable to coach in person due to Australia duties, will be joining Australia’s coaching group for the limited-overs matches in Pakistan after being unable to join for the Test series despite being sounded out.

Australia exuded a sense of calm and patience throughout a long series, and rarely got flustered despite the pitches offering precious little to the bowlers for large periods even when they were in dominant positions on the final days in both Karachi and Lahore.

The team had held firm to the plan throughout the series not to chase the game or try and force the issue with the ball, but rather to be patient and keep the scoreboard under control and wait for an opportunity when a hint of a reverse swing or a batting mistake opened the door.

It was a triumph of planning and execution that saw Australia claim their first away Test series victory since 2016, and their first Test series win in Asia since 2011.

“Andrew McDonald and myself have been saying that a lot – it’s a 15-day Test match,” Cummins said. “I didn’t expect it to go right down to the last session on the 15th day. I think it’s one of those ones where you want to try and speed up the game. You want to try to create things and make things happen. But if there’s nothing in the pitch, [and] if the ball is soft, you can’t just make things out of thin air.

“So you’ve got to take your medicine at times and I think we saw that in the first Test match. Absolutely you’d love to push for a result every Test match, but it’s sometimes just not possible. So I thought the way we stuck at it, we were attritional for the whole series and walked away last week still with our heads up high, confident for this week. Just really proud of the group.”

Australia’s limited-overs captain Aaron Finch revealed last week that he had spoken to the external recruitment firm that CA is using to conduct the coaching search, but only to provide insight into what the ODI and T20I teams would require of a coach over the next two years rather than endorse any specific candidate.

McDonald has been the warm favourite to take over the role full-time, and it is unlikely the head coaching role will be split into two with the chosen candidate likely to be the coach of all three formats. But there may be stronger structures in place to help manage the head coach’s workload; however, what that structure will look like could depend on the candidate chosen.

News Corp had reported that Ricky Ponting had been contacted by recruitment firm SRI along with a host of other candidates. But it is incredibly unlikely Ponting will entertain the role given what happened to his close friend Langer and his preference to coach in the IPL only with Delhi Capitals while engaging in commentary work and other business interests for the remainder of each year.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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