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Clarke to play role in selecting coach
Australia's captain Michael Clarke will set many of the parameters for the selection of the national team's new head coach. The coach will be selected through a global search that will use the framework that brought the current Australian Football League premiership-winning coach to his job.
While Cricket Australia trumpeted the use of Crank Sports, the Melbourne-based management consultants that have redefined the parameters by which Australian Rules coaches are chosen, it will be Clarke who has an enormous say in the choosing of the successful applicant.
James Sutherland, the CA chief executive, said the relationship between the captain and the coach was arguably the most important professional bond in the game.
"My personal views are the relationship between captain and coach are as important as any relationship in cricket," Sutherland told ESPNcricinfo. "They need to be clear on their roles and responsibilities, and they need to have a real bond.
"It will vary from team to team and personality to personality, in terms of how that relationship works, but in a successful cricket team there's a strong bond between the captain and the coach and therefore Michael will be an important person as we look to set the framework and plan what the ideal characteristics and attributes are that we want from the coach."
This may well be a sign of great promise for Steve Rixon, currently Australia's fielding coach, long-time mentor of Clarke's, and formerly coach of New South Wales and New Zealand.
Rixon's time with New Zealand was particularly significant as he oversaw the growth of Stephen Fleming's captaincy in a side that ultimately played well above its limited means.
Two themes of the search for a coach will be the need for a candidate who can start swiftly, given that he is likely to be pitched into the job in mid-summer, but also someone with the vision required of the role.
Under the recommendations of the Argus review, the head coach will devote much of his time to building a unified coaching vision in concert with the states, while also delegating the coaching of the national team to his assistants at times, namely for various ODI series.
This part of the role grants the coach responsibilities in line with those of a coaching or technical director, far more than the national-team-specific commission of past coaches. Technical expertise will also be pivotal given that the new manager of team performance, Pat Howard, comes from a background rich in rugby but almost devoid of cricket.
Australia's fielding coach Steve Rixon at a practice session, Cape Town, October 10, 2011
Steve Rixon is one of the candidates to be Australia's next coach © Getty Images
"We will be looking for someone who can evolve in this role," Sutherland said. "Clearly, whoever comes in will need to hit the ground running as we go straight into a competitive phase, with a summer of six Test matches and the tri-series ahead.
"Ultimately we want whoever comes in to be able to step up into that role as head coach, as is contemplated under the team performance review, so we're looking for someone who can be more than just a coach of a cricket team."
The employment of Crank Sports has been arranged partly to speed up the selection process, given that Howard is yet to make a formal start to his tenure. However it was also done out of interest in the way the firm's framework for appointments had formalised and structured a previously ad-hoc selection process for AFL coaches.
Its merits were seen in the fortunes of the Geelong football club in 2011, when they shrugged off the loss of the long-term coach Mark Thompson and the most high-profile player in Gary Ablett to claim a third premiership in five years under the coaching of Chris Scott.
"One of the things that attracted us to what Craig Mitchell is doing at Crank Sports in other sports, particularly AFL, is to really set a strong framework that gets you to objectively assess the individual candidates against that framework," Sutherland said. "Inevitably there is a degree of subjectivity about it, but in the first instance we make sure we assess each candidate on a level playing field."