Is Andrew McDonald the best man to replace Justin Langer as Australia’s cricket coach

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When an Australian sporting team announces a worldwide search to replace someone in a key role, more often than not it ends up being given to the most convenient candidate who was already in the building.

Cricket Australia’s executives botched the handling of Justin Langer’s exit so you could be forgiven for lacking faith in their ability to replace him with the right person for the job. 

Is interim coach Andrew McDonald that person?

The one who can lead the Australian men’s team to its oft-stated goal of being the top team in all three formats?

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 29: Australian Head Coach Justin Langer speaks with Assistant coach Andrew McDonald before day four of the Second Test match between Australia and India at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 29, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

(Photo by Darrian Traynor – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Does he even want to be the head coach overseeing the three sides? All indications from his public comments when asked about his ambitions are that he seems to prefer the role to be split between two coaches and would go through the process “once we see what the job looks like”. 

And if CA goes full steam ahead with its desire to have someone overseeing the team across the Test, ODI and T20 formats, does McDonald’s inside running as the previous senior assistant coach and the players’ preference add up to him being the correct choice?

Former Test opener Ed Cowan made a salient point on the ABC Grandstand Cricket Podcast when he questioned whether McDonald’s resume as a relatively young coach should earn him what should be one of the most sought-after gigs on the global cricket landscape. 

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“I like the idea of having a very well seasoned coach, more of a mentor in the traditional sense.”

Ed cowan

There should be a barrage of resumes flooding the CA recruitment inbox from all over the globe but is this yet another worldwide search in name only? 

The kind of recruitment drive guided by modern sports business jargon that administrators use because it makes them seem proactive and professional, which are two terms most cricket fans would not use when describing the procrastination about the “transition of process” in the Langer saga. 

“I love the idea of an Australian coaching the Australian team, that’s not to say the best coach in the world is not Australian but you can always throw a Gary Kirsten into the mix,” Cowan said. 

“Other people have had sustained success across a whole range of different teams but if we’re looking locally, Trevor Bayliss is a name that would have to come to mind – a World Cup-winning coach, dramatically successful across all formats for long periods of time and I like that idea of having a very well seasoned coach, more of a mentor and coach in the traditional sense.

“Andrew McDonald, sure he’s a wonderful cricket coach but his head coaching experience is limited to two or three seasons at Victoria. Very, very green. So have him develop those skills further under a mentor, someone who he really wants to work with.”

Cowan argues there should be a pipeline of coaches so that CA can have a succession plan so it’s obvious who the next cab off the rank will be, like with the on-field leadership where a vice-captain is groomed to take over from the skipper one day.

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McDonald actually has a little bit more experience than his time with Victoria – he started coaching in 2014 on the English county scene, helping resurrect Leicestershire after they had two winless seasons. 

Returning home in 2016 to take over the reins of Victoria and Melbourne Renegades, he took them to the Sheffield Shield title in his first season.

He achieved the rare feat of a domestic treble in the 2018-19 summer with the Vics collecting the first-class and 50-over trophies and the Renegades winning the BBL crown before becoming an assistant to Langer in the national team’s set-up for the last two and a half years.

One of the drawbacks in becoming Langer’s successor is there will be extra pressure heaped on that person by the phalanx of his old teammates from Australian cricket’s golden generation from the turn of the century.

They were out in force when CA ummed and ahhed about Langer’s contract negotiations and ripped into the current players for not publicly supporting him when the coach quit after being offered a measly six-month extension.


Babar Azam & Pat Cummins (Photo: Cricket Australia)

Test skipper Pat Cummins showed the strength and leadership that had been lacking from CA’s bigwigs when he fronted the media to say he stood by his position that he thought the team had evolved and needed a new voice in the dressing room.

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Whether it’s McDonald – who briefly played Test cricket four times in 2009 – or anyone else who was not a part of the Mark Taylor-Steve Waugh-Ricky Ponting era of the 1990s and 2000s who gets the full-time coaching position, they will have little support from the powerful voices who sit in the Channel Seven and Fox Cricket commentary boxes.

CA’s new chairman Lachlan Henderson recently said they would “move quickly” to confirm Langer’s long-term replacement and a decision was likely to be made during this month’s tour of Pakistan, which gets underway in Rawalpindi on Friday.

While CEO Nick Hockley stated his preference was to have an “over-arching” head coach, Henderson has said CA was “open to advice” about whether there should be a split between white- and red-ball coaches. 

After taking months to sort out the Langer situation, it’s odd that CA is now in a rush to appoint his replacement midway through the three-Test tour of Pakistan.

Shouldn’t they wait until the end of the trip, which also includes four white-ball fixtures, to judge McDonald on his first assignment? Give him a chance to impress and be judged on his early returns in the main role.

Australia have a break for a couple of months after the T20 contest in Rawalpindi on April 6 before they are due to head to Sri Lanka which would seem like the ideal time to weigh up the coaching options. 

Or has a decision already been made for this “worldwide search” and the results in Pakistan are irrelevant? That would only add to the anti-player narrative that they were integral to the push to remove Langer and install McDonald all along.

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