Australia coach head Justin Langer has promised he won’t call his senior assistant Andrew McDonald as he hands over the reins for Australia’s three-match ODI tour of India next week.
Langer will remain in Perth to take a well-earned break following a triumphant home summer thus far where his side went undefeated across six T20Is and five Test matches.
McDonald will take the lead coaching role with Australia for the first time after being convinced to join Langer’s coaching staff late last year. Langer, who had a similar chance to take the job in a stand-in capacity when Darren Lehmann missed a series in West Indies in 2016, wants to allow McDonald to take control of this tour.
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“I said to him this morning, we aren’t inventing the wheel,” Langer said. “He’s got a really good opportunity, I’m so confident in our coaching staff with the cricket side of things.
“He’s an excellent coach and we have other excellent coaches to back him up. I said to him I won’t ring him, I’ll let him go, but he said ‘I might ring you’. He’ll do a really good job. I’m sure for three one-dayers it will go really well.”
McDonald was so highly regarded by Langer that in a bid to lure him into the national set-up he was allowed to maintain his coaching roles in the IPL with the Rajasthan Royals and in the Hundred with the Birmingham Phoenix. McDonald is the clear front-runner to take the Australia job in the future, should he want it, and taking charge of this tour is part of his development.”Of course,” Langer said when asked about the potential of McDonald stepping up permanently one day. “He’s the senior assistant coach of the Australian team.”
“Looking back, it was a big part of my apprenticeship, no doubt about that. There’s different things that happen along the way and one of those was getting the opportunity to coach in the West Indies from Boof [Darren Lehmann]. It’s all part of the apprenticeship. He’s got great credentials and he’ll keep growing.”
Australia have made a number of changes to the ODI squad from the one that lost the World Cup semi-final to England. The all-round duo of Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis have been omitted after being automatic selections over the previous 18 months while Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh have also made way in the top order.
Marnus Labuschagne has been given his opportunity after a stunning Test summer and strong domestic form, where he was named joint player of the tournament in the Marsh Cup, Australia’s 50-over domestic competition, which Langer said gave the selectors the opportunity to bring him in.
“[I’m] really excited about that,” Langer said. “If you look at his domestic one-day record, it’s excellent. The fact that he’s done so well, he’s given us some ammunition to select him but he also fits one of those roles we’re looking for – the middle-order batsman, runs hard between the wickets, plays spin very well, very fit, gun fielder, bowls a few leggies. It’s a great package for one-day cricket so we’re very excited to see how he goes. And he deserves that opportunity. Not just on his Test form but on his domestic one-day form as well.”
Australia do not play Test cricket again until June in Bangladesh, with ODI and T20 assignments in India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand taking place before then. But Langer was already casting his mind forward to a tour where Australia have had trouble in the past. He was part of a team that almost lost the first Test to Bangladesh in 2006 when they arrived horribly underdone after a three-Test tour to South Africa.
Australia then lost a Test there in 2017, eventually drawing the two-Test series 1-1. They played with three spinners in one of the matches but the success of Australia’s frontline quicks on some slower pitches in England as well as in Australia may see a rethink of their strategy, as they did in India in 2004.
“Maybe,” Langer said. “We’ll look at the conditions. I remember when Australia won after many, many years in India – in 2004 – it was on the back of some very, very disciplined fast bowling. Adam Gilchrist was the captain. We had very clear plans and we talked about during the Ashes series, we had very clear plans on that.
“So it could happen, it’d be so hard to leave out one of those three or four bowlers. So we’ll look at that when it comes to Bangladesh, but there’s a good combination at the moment.”
Mitchell Swepson, who was called into the squad for the Sydney Test, is the frontrunner for one of the extra spin-bowling slots alongside Nathan Lyon. The other key question will be whether they take a seam-bowling allrounder but, as Langer noted, the candidates – he name-checked Mitchell Marsh, Cameron Green, Marcus Stoinis and Moises Henriques – are currently either not bowling or doing very little.
Marsh, who broke his hand early in the season, should be able to increase his bowling loads when the Sheffield Shield resumes in February but it remains to be seen whether 20-year-old Green, who is tipped for higher honours, will have the ball back after suffering a stress fracture of his back.