Behind the seams
England can adjust their back-room set-up if they appoint a part-time bowling coach, says Bob Willis.
Last Updated: 03/02/10 11:35am
England don't need to rush into appointing a full-time replacement for former bowling coach Ottis Gibson.
It's long been my view that England are hopelessly top-heavy with back-up staff and Gibson's decision to become head coach of the West Indies should give the Andy Flower-Andrew Strauss regime a chance to reassess the structure of their set-up.
If I was Flower I would look for someone to come in on a temporary basis - much as Graham Gooch did in South Africa when he was drafted in to work with the batsman - rather than someone to jump into the job full-time.
I'd also go down this road because there isn't anyone whose credentials leap out. England rushed into appointing Peter Moores as coach in 2007, which proved a mistake, and I'm sure they won't want to be so hasty again so soon.
I've got great respect for Darren Gough after what he did during his England career and perhaps he'd fit the bill if he's back on the cricketing track rather than the celebrity one. If Gough is happy to fill the role part-time, that's the way I might do it short-term.
Allan Donald's name has also been mentioned and, of course, he has a definite advantage over someone like Ian Pont or Kevin Shine, who was shoehorned into the job in 2006, in the sense that he has been there and done it at the highest level.
Steve Watkin is another possible candidate; he has a tough job down at Glamorgan at present but knows what he is talking about when it comes to bowling, even it's difficult to put him on the same pedestal as Gough.
Whoever does succeed Gibson will no doubt find it a difficult role to fulfil.
Coaching bowling technique is a very specific skill and if you start tinkering with people too much mid-term it can have fairly disastrous results.
Ideally, the hard work is done at county level and the merest of tweaking is needed when a player moves into the international stage.
But over the years we've seen people like Alex Tudor, Andrew Flintoff and Norman Cowans fast-tracked into senior cricket because if someone appears on the scene and can bowl fast they tend to be rushed in. It's keeping them bowling fast that seems to be the problem.
Troy Cooley remains the benchmark when it comes to bowling coaches and even he's had his problems with moulding Australia's bowlers into an effective strike-force so it's not only coaching which makes a fine bowler - temperament and talent are big facets too.
On the whole I think Gibson has done a fairly good job during his spell with England - at the time of writing three England bowlers are in the top 15 of the ICC Test rankings.
Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have all come on under his guidance and there is clearly more talent around, with Ryan Sidebottom and Graham Onions to the fore.
We've now got to find out where Luke Wright and Sajid Mahmood are going with their bowling and whether Steven Finn, who continues to make noises at Middlesex, can make the step up.
And what of Chris Tremlett? Can he shake off his sick-note reputation and get a new start at Surrey? The Oval is a very difficult place to bowl seam up with any success.
How much say Gibson will have in his new role remains to be seen. Hopefully the wrangles with the players' union will die down and the West Indies Cricket Board will hopefully get their act together.
But I think that (through no particular fault of their own) coach after coach will get the sack until there is somebody who wants to change the culture of how things are done in the West Indies AND is able to bring about that change. Whether Gibson is the man for that, I don't really know.
Yes, he will be responsible for coaching all of the West Indies representative teams but like any coach he will be judged by the performances of the senior team.
The West Indies have got to get some kind of Test match culture back into their thinking.
Stanford and the IPL have made some of their players very wealthy individuals and the passion that the likes of Sir Viv Richards and Michael Holding showed while representing the West Indies hasn't been burning so brightly in recent years.
Gibson can be thankful that he's starting his new job once the one-day series against Australia is over because Ricky Ponting's side isn't taking any prisoners at present.
He's also fortunate that the West Indies are hosting the World Twenty20 in May because that is probably the form of the game that the side is best at; the spotlight will certainly be on the team then and if Gibson can do a reasonable job it should give him a big boost.