Cow Corner

Can Arthur transform ailing Australia?

Cow Corner

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Former South Africa cricket coach Mickey Arthur has been tasked with completing a sweeping revamp of a beleaguered Australia side after he became their first foreign head coach.

It has not been a good year in any respect for Australia, from the culmination of a disastrous Ashes campaign to being skittled out for 47 in humiliating fashion by South Africa.

Australia's worst total for all of 109 years unbelievably represented something of a recovery from having been a galling 21-9 at one stage, and it epitomised the downward spiral they have suffered.

Can it possibly get any worse, and is the steely Arthur the man to restore some pride within the ranks? Mitchell Johnson has been ruled out for up to five months, sparing the new selectors a big decision, and the inconsistent paceman a probable dropping.

The 43-year-old was in charge of the Proteas from 2005 until 2010 and had most recently been coaching Western Australia. His contract runs until after the 2015 World Cup, to be jointly held by Australia and New Zealand.

Arthur was presented at a media conference at Cricket Australia's headquarters in Melbourne, just hours after his new charges completed a tense two-wicket victory over his old team in Johannesburg.

He replaces former coach Tim Nielsen who resigned after the Australian tour of Sri Lanka in September. Troy Cooley had been in charge on an acting basis for the tour of South Africa.

Arthur beat out the challenge of former New Zealand coach Steve Rixon, whose services as fielding coach the South African wants to retain despite the fact that he was considered one of the favourites for the top job.

His appointment was the latest in a restructuring of the outfit that included the appointment of former Australia rugby international Pat Howard as CA's general manager for team performance and a revamp of the selection panel.

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Former chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch and selector Greg Chappell were both ditched with John Inverarity named new full-time chairman of selectors, with former Test players Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel as part-time selectors.

Captain Michael Clarke and Arthur will also act as selectors, while Arthur also takes an overall strategic view of the national team and will work with state coaches to aid in player development and pathways to the top level.

Arthur will first be tasked with leading his side into a two-Test series against New Zealand, starting in Brisbane on December 1, before hosting India for a four-Test series starting on December 26.

The most immediate issue the South African is confronted with are the futures of a host of senior players, and the infusion of young talent.

Speculation remains rife regarding the selection of former captain Ricky Ponting, and it is widely expected that his career could be ended at the conclusion of the series against India, if not sooner.

Meanwhile, wicket-keeper Brad Haddin has been in poor form and only the fact that the sprightly Tim Paine has been injured has seen the underfire veteran keep his spot, with Johnson also spared the ignominy of an omission due to his foot problem.

But Arthur is a man capable of making big decisions, and it will be his ability to stamp his authority on a group of players lacking confidence and direction that will be crucial.

Arthur, it cannot be forgotten, fought unceasing battles with South Africa's cricket administrators as he and Graeme Smith forged a team capable of claiming victory in Australia. The struggle was relentless, and it ultimately hastened Arthur's departure from the job, much to the chagrin of the players.

The South African now has the opportunity to shape the culture and development of this Australia side, alongside a fairly inexperienced skipper in Clarke.

Despite their much-publicised struggles in the longest format of the game and a lowly ranking of sixth in the newly released T20 table, this maligned Australia unit sit atop the one-day international rankings.

It represents the most difficult challenge of his career, but equally a hugely promising opportunity to galvanise a side with potential which belies their current world standing.

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