Dennis Lillee, the Australian fast bowling legend hailed as the most important figure in Mitchell Johnson's revival, has walked away from his role with Cricket Australia after demanding more money for his services.
Lillee and Cricket Australia part ways
Despite Dennis Lillee's decision to part ways with Cricket Australia, chief cricket writer Chloe Saltau believes Australia's fast bowlers are "still in good hands".
CA was not willing to meet Lillee's terms to continue his work with Australia's pacemen but said the door was always open for him to return. Lillee's contract with Cricket Australia was for just 11 days' work last year.
“Unfortunately Dennis Lillee didn’t accept Cricket Australia’s offer to renew his contract," a CA spokesman told Fairfax Media. "He is a great of the game and the door will always be open to him if he wants to return and be involved in any way. We’ve made a point in recent times of being open to bringing in coaching consultants when required."
Lillee worked closely with Johnson after he succumbed to injury and an extreme crisis of confidence in 2011-12, when many wrote him off as a Test bowler. He is credited with helping to fix the left-armer's technical issues, including his approach to the crease and his arm position, and restore his self-confidence.
Johnson's manager, Sam Halvorsen, on Tuesday said no one had done more to help him re-emerge as the ferocious bowler who destroyed England and South Africa last season.
"That is disappointing news. It's absolutely disappointing that somebody of Dennis' ilk isn't going to be contracted to Cricket Australia," Halvorsen said. "He was the most important figure [in Johnson's resurgence] as far as cricket is concerned," Halvorsen said.
However, he added that Lillee had worked with Johnson before he was employed by CA and hoped their relationship would continue, even though they do not have a formal agreement. "I certainly hope so," Halvorsen said. "If Dennis is willing, Mitch is willing."
Lillee's other pupils have included Pat Cummins and James Faulkner, and he put recovering quicks James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc through their paces in the nets at the WACA Ground during last summer's Perth Ashes Test.
It's not the first time he has fallen out with Cricket Australia over remuneration. In 2004, he quit his post as figurehead of Pace Australia when the governing body refused to meet his demands.
But he returned to the fold in January 2013 as a pace bowling advisor to "provide coaching services, guidance and mentorship to Australia's up-and-coming fast bowlers as well as the current national men's team".
CA this week announced it had extended the contract of highly valued Test bowling mentor Craig McDermott for another two years and expanded his role to cover major tours across the other formats, including next year's World Cup alongside limited overs bowling coach Ali de Winter.
While Lillee's association with Cricket Australia has ended, there is nothing to stop individual players making their own arrangements with him - although he appeared to make clear in a recent radio interview he would not be lending his expertise for free.
"They [the young bowlers] are good and they do need direction. But at the moment I'm out of contract and, as again with Cricket Australia, they're quibbling over an increase, so I don't know if I've got a contract," Lillee said on SEN in February.
"Out of the goodness of my heart I am still in touch with [Cummins], he's a good lad and he's got a big future, but I'm over that, I've got other work to do. Not particularly Pat but then everyone comes on board and Cricket Australia think 'here he is, he'll just continue to do it anyway'. So I'm taking a stance."