No kidding: 'Billy' McDermott is an Irishman for now
Giant killers ... Irish cricketers celebrate victory over England in their 2011 World Cup match in Bangalore. Photo: PHILIP BROWN
CRAIG McDermott helped develop what he thinks will be one of the best bowling attacks Australia has produced, but the job took a toll. Now he is ensconsed in the dressing room of Ireland, Australia's first opponent at the World Twenty20 in Colombo.
He has no regrets about leaving Cricket Australia and expects he will continue to shape the careers of the Australian quicks he counts as friends, but for the moment he is teaching new tricks to the likes of Boyd Rankin, a cattle and sheep farmer from county Derry who aspires to represent England, and 38-year-old Trent Johnston, the ex-NSW seamer who has captained Ireland and represented that country at two World Cups.
He believes Ireland is capable of pulling off the mother of all upsets.
"It feels good to get back on the road," McDermott told Fairfax Media. "I thought it was a great opportunity for me to see how another country ticks, especially an associate country.
"From my side and also the lads' side it's not just about the impact I can have at this tournament, it's how they can improve their games long term.
I'm not looking for anything other than the best they can offer. Boyd Rankin's record so far speaks for itself and Trent Johnston has been around longer than me," he added.
"They've caused upsets in the past [defeating Pakistan and England at 50-over World Cups], they're a well-balanced team, they've got six players who play county cricket and if they play to their ability they can certainly cause an upset at some stage."
McDermott played down the importance of his knowledge of the Australian team and said he had no regrets about leaving the Australian bowling coach job after this year's tour of the West Indies, just a year into his contract. He cited the relentless demands of touring and has since spoken of personal circumstances that forced him out of the job.
"I had some personal things I needed to attend to and I did that, and during that time the position was filled [by Tasmania's Ali de Winter], so life goes on. I'm not disappointed in any way, shape or form, I'm back on the road, I've just had a fantastic six weeks with the Australian under-19 team and we'll see where this next couple of weeks leads with Ireland and life after that. I've left my options open at the moment so we'll see where the road leads."
McDermott keeps in regular contact with Victorians James Pattinson and Peter Siddle, who are not in the World Twenty20 squad.
"James calls me and I talk to Sidds, I've kept in touch with a number of the bowlers since I left the job. I was going to do some work with Sidds and also Patto at the Vics' camp at the CoE a couple of weeks ago but I had to leave on this tour. Those guys are not just bowlers to me, they're friends of mine, so if they want to chat at any stage, or vice-versa, and that friendship continues.
"I think we've got 10 or 12 guys in Australia that on their day could be one of the best attacks we've had," said McDermott, whose son Alister recently toured with Australia's limited-overs squad.
The other team in Group B is the highly fancied West Indies, home to Ireland's head coach Phil Simmons.
"You can tell people things, give them ideas, but then it comes down to their ability to execute those plans, so they've got to be comfortable under pressure to execute against David Warner, Shane Watson, Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, whoever it happens to be over those two games. I know there's a lot of talk about us and the Australians because I'm involved but Phil Simmons is the head coach and he knows the West Indies very well," McDermott said.
Australian coach Mickey Arthur said he was unfazed by McDermott's presence in the opposing dressing room for a game in which Australia hopes to demonstrate that it's a much more dangerous team than its current No.9 ranking suggests.
"The coaches don't play the game. He could pass on all that info that he liked," Arthur said. "It's like when hopefully we come up against [Arthur's former team] South Africa deep in the tournament, the players still have to go out there. I'm just happy to see 'Bill' back on the circuit. It will be nice to catch up with him."