Jon Coates,The Scotsman
Peter Drinnen (left in photo) was yesterday relieved of his flagship duties as Cricket Scotland's national coach, consigned to working with Scotland A and the under-23 side for the remainder of his tenure after a cabal of players and CS board members registered a loss of faith in his work with the national team.
The Australian's position became untenable in the aftermath of the failed World Cup campaign in March as resistance to his methods grew. Drinnen was made aware of the extent of the internal revolt by The Scotsman last week and retorted by accusing veteran players of trying to remove him in order to prolong their own international careers.
The 39-year-old had been trying since the World Cup to refresh an ageing Scotland team and his perceived insensitivity and indecisiveness in that process hampered relations that had already been on the way south.
Drinnen's contract expires at the end of December and Cricket Scotland said last night he had been given annual leave until the end of July, whereafter he would continue working with the second-string and juniors. However, Scotland A are due to play against Durham from 25 July in their penultimate match in the Second XI County Championship. Neither Drinnen nor any CS employee was available for comment but the coach confirmed he was heading home to Queensland for "a few weeks" of rest.
For the rest of 2007, the national coach's most prominent duties will be filled on a caretaker basis by the likes of Andy Lawson, his right-hand man at the World Cup, CS Head of Education and Development Andy Tennant and Youth Development Manager Peter Steindl. With Drinnen's salary covered in the main by Sportscotland, tight finances preclude the swift recruitment of a replacement, and no national coach will be appointed to guide the team to the World Twenty20 in South Africa in September, which Drinnen will be distraught to miss after the coup of qualifying in style when his team beat Kenya.
Four days before Ryan Watson's squad departs for Ireland, CS has yet to identify who will coach the players against West Indies in Dublin on Thursday. A quadrangular one-day international series also involves difficult matches against the hosts and the Netherlands.
Roddy Smith, the CS chief executive, said in a statement: 'We would like to take this opportunity to thank Peter for his work with the senior team over the last 18 months, which culminated in the team's excellent performance at the World Cricket League.
'However, given Peter's wider remit, it is felt that a change of personnel is required with the national team as we look forward to our participation in the Twenty20 World Championship, a full fixture list in 2008 and the next ICC World Cup qualifying event in 2009.
'The A team has developed under Peter's guidance and already three or four members of this team have made the breakthrough to the national side. I would like to place on record my gratitude to Peter for his hard work and contribution to the development of the national side.'
Like the removal of his predecessor, Andy Moles, Drinnen's demise will be dressed up as a resignation but Drinnen, before going quiet in recent days, had expressed devastation at the abrupt cessation of duties to which he dedicated every waking hour. He genuinely hadn't seen it coming. Whoever replaces him will struggle to live up to his work ethic but, in the cut-throat world of international team sport, progress is everything and critics of his man-management style and methods of communication used the Saltires' deteriorating form in the FP Trophy as an indicator of the need for change.
Drinnen lost his job because of a growing consensus in the dressing room that he was not the man to take Scottish cricket forward. Dougie Lockhart, the players' representative, met the various power-brokers in Glasgow on Monday night to clarify where his peers felt the coach had gone wrong. A few board members alone would have lacked the power to force such a dramatic change. On Wednesday, it is understood that Drinnen was summoned to a meeting with Smith and told that his time in the top job was over.
The charge levelled, of not being able to take the game forward, is complicated by a climate of such penury that Craig Wright, the World Cup captain, recently confessed he feared the team would hit "a glass ceiling" without further investment. In the absence of imminent riches that will nourish the game, Drinnen's successor will prove whether this allegation was fair. The first sign of a man more suited to the job would be a buoyant dressing room.
While coming across shy at first, Drinnen proved to be an eloquent conversationalist. However, he had never coached a major team before and how he handles a group can only be judged by those who have been within earshot. Contrasting impressions were gleaned from members of the national team and those in the Scotland A team that so quickly found its feet in England after an eye-opening introduction. Young players in that group were stunned by the news that Drinnen's job was on the line because he had already played a huge mentoring role in their development.
At the top level, however, there were increasing signs of a lack of belief in the coach. One player rolled his eyes before going into a long meeting on the eve of the squad's departure on tour in January, at which Drinnen was armed with an OHP and an armful of acetates. You can imagine how Dougie Brown and Gavin Hamilton, veteran professionals, must have dreaded being bombarded with new-fangled philosophies.
Cricket Scotland had no obvious performance-related justification to sack its national coach. It is understood that the latest official review of his work was rated "exemplary", and Scotland's exploits in Kenya in January earned them a crack at the World Twenty20, a £128,000 prize and associate bragging rights. That, on the back of an encouraging 2006, was, on the plain basis of results, plenty to guarantee him more than the improperly short period of two years. Especially when his appointment was made with stability and steady progress, rather than miraculously quick returns, in mind.
From speaking to a range of Drinnen's detractors, a picture has emerged of a more quixotic character than the man who so clearly and enthusiastically underlined his objectives. He sometimes misjudged the mood in the camp and, though eager to receive feedback on his own performances, didn't always absorb it.
One player reported that, after a World Cup warm-up defeat to Sri Lanka, he told the team that respectability against Australia and South Africa, in the group stages, was the only thing to aim for. He might have been right, but players who had dreamed of enacting a famous upset were left bewildered.
Drinnen is a fine man who dearly wanted to make Scottish cricket stronger and left no stone unturned in trying. The only reputations tarnished here are those of Smith, his senior advisers and the players who pushed for Drinnen's promotion from technical director, only to pull the plug on him after such a cursory period. Opportunities knock for Scottish cricket but the job of coach has seldom looked less attractive.