Jon Coates, The Scotsman
Cricket followers with an elevated view of Scotland's stature in the game would have received a jolt to the system when the governing body promoted its community development manager to the role of head coach.
Pete Steindl, 37, will take sole responsibility for Scotland's fortunes up to and including the next World Cup qualifying event in the spring of 2009, on which the game's financial security hangs. According to Cricket Scotland, the Australian gave a very persuasive interview and his appointment may well turn out to be the result of an inspired hunch, but this is a punt on potential alone, even allowing for the cover provided by Adi Birrell, the former Ireland coach who will work for about 30 days next year as a consultant.
Steindl was born and brought up in the small town of Beaudesert in south-east Queensland, but has been living in this country almost continuously since arriving to play for Cupar at the age of 20.
An all-rounder, he was part of Scotland's first World Cup squad in 1999, but he played in none of the five matches. Only a year ago, the married father of two girls was working for Edinburgh Council as a project manager; from 1 January he will have rather higher profile duties as mentor to the cricket team ranked 13th in the world.
"It will be very different from my previous role, but as a coach I have been involved in the national youth squads for the last 12 years, and the women's squad, and then this year I had a couple of months at the back end of the season where I worked with the national squad with Andy Tennant," Steindl told The Scotsman yesterday. "I've always wanted to coach and to do that in a full-time role, and it's just a matter of waiting until your chance comes about."
Steindl and Tennant, the newly-designated "head of cricket" who didn't apply for the top job and will instead look after Scotland A, took caretaker charge of the national team after the removal of Peter Drinnen in July, travelling to Ireland and to South Africa for the World Twenty20. The players reported back favourably on the new regime, which reassured the powers-that-be that a good working relationship might this time endure. Both Drinnen and his predecessor, Andy Moles, had been paid off after losing the faith of the dressing room.
"The key is to prepare the best support mechanism for the players, so they can go out there and play to the best of their ability and we can achieve good results," said the unassuming Steindl, from under his trademark baseball cap, at Cricket Scotland HQ. "I want to be a proactive coach who is visible and who gets around the country as much as I can. I'm very keen on establishing the fact that we are all one big team."
There is nothing statesmanlike about Steindl and he confessed to having no idea whether he could be inspirational when addressing Scotland as a group, where Drinnen fell down. But some such duties will fall to Birrell, who turned Ireland into a slick unit and left on the greatest possible high after his team reached the Super 8 phase of this year's World Cup.
Having conducted six interviews, a four-man panel comprising CS chief executive Roddy Smith, chairman Keith Oliver, chairman of selectors David Loudon and players' representative Dougie Lockhart picked Steindl as their preferred option, while acknowledging that his lack of experience could leave him totally out of his depth.
So a summons went out to Dublin-based Birrell, who is respected by the players and wasn't in the market for a full-time role for family reasons. "Adi is a big coup for us," said Smith, adamant nevertheless that Steindl would be in charge. It is reasonably safe to state that Steindl, a cricket fanatic who will take diligently to the task, would not have been landed the plum position if Dougie Brown, Tennant or Craig Wright had not successively decided that the timing wasn't right for them.
Smith confirmed that financial constraints had ruled out some other, "very high-profile" candidates, but insisted: "We had options. Peter came through the process very strongly, ahead of some experienced coaches."