Aussies lose ‘genius’ spin coach ahead of India tour

Australia has suffered a blow ahead of next year’s Border-Gavaskar series in India with long-serving spin-bowling assistant coach Sridharan Sriram calling time on his tenure with the Australian men’s team.

India-born Sriram played eight one-day internationals between 2000 and 2004, and once opened the batting alongside Sachin Tendulkar, before moving into coaching and at one point being hailed a “genius” by members of the Australian side.

Coaching in India, England and New Zealand since 2008, Sriram had linked up with the Australian system by 2015, firstly with the Australia A program on an Indian tour before becoming a more regular member of the backroom staff on Asian visits from 2016 onwards.

He rose to prominence among Aussie fans after a drought-breaking Test win in Pune on the 2017 India tour, notably working with Steve O’Keefe to unlock a strategy that allowed the spinner to claim the extraordinary figures of 12-70.

He outlined his no-nonsense approach to working with the Aussies in 2017 succinctly when he told reporters: “I come in and if I talk sense, they listen to me. If I talk bulls–t, they don’t. It’s as simple as that.

“I think it’s taken time (but) they’ve really been open, that’s the best thing about this Australian team,” he elaborated in the afterglow of the Pune win. “They’ve been open to listen first and then obviously I made sense a little bit and they started listening and they started trying out things in the nets and saw that it worked for them.”

Sriram giving throw-downs ahead of the Pune Test in 2017 // Getty

A long-time collaborator with Nathan Lyon, more recently Sriram has forged close bonds with the likes of Adam Zampa, Mitchell Swepson, Glenn Maxwell and Marnus Labuschagne across formats, and is renowned for his work with both batters and bowlers.

His first tour with Australia’s senior team was the 2016 trip to Sri Lanka and coincidentally his last was last month’s visit to the same nation. He did not join the squad on this year’s trip to Pakistan after he was unable to secure a visa.

Sriram, who began his playing career in his home state of Tamil Nadu and then progressed to India’s Under-19 team as a specialist left-arm spinner before improving his batting skills to become considered a genuine allrounder, has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Australian cricket.

In 2000, he joined future India Test players SS Das and Mohammad Kaif as the inaugural recipients of a Gavaskar-Border Scholarship that enabled them to broaden their experiences through a stint at Australia’s vaunted cricket academy, then based in Adelaide.

Training under the tutelage of then head coach Rod Marsh, and alongside young Australian talents such as Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz, Sriram quickly learned the differences in attitude and approach between the two nations.

Sriram bowls in an ODI against Bangladesh in 2004 // AFP
Sriram bowls in an ODI against Bangladesh in 2004 // AFP

His relationship with Marsh and his offsider Troy Cooley led to him being engaged as a spin-bowling consultant working with Australia A and developing squads in Asian conditions in 2015.

At the time, Marsh and Cooley held prominent positions within the Aussie system – Marsh as the National Selection Panel chair and Cooley as head coach at the now Brisbane-based National Cricket Centre.

Sriram has elected to focus on his coaching with the Royal Challengers Bangalore and spending more time with family at home in Chennai where he is based.

“After being on the road for six years it’s with a heavy heart I have decided to move on from my current role as an assistant coach of the Australian men’s team,” he said in a statement.

“I feel this is an opportune moment keeping in mind the team, giving them enough time to prepare for two World Cups and the World Test Championship.

“It has been a great experience for me working across formats, World Cups and Ashes and I have come out incredibly richer in knowledge.

“I am extremely grateful to Cricket Australia for all their support in the years that I have been involved with them.”

Sriram watches on as Mitch Swepson bowls in the Dhaka nets in 2017 // Getty
Sriram watches on as Mitch Swepson bowls in the Dhaka nets in 2017 // Getty

Sriram’s departure four weeks out from Australia’s next assignment, one-day series in Far North Queensland against Zimbabwe and New Zealand, follows an overhaul of Australia’s coaching staff that began with the exit of Justin Langer earlier this year.

Andrew McDonald was appointed the full-time head coach in April, with new assistants in legendary New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori and Andre Borovec appointed in April.

While McDonald and Vettori had played and coached together at Royal Challengers Bangalore, Borovec’s appointment as a full-time assistant coach was rare given most coaches who progress to international level generally have playing experience at least at domestic first-class level.

The 44-year-old former teacher and ex-first-grade wicketkeeper with Geelong in Victorian Premier Cricket has become a highly-rated mentor with Victoria, the Melbourne Renegades and, more recently, with Australia on limited-overs series during the past 12 months.

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