From Africa to England, Dizzy finally heads home
Ex-Test quick to take the reins with his former state side on a three-year deal after he finishes stint with Sussex in the UK
19 August 2020, 03:23 PM AEST
A decade after embarking on a coaching journey that took him to Africa then England, Jason Gillespie will return 'home' after securing the job to rebuild South Australia's West End Redbacks men's team.
His three-year appointment was today confirmed by SA Cricket Association chief executive Keith Bradshaw just hours after Gillespie shared the news with players at Sussex, where he will finish his coaching tenure at the conclusion of England's domestic cricket season.
"I’m deeply honoured to be afforded the opportunity to coach the South Australian cricket team," Gillespie said from England today.
"The chance to work with the players, coaches and off field team at the SACA is very exciting."
Gillespie, who will also remain head coach of Adelaide Strikers in the KFC Big Bash League, was touted as front-runner for the Redbacks role when his former SA teammate Jamie Siddons departed last March.
However, economic fall-out from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and SACA's commissioning of a detailed review completed last month by former Test batter Mike Hussey brought delays to the appointment of Siddons' replacement.
It is understood a number of high-profile candidates including England's World Cup-winning coach Trevor Bayliss and ex-Australia Test pair Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers were among the eight names short-listed for the position.
Gillespie's appointment comes despite the 45-year-old having a year to run on his contract at Sussex where he has been coaching since 2018.
Sussex announced today Gillespie would depart at season's end to take up the SA job but, with the England domestic T20 competition not scheduled to finish until late September, it might be nearer the beginning of the Australian season before he completes mandatory quarantine and joins his team.
"We are hopeful that Jason will be on the ground here (in Adelaide) early October," Bradshaw said today.
"We felt obligated, as did Jason – that's the sort of person that he is – that he wanted to finish his contract with Sussex this year.
"But that (delayed arrival) would have been a concern for any other coach that was coming from overseas or even interstate at the moment."
SA have floundered at the foot of the Marsh Sheffield Shield ladder for the past three seasons after reaching consecutive finals in 2015-16 and 2016-17, and have claimed the Shield just once in almost 40 years – in 1995-96 when Gillespie and Siddons were key players.
Hussey's review, commissioned to shed light on the Redbacks' long record of under-achievement, called for widespread changes including appointment of a high-calibre coaching unit overseen by a senior coach who is "organised, planned, disciplined, focused on values, standards, culture and development of players".
The report also advised the new coaching structure should include "a balance between people who know the SA way and people from outside the state who have worked in successful programs".
"Jason had a really clear vision of where he wants to take the playing group," Bradshaw said in outlining the reasons underpinning Gillespie's appointment.
"We have a young playing group with some stars that are coming through with the likes of (Test vice-captain) Travis Head, Kane Richardson, Alex Carey and some other players that are developing.
"He has a great rapport with those players, he has a proven track record and with his road map for success, it was a great pitch to us and we were overwhelmingly impressed with his vision and how he was going to go about the job."
During a decade as a senior coach, Gillespie has achieved significant results with teams that had previously struggled for success, most notably English county outfit Yorkshire who (like SA) had won just one championship title in 45 years before his appointment in 2012.
Under his guidance and through judicious recruiting, the famous county finished runners-up to Durham in 2013 before claiming back-to-back titles in 2014-15.
In 2015-16, Gillespie took the reins at Adelaide Strikers for BBL|05 after his predecessor, ex-Victoria captain Darren Berry, parted company with SACA having led the team to the competition's minor premiership the previous summer.
Gillespie duly landed the Strikers' first BBL crown three years later, and in 2016-17 was installed as assistant to national men's team coach Justin Langer to work with Australia's T20 outfit.
In addition to being Australia's first recognised Indigenous Test player when he received his Baggy Green Cap in 1996, Gillespie played 71 Tests and 97 one-day internationals for his country alongside his 54 Shield appearances and 52 domestic one-day matches for SA.
It was in his final on-field season, with Welsh county team Glamorgan, that he was inspired to consider coaching as a future career due to the influence of his then-mentor, former England batter Matthew Maynard.
Having unsuccessfully applied for positions as bowling coach with Western Australia and England, in 2010 he was offered his first senior coaching role with Zimbabwe's Mid-West Rhinos based in the steel mining centre of Kwekwe where resources and luxuries were scarce.
He also served a stint as bowling coach with Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League before being appointed coach of Yorkshire where he had played in 2004 and 2005.
His decision not to apply for the SA job when it previously became available in 2015 – due to his family being settled in Yorkshire at that time – prompted speculation he was in the running for the then-vacant England coaching position eventually filled by Bayliss.
Gillespie quit the Yorkshire job following the 2016 season and relocated his family to the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide, from where he combined Adelaide Strikers' commitments with work as a media commentator and as interim coach of Papua New Guinea' men's team in 2017.
The following year he signed a three-year deal to coach Sussex, a contract that last year was extended to the end of the 2022 UK season but will now finish next month.
In the interim, SA's men's squad will continue their pre-season training under assistant coaches Luke Butterworth and Greg Blewett, with no additional support staff appointments to be made until Gillespie returns to Adelaide to begin his tenure.
"With Jason coming in, he does know the support staff through his work with the Strikers," Bradshaw said.
"But we'll give him a chance to settle into the job, and any recommendations he has in terms of adding to that group obviously we would look at that."
Hussey's review recommended the appointment of a specialist batting coach for the Redbacks, as well as the installation of an independent selection panel with interviews for a chair of that panel having taken place earlier this week.