Australia coach targets consistency over rankings climb

MELBOURNE,  (Reuters) – Fallen power Australia are not  even thinking about a return to the top of the test rankings,  according to coach Tim Nielsen, as the team seek to rebuild  following their humiliating Ashes defeat to England.

The World Cup quarter-finalists remain top dogs in the  one-day game but have slipped to fifth in test rankings behind  India, South Africa, England and Sri Lanka after their 3-1 loss  on home soil in the five-test Ashes at the turn of the year.

The team’s slide has placed Nielsen under pressure and  offered the once-unthinkable prospect of Australia being  excluded from the top four to contest the inaugural test world  championship in 2013.

Nielsen, heavily criticised for failing to arrest the team’s  decline, said his focus was purely on preparing his players for  next month’s tour to Sri Lanka, where they will play three  tests, along with two Twenty20 matches and five one-dayers.

“We are not even thinking about number one,” he told local  reporters yesterday.

“To get to number four then number three (and so on) in the  test rankings and maintain our hold on the number one ranking in  one-day cricket, we need our players to be as consistent as they  can be.

“To prepare the team for Sri Lanka is my only worry at the  moment.”

Nielsen, dubbed “Teflon Tim” by local media after he was  given a three-year contract extension months before the Ashes  debacle, is included in a comprehensive review by Cricket  Australia launched earlier this year.

The review, aimed at seeking answers for Australia’s fall  from grace and setting a springboard for the test side’s return  to the top, will be finished and its findings released in the  second half of the year.

Nielsen’s record since taking over from John Buchanan in  2007 has suffered in comparison with that of his predecessor,  who presided over the all-conquering teams that boasted the  likes of wicket-taking machines Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.

The 43-year-old said public criticism had hurt in the wake  of the Ashes defeat but conceded he had been out-pointed by  England coach Andy Flower, widely credited for master-minding  his side’s triumph in partnership with captain Andrew Strauss.

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