Pattinson debut exposes coaching disparity
James Pattinson's astonishing debut has exposed the often vast disparity between state and national coaching philosophies in Australia, one of the central problems identified by the Argus review.
As a young pace bowler with Victoria, Pattinson was taught to bowl short of a length, in line with the Bushrangers' long successful methods for winning domestic matches, particularly on the MCG's drop-in pitches.
However the national team has recognised his natural swing and speed are better suited to fuller bowling and, under the guidance of the bowling coach Craig McDermott, Pattinson has been groomed to make the adjustment.
"Billy's taken over this year as the bowling coach and he's just said to me the length that I bowl for Victoria, that back of a length, doesn't work in Test cricket, it is hard to get wickets with that," Pattinson told the television panel show Inside Cricket.
"You get more chance of getting wickets if you pitch the ball up there and get a chance to get some caught behind the wicket [dismissals]. He's been pushing me to get a lot fuller with my lengths and all that work I've done over in Sri Lanka and South Africa has really proved pretty good for me."
Pattinson's progression from state cricket to the international game was smoothed by his presence as a reserve paceman on numerous Australian overseas tours, where he worked assiduously with McDermott to change his methods, with startling results against New Zealand in Brisbane. As he settles further into the role of head coach, Mickey Arthur is charged with ensuring greater consistency in coaching standards and philosophies between the states and the national team.
"Of course, absolutely," Arthur said when asked about the need for greater alignment between state and national coaching. "There are a couple of things we'll be looking at implementing, I think we need to be a little bit harder and a little more ruthless on the basics, but for James that was phenomenal and it was a spell that was right up there among the best I've seen.
"I thought he was quick, he was aggressive and he hit the right areas. We had a chat before the start of play that morning on what we believed were the right areas and he executed that fantastically well. The key for us really is to increase our depth, if we can get our depth in all departments nice and strong, and we've spoken about giving quality opportunities, we're going to place ourselves in a really good position down the line."
Another area highlighted by the Argus review was that fielding and fitness in state programs was not always up to a high enough standard. One passage of the report stated: "Some COE and National Coaching staff (as well as some Australian players) feel that several State programs are inadequate for preparing players for international cricket, for example, in relation to players' physical conditioning and fielding."
The fielding coach Steve Rixon has returned to the team for the Hobart Test, and will speak with Arthur about how to prolong his role beyond the current short-term arrangement. Arthur said the team's fielding in Brisbane was one area requiring considerable improvement.
"We certainly dropped too many catches, there's no two ways about that," Arthur said. "I do put it down to nerves, it was the first Test match of the home summer, a lot of guys on debut, and there was a lot of excitement around the group, and I'll put it down to that. But we've got to sharpen it up a huge amount because catches are crucial. We'll work really hard on it and aim to put in a really quality fielding performance in Hobart."
One of the lest natural fielders in the Australian XI, Usman Khawaja, fielded at short leg for large swathes of the match, and Arthur said he was intent on becoming a specialist in the position.
"We'll be doing a lot of work with Usman in that position definitely," Arthur said. "Technically he's a little bit on his heels, he probably needs to get a bit more on the balls of his feet a little more, but he can catch and we'll keep upping his work-rate in that position and challenging him there. That's where he is going to field, so we need to be getting the best out of him. He's very receptive to that as well."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo