Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Hobart, 2nd day November 13, 2016

Howard sends batting SOS to Rogers


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'I'm accountable for performances' - Howard

Australia's team performance chief Pat Howard, the man held ultimately accountable for the fortunes of the national side, has reached out to former opening batsman Chris Rogers for advice on how to scotch the bleeding of the Test team's currently hapless top six.

Howard also admitted that he, the coach Darren Lehmann and the national selection panel were under pressure to keep their jobs unless results improved. Appointed as a result of the Argus review in August 2011, he said that there needed to be renewed focus on the defensive and tactical skills of batsmanship to get through difficult days like the one experienced in Hobart on Saturday.

"It needs more focus. That's simple," Howard said. "Chris was fantastic, you go back to what he and David Warner did at the Oval [in 2015], I think it was 14 runs off 10 overs, they read the situation really well. That patience and adaptability to read the situation there. I've really been impressed by Chris' insights and comments and I was before.

"He's got a good insight into the game ... we've talked to him about coming and talking to people around that, both technically and mentally, and about a year ago he worked with our Under-19s. It's a fair comment and something to drive some of our thinking."

The position of Australian batting coach has changed hands this year, following Howard's decision not to grant an improved contract to Michael Di Venuto, who held the position with some success for the previous three years. Di Venuto, who has been in Hobart this week, then took the job as head coach of Surrey, and the role was handed over to the former England batsman Graeme Hick, an internal appointment via his role at the National Cricket Centre.

Before this Test, Hick admitted he had his work cut out to build the relationships necessary to be an effective batting coach for the team. The rest of Lehmann's support staff, including the assistant coach David Saker and the fielding coach Greg Blewett, are all relatively recent appointments. Rogers has said that the spate of batting collapses pointed to deeper issues within the team, and in the domestic structure beneath it.

"I think good sides always find a way to fight when they're in trouble, and the Australian side at the moment, when they lose a few wickets it's just a collapse," Rogers told ABC's Offsiders on Sunday. "All 10 wickets have fallen, we've seen it now two Tests in a row I think for 86 in the first Test and now 85 in this Test, and you don't see that [often]. So there's something fundamentally wrong I think with the side, they're obviously lacking confidence. There's no doubt the talent's there, but they just can't find a way to fight, and that's really disconcerting.

"Speaking to particularly a few of the older guys, past players, there's a bit of a thought that maybe we should push to return to how the Sheffield Shield used to be - just pick the best sides, the best players and see who wins. We have this system now where we're trying to identify players and push them through. But we've been doing that for a fair while now and it doesn't seem to be working, the performances haven't really been there to justify it. I think it's about now finding that winning culture. We've perhaps lost that, and whether we need to find that at the level below, maybe that's the way to go."

Howard stated, among other things, that Australia's traditional Gabba start - where they had not lost a Test match since 1988 - had to be moved for commercial reasons, namely an effort to build the audience for a Brisbane match via the avenue of a day-night Test. But he also said the team had to be adaptable enough to cope.

Pat Howard on Chris Rogers' role: "He's got a good insight into the game ... we've talked to him about coming and talking to people around that, both technically and mentally" © Getty Images

"The team does like starting in Brisbane obviously but we just talked about adaptability and being able to play in different conditions at different times," Howard said. "Brisbane has been a Test match that has struggled in other areas of the game over the last couple of years and they look to do something different.

"I'd like to have games in Brisbane to support the team at times, there were other aspects as well, but we also need to adapt and I don't want to look for excuses. We want to look for excuses at times and look for easy answers, and I don't want to go down that track. Whatever you get overseas, whatever you get at home, do your homework, do your preparation get ready to adapt to the situation and the conditions on offer."

Like the national selectors, Trevor Hohns and Mark Waugh, Howard's contract expires at the end of June 2017. The selection chairman Rod Marsh has already indicated he will vacate his post at that time, but Howard said there had been no discussion about finding his replacement any earlier than that. He did indicate,d however, that the entire panel may be refreshed at that time.

"It's important to note that Rod and I had that discussion well before the Sri Lanka tour," Howard said. "This has been well in train and [his replacement] hasn't been contemplated, we announced it a couple of weeks ago, and it was just confirming what all of us had known for a long time.

"We've always had different guys on different tours. Trevor Hohns and Mark Waugh will go on and their contracts are due up at the same time as well, so they may not be staying either. I appreciate the pressure comes on Rod, he knows that this comes with the role, but there are people in that situation all the time and every time you say someone is not going to stay and you exit them straight away it doesn't respect the work that they are doing at the time."

Howard also defended the decision to extend Lehmann's contract until 2019 in August. "This is a great challenge for his coaching, I think he's in uncharted territory for him as well and we've talked about that," Howard said. "This is a great chance for him to reinvent.

"He's been contracted through past 2019, which is a huge year in the calendar, Ashes away and a World Cup back-to-back. We've got a young captain with a coach that's wanted to give the team and squad some stability. I make no apologies for that, I made the decision and I take accountability for that."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • david.1389154 on November 16, 2016, 8:54 GMT

    It'a simple isn't it? As well as a fine temperament and technique, Rogers played a lot of County Cricket in England and as an opener learned about playing the moving ball. Aussies don't often play CC these days and their technique against the moving ball will be worse for it.

  • KIRTIKUMAR on November 15, 2016, 15:48 GMT

    Why panicky? No need to. Every team goes through this kind of lean patch once in a while. No one team can remain strong every time all the time. I haven't seen any exception to this. Let the players, team management and the national selectors have faith in each other and the result will be there for all to see.

  • Craig on November 15, 2016, 9:32 GMT

    ANIL. That is sugar coating things. Australia was humiliated. In a strong position in first innings .. lost 10 for 80odd. Again in second innings when they could have at least made SA bat again...they lost 8 for under 40. That is a disgrace. That is handing the opposition the match on a platter. Until Aust. domestic decks return to those that challenge and test a technique... these collapses will continue.

  • Craig on November 15, 2016, 9:26 GMT

    Smith can block all day.. not Warner he blocks one then tries to smash the leather off the ball. The two are chalk and cheese, Abbott and Costello. Warner the dasher, Smith the accumulator. That is why Smith is the more valuable of the two.

  • Anil on November 14, 2016, 19:36 GMT

    I see all this as what truly it is: unwarranted knee-jerk reaction. That the Aussies will struggle in Sri Lanka was anticipated. That the Aussie bowlers will do well at WACA was anticipated. The Aussie batsmen did not do too bad in the first innings--even if you count that "collaps". They did as well as their SAf counterparts. It was a great match and the SAfs won. That does not mean the Aussies were paupers. Same here in Hobart. That first innings was terrifying, considering the weather and how it supported that type of bowling. That was a one-off situation. Keep watching, this same highly ridiculed batting lineup will do very well in the second innings. If they earn a few more collapses, in the next few matches, then ring the panic bell. Not now. Show your faith, motivate your players, and stop washing dirty linen in public. The more such reactions the players read/watch, the worse they will perform.

  • Steve on November 14, 2016, 14:48 GMT

    How is Rogers going to help? Rogers's greatest strength was occupation of crease and bore opponents to death. Will he ask Warner and Smith to block all day long against their nature? Teach batting technique when they already have specialist batting coaches? It seems more like a knee jerk reaction to few collapses.

  • Izmi on November 14, 2016, 11:15 GMT

    Australia needs an aggressive batsman like Glen Maxwell who can tear apart any bowling attack at number 6. There's nobody in the current test team who can go after the bowling attack except Warner at the start of an innings. Australia's recent defeats in Sri Lanka and in the current test series against South Africa can be attributed to the absence of a genuine number 6 in the side as a result have been bowled out for very low totals and suffered heavy losses. The Australian batting line up is very weak and looks so vulnerable and puts lots of pressure on batsmen like Warner, Smith and Khawaja.

  • RajivSrinivasan on November 14, 2016, 9:09 GMT

    australlia always had an x factor which they are missing since the retirement of andrew symonds. some one who can take the attack back to the opposition. Gilchrist did it from 1999-2008, Ponting from 1995-1999 @6. this is where shane watson was so disappointing because he never played like a dasher , he tried playing like a test player and failed miserably. some one like a chris lynn or say maxwell or head is what they need at no 6. the bigest difference between australlia and SA in this series is Qunitin De cock, he scores so fast and also keeps wickets which makes him a more valuable player than a batting or bowling allrounder. why not Handscomb and head who started their careers as a wicket keeper/batsmen do both. this is where howard needs to talk to them and let them know that their future in CA is well served as some one who is ambidexterous and not a homogenous single skilled batsmen or bowler.

  • Sachit on November 14, 2016, 6:42 GMT

    Chris should come out of his retirement for couple of more years to heal bleeding Australian batting lineup.

  • Alan on November 14, 2016, 5:29 GMT

    @izzidole....diasagree. Simply too many players are out of form and confidence whereas 12 months ago they were all in form. Also they haven't had a whole lot of luck so far this series. Take away de Kock, a couple of dodgy decisions and differing batting conditions there isn't a lot between the sides. Having been around cricket long enough, a change in fortune is around the corner. For example England on the ropes in Bangladesh then are all over India. Funny how the keyboard experts who haven't been near a first class player have all the answers.

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