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Sun sets on Australian batting - Chappell

Daniel Brettig

March 27, 2013

Comments: 210 | Text size: A | A

Australia may never again produce Test match batting talent on the level of Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke if numerous gaping "holes in the production line" are not addressed by Cricket Australia, the former captain Ian Chappell has said. The poverty of batting performance on a disastrous tour of India underlined problems in Australian batting that Chappell feels have been festering now for some years, exacerbated by the commercial evolution of the game.

Arguing that coaching appointments and the shuffling of players by selectors will not address the issue, Chappell has called for CA to look more closely at how batsmen are being developed, addressing matters such as the amount of short-form cricket being played by juniors, the array of pitches on offer in the Sheffield Shield and the impact of a muddled schedule tossing players from Twenty20 to Tests and back again.

"We are not addressing the fact that there are holes in the production line," Chappell told ESPNcricinfo. "For instance, I have seen the next lot of batsmen at the Under-19 level World Cup and I have not seen any change in what's happening. So I've got to ask the question, if our methods of producing batsmen don't seem to be working, and in my opinion they are not, why aren't we trying to do some other things?

"I don't hear these things being talked about and it's just a matter of will we change the coach, will we bring in a new high-performance [manager], those things are not going to make one bit of a difference. Fix up the core problem and then we might start to get somewhere. The problem with that being, if we fix up the core problem tomorrow, you are talking about another generation before you really start to reap the benefits. So there are some major problems that I see in Australian cricket and I don't think they are being addressed."

Citing the composure, stroke range and adaptability demonstrated by Clarke, Hussey and Ponting that was painfully absent from many of their batting descendants in India, Chappell said that Australian cricket may never see their like again.

"If you think about it, Ponting, Hussey and Clarke, you would have to say are the last of that sort of generation who learnt how to survive those tough periods," he said. "You know as a batsman when at times you have to get through half an hour, or it might be an hour, against a really good attack.

"The classic examples are - Clarke at Lord's in 2009. It was a magnificent innings against brilliant bowling from Jimmy Anderson and Andrew Flintoff. In my opinion, that's the best innings I have ever seen from Clarke. And Ponting's innings at Old Trafford in 2005 to save the Test match - 156 I think he got. Magnificent innings, back to the wall save the Test match type innings. That should be standard fare for other Australian Test batsmen. But at the moment you would say, when Michael Clarke retires, that may be the end of that style of batsman."

Team management on the India tour were critical of the players' discipline, not only off the field as publicised by the suspension of four squad members in Mohali, but also on it as team plans for how to tackle India's spin bowlers on turning pitches were not followed. Chappell said such issues were created by batsmen not growing into an adequate knowledge of their own techniques in all conditions, prompting panic when circumstances did not suit their games.

"It's easy to be patient when you know that you've got the technique and the wherewithal to cope with spin bowling under those conditions," Chappell said. "Because you know that eventually you can hang around long enough to start to pick up the runs and get things going and then the boundaries come. Then you've got a chance of making a big score.

"But if you don't have faith in your technique and your ability to survive, that's when the panic sets in. So it's got nothing to do with being impatient, it's much more to do with your technique and your non-belief in that technique that brings on the panic."

Chappell's words echoed those of Ponting himself when asked in 2011 about how Australian batsmen were losing touch with the art of concentration. "That's the big worry I've had about Twenty20 cricket, and even other shorter forms of the game being played at really developmental times in kids' careers," Ponting said. "Cricket for me, when I was growing up, if I was batting, it meant I was batting until someone got me out, and if that took them a week then that's how long it took them.

"The guys who played in my era that's what it was all about - not going out there and facing two overs and then being told that you had to go and stand in the field; that's not what cricket is. And that's the worry I have about a lot of the developmental phases. Even Under-17s and Under-19s now, they're playing T20 games in national championships, and at the detriment of two-day games.

"Good state players these days are averaging 35. If you were averaging 35 when I was playing, your dad would go and buy you a basketball or a footy and tell you to play that. So there's areas of concern there. I don't know how you change them."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by ygkd on (March 29, 2013, 22:17 GMT)

Steve Waugh's introduction to Test cricket was during a sustained period of losses and draws largely because of the quality of the opposition. Today's team would not have done any better, and probably worse. Today's bats do not have the same sorts of technique, yet they debut at much earlier ages. Hughes is the same age as Taylor was on debut, yet he's already played a fair career's worth of Tests. Smith has played less, but at a much younger age than Mark Waugh started, another batsman who bowled. The experienced batsmen like Katich, Hodge and Rodgers have largely been sidelined. It is this that demonstrates that there is too much inexperience in the current team. Too many selections have been premature. Steve Waugh's debut was premature, but he wasn't the mainstay of the batting. That he went so long without a ton is irrelevant to the current state of affairs. He was only one player, playing as an all-rounder. And he was Steve Waugh. He was a large part of their world-beating future.

Posted by ygkd on (March 29, 2013, 21:58 GMT)

The point about the experienced blokes is that they've been sitting on the sidelines. Why did Hodge only play about half a dozen Tests? Why did Katich get dumped? Will Rogers go to England after all? There are many such questions. It is fine to pick young blokes on promise, but Mark Waugh and Mark Taylor were both made to wait in the late '80s. Smith & Hughes do not have those sorts of techniques. Hughes is almost exactly the same age to the day as Taylor was on debut and Hughes has already played 24 Tests. Smith is still about a year and a half younger than M. Waugh was on debut. The Border years saw a team building towards a successful period. The current one is winning more games but is not going anywhere just yet. The difference in the winning ratios is easily attributable to the quality of the opposition. In the mid-late '80s, cricket was generally stronger than now. Border's team may have been on a losing streak, but that doesn't mean that they weren't ultimately in better shape.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2013, 11:28 GMT)

ygkd- well on it's own it's irrelevant if the other experienced guys were alright. But Steve played in 13 test matches before winning one so they were doing so much worse during that period than now. So we need to stick with the guys we've earmarked as future world beaters. We can all wish for more experienced guys in the side but Ponting and Hussey have gone and they axed Katich to "bed down" a solid opening pair for the upcoming Ashes. What a mistake that appears to be now. He was one of our best.

Posted by ygkd on (March 29, 2013, 5:51 GMT)

That Steve Waugh took so long to score a Test ton is largely irrelevant to the current state of affairs, for one important reason and that is his position in the team. Waugh's bowling was a large part of what he brought to his Test game, batting at 6 as a 20 year old and he was only one of three young players (with McDermott older by months & Reid by a couple of years) in an otherwise more experienced team. His twin, Mark, had to wait a further 5 years for his Test debut and that was at Steve's expense, so there definitely was no policy of just picking a young team and letting them mature together. Taylor too waited till 24. Then, as now, one young all-rounder with batting potential at 6 and a couple of young pace bowlers is enough youth for one team. Even then, Reid & McDermott probably suffered shortened careers because of their early debuts. Today we seek to protect the young pacemen but let the learner-plated batting hang out to dry in a manner of which Border's team never did.

Posted by   on (March 29, 2013, 5:01 GMT)

Front-Foot-Lunge- Australia is 6th or 7th best in the world right now? Who are above us? S.A., England and maybe India, then who are the other 2 or 3 better teams? We thrashed India in Australia, beat every other team of late except Sth Africa who were lucky to win the series after we had them on the ropes in Bris and Adelaide. One poor series in India with a young team inexperienced in their very trying conditions and according to some the whole world has fallen in! Get real. A lot of commentators/reporters were calling for Ponting's head for years and now lament his retirement! Everyone needs to settle down a bit, have some patience in the rebuilding team and wait for them to learn the ropes. As Waugh said it took him 26 tests to score a ton. At this rate we drop our batsmen after a couple of tests for not scoring one. Crikey!

Posted by ygkd on (March 28, 2013, 22:50 GMT)

The core late 20s to 30ish batting group at FC level does not have the results we need. Ferguson was not reselected for ODIs after being omitted through injury, despite a good record. Paine has received similar treatment. Voges, too, didn't get the right opportunities when he probably needed them. Thus, their careers to some extent have perhaps been stymied. Quiney had to do it the hard way - no pathway red carpet rolled out for him. Shaun Marsh, however, seems to have too much made of him, one can only rely on natural talent and a famous name for so long. Finch is a short-form specialist. Cosgrove hasn't fitted the selector's requirements for athleticism. Khawaja just can't get a game. So who has been honoured with continual selection? The answer is Cowan and that's about it. This list shows that the reasons for the lack of depth in that crucial age group are varied, but one point stands out and that's player management.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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