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'T20 preference could kill Test cricket in Australia'

ESPNcricinfo staff

June 26, 2011

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Phillip Hughes got going with a couple of offside boundaries, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, December 26, 2010
'Phil Hughes needs to refine his skills within his way of doing things' © Getty Images
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Neil D'Costa, Michael Clarke's mentor and coach, has said Australia's growing preference for Twenty20 could lead to Test cricket getting sidelined in a country already struggling to rebuild a team which has slipped to No. 5 in the rankings. ''A lot of junior state cricket in Australia is now Twenty20 cricket and that could kill Test cricket in this country,'' D'Costa told the Sydney Morning Herald.

D'Costa has been Clarke's mentor since he was seven and has been coaching state-level juniors in India for some years now. He contrasted Australia's preference with the relative lack of Twenty20 cricket in India at the junior level, which he says allows young players to learn the basics of the game better.

''In India, it's very different. There is no Twenty20 in the junior state programs. We don't train for it, don't play it, don't promote it and the players have nothing to do with it. It's only at the higher levels, where there are players who have learnt their game and can make improvisations, that Twenty20 is introduced. The job of all junior coaches in India is to teach players the fundamentals of batting.

''The energy that's being put in, the planning that's going into the development of Indian cricketers, is amazing. At the same time, Australia's spending time and money just trying to work out our problems.''

D'Costa said he was surprised when he met several of his young Australian students who just wanted to score faster and hit the ball harder. ''It's a real concern because everything in Australian cricket at the moment seems to be about Twenty20. It's all about the Big Bash, how we can get more people to the games, how we can make money out of India. It's not really about how we can make better cricketers.''

D'Costa also raised concerns about the direction of the Centre of Excellence program, saying more players were being taught to become ''clones'' instead of their individual needs being attended to. D'Costa cited the example of Phil Hughes who started his career with twin centuries in his second Test only to have his technique questioned, especially against the short ball.

''The stuff that he was told was not in sync with how he'd made runs all his life,'' D'Costa said. ''The fact that he scored a couple of centuries early on showed there were some skills there. He had to refine them within his way of doing it. But the information given to him didn't take into account his way of preparing and playing.

''You don't coach a Premier League soccer player how to kick a ball. And you don't get a landscape artist to paint portraits. They are coaching our most talented players with the same principles as you should coach a junior. These guys are past all that. It's as though they're trying to create clones. They're not coaching players according to what they specifically need.''

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by hyclass on (June 29, 2011, 7:45 GMT)

I hope that D'Costa is interviewed along with Hughes for the review.Ive been looking,for over 2 years,for the real explanation for Hughes loss of form,to come into the public domain.I was aware that the only explanation to Hughes sudden change of style and loss of form,that fit all the facts,was a mandate from the coach criticizing his play against the short ball and his attacking style and ordering him to play differently or be dropped.He played differently,it didnt work,he was dropped and as expected,the coach failed to own up.The fact that he was out pulling in the first innings of the 2nd Ashes test should have told the whole story.The utter lack of protest by the australian camp, when he was claimed caught at slip for 17 in the second innings of that test,despite the ball having bounced well short of the england captain was the final evidence.D'Costa is providing first hand evidence,that he knows that this is what happened.All those who were critical of Hughes should be ashamed.

Posted by ygkd on (June 28, 2011, 5:02 GMT)

All under-age cricket is not 2 day/55 over stuff. It may be in some places, but not everywhere. My mid-teen son would benefit enormously from longer matches than what he currently plays (seniors excepted).

Posted by hyclass on (June 28, 2011, 1:24 GMT)

Hodge was dropped in 2008,for an unexplained flaw.Players with 5-6 tests,double centurions,excellent 1st class records and test averages in the high 50s,shouldnt be dropped-particularly as he scored 67 and 27 in his last test.Forward to Hughes a few months later-dropped averaging 58.I believe his game was forceably changed,by the coach,before the Ashes to suit some imaginary plan,undermining a prodigy.Attacking,he scored 151 and 82not out vs Tas.to gain Sth African test selection,2 centuries against an attack boasting 1100 test wickets and 3 more for his county before the 2009 Ashes.6 hundreds in a handful of games on 3 continents.His game was suddenly entirely different by the 1st Test.Where he instinctively attacked,he was unnaturally defending.At 21,he was abandoned and left to deal with the fallout.Batting success requires an attacking plan,a defensive plan,focus,courage and stamina.That is all.As D'Costa and Bradman pointed out,technique is a players servant,never his master

Posted by VivGilchrist on (June 27, 2011, 8:30 GMT)

Aussasinator, On what authority do yo speak? Test cricket in Australia probably attracts the biggest crowds. It's not dead. Go back to IPL and follow your "franchise".

Posted by skkh on (June 27, 2011, 6:27 GMT)

Neil is 100% right but then Cricket Australia is deaf, blind and also mute. Cricket is slowly dying out here but the authorities can neither see this nor hear all the criticism levelled against them. Unfortunately very little talent comes cricket's way here in Australia. The youth go for the AFL which pays them well. Whatever little talent comes cricket's way it is for the quick dollar earning twenty20 which truly is a crap format and can never be called cricket. The state sides which once boasted of abundant talent now have their cup boards bare. The present test prospect like Usman Khawaja is an OK player but not test class by any standards. Shaun Marsh probably deserves a place in the XI and I fret to think of finding a replacement for Ricky and Mike Hussey. We do not have any bench strength to speak of. Yes cricket is having a slow death here in Australia and very soon we will be on par with the once great West Indies.

Posted by Meety on (June 27, 2011, 6:08 GMT)

@ Aussasinator - I think you have a selected memory, Ponting & Clarke both turned down BIG contracts in the IPL, to concentrate on Oz commitments.

Posted by   on (June 27, 2011, 4:57 GMT)

Agree with most of what D'Costa has to say. Juniors need to learn the fundamentals of cricket when they are young in order to succeed in any format. The best way to learn the fundamentals are in the traditional longer formats of the game. The IPL and various other T20 leagues have been great in many ways despite the players not having played T20 as juniors, so why should we change anything now. In regards to cricket Australia getting crowds to the games the solution is reduce the number of cricket games in general. There is far too much international cricket going on and no one is going to turn up to domestic cricket becuse its just too much to follow

Posted by D.V.C. on (June 27, 2011, 2:00 GMT)

I'm 31. When I played cricket in Australia as a junior we had 30 overs a side. There isn't a good reason to chop off the extra 10 overs. All it does is ensure fewer players in the side get a bat and bowl, and at Junior level you want to try and give everyone a go.

Posted by PYC1959 on (June 27, 2011, 0:20 GMT)

D'Costa has hit the nail on the head and as a father who's son plays at a junior District level you can see it happening in every club. I was even told by a very senior coach that the aim at a junior level is to score as many runs as possible and worry about technique later, needless to say we had a big disagreement. The biggest problem is us as parents do not have a say in the direction, we all see what is happening but when we question it the answer is that T20 is the future. Someone has to stop and look at the way India do it and copy them, no shame in that, when Australia were top of the ladder for many year in Tests many a country were trying to copy us.

Posted by Blazedragon on (June 26, 2011, 23:59 GMT)

Aussasinator, If old men like Ganguly and Kumble still get to play IPL then Ponting easily do so. He just doesn't have any interest in such a sorry excuse for a tournament.

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