Australia news June 26, 2011

'T20 preference could kill Test cricket in Australia'

ESPNcricinfo staff

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.''