Argus review recommendations

Can't bat, can't bowl, can't field

The Don Argus report into Australian cricket documents in detail the areas of improvement for the national team - and a lot of them concern the basics of the game

Daniel Brettig

August 19, 2011

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

Doug Bollinger  is congratulated after dismissing Tillakaratne Dilshan, Sri Lanka v Australia, 3rd ODI, Hambantota, August 16, 2011
The Australian team needs to improve in all disciplines, according to Don Argus' report © Associated Press
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Australia's cricket team has become a prized example of mismanagement, non-performance, inadequate succession planning, poor team culture, and a glaring lack of accountability. Its pathway from club cricket to the first-class arena has become muddled, beset by a wrongheaded incentive structure, a poor format and a similar waft of the unaccountable.

So says Don Argus' report into the sharply declining performance of the nation's cricketers and their support network, in a document every bit as ugly and confronting as the Ashes loss that hurried its commission. While the recommendations of the Argus review panel were dramatic and immediate, the detail of the report is so damning as to make them look reserved.

The most galling passages concern the reasons for the poor performance of the Australian team, and the failure of a seemingly bountiful, well-paid side and support staff to adequately address even the most basic of issues since a succession of retirements pushed the XI into a new phase.

Australia's captain Michael Clarke said on his entry to the leadership that Australia's basics had to improve. The review quantifies exactly how much, pointing out the national team had shown an inability to adhere to many of the most basics tenets of the game.

"The evidence from the Ashes and other recent series is that our basic cricket skills are lacking in key areas, in particular: For batting; batting for long periods; batting against the moving ball; our approach to playing spin; general batting technique in some instances," it read. "For bowling; building pressure; bowling to an agreed plan; spin bowling and captaincy of spin bowling; swing bowling, including generating reverse swing. For fielding; overall fielding, especially catching; General athleticism; this has extra significance as in the panel's view fielding standards reflect the attitude and professionalism of the team.

"For our overall approach; Building batting and bowling partnerships; General game sense/match awareness and cricket expertise, including the ability to problem-solve during the course of a match."

Ironically for a team that has had a baseball-based fielding coach for numerous years in Mike Young, the review suggested that greater measures of fielding needed to be taken for this aspect of the game served as both a reliable way to improve results but also a strong barometer for the team's wellness.

"For catching and fielding specifically, the panel recommends introducing explicit measurement of catching and fielding efficiency for all first-class and international players and teams," the review said. "These should also feed in to player rankings/performance incentives.

"One simple measure would be catches taken as a percentage of chances created. Chances could be weighted by difficulty if required. The same could be done for run-outs. Measures of this nature have been standard practice in baseball and other sports for decades and should become standard in Australian cricket."

In addition to the many problems of skill, the panel also highlighted inconsistencies in selection and the failure to consistently promote or demote players on the basis of performance. Simon Katich alluded to this problem during his furious response to being dropped from CA's list of contracted players, a decision that defied fairness and most logic.

"It is critical that superior performance is rewarded at all levels," the report said. "Players must earn their positions in the time-honoured way of making runs, taking wickets and showing that they are ready to play at the next level. At the same time, potential cannot be overlooked: there must be room for some intuition in selections. Players must be held accountable when they are not performing. This has been an issue in recent years."

For Clarke, the greatest problem he has been charged with confronting is the building of a much improved team culture, which promoted greater trust and leadership by example. As a way of measuring this, Clarke and his deputy Shane Watson will be pushed to foster more frank "adult conversations" while undergoing a process of mentoring themselves.

"Another theme to emerge from the interviews was the lack of a strong culture in the current Australian team," the review said. "There was also negative commentary about the broader culture in Australian cricket. The attitudes reported are quite different to those needed to be successful at elite level. Remedying these issues is clearly critical, and requires immediate and concerted effort.

"The team's leaders need to be made aware of the situation and their roles in creating it. A 360-degree feedback process is needed, followed by "adult conversations" with each individual spelling out how they are perceived and, where necessary, agreeing required changes to behaviour as part of an overall development plan (skills, physiology and psychology).

"Senior players including the captain and vice-captain should receive mentoring by an external professional at least every 6 months and at least for the first 2 years of their tenure. The captain should also actively seek and use the counsel of his vice-captain, which is an important role and should be more clearly defined.

Armed with this awareness, senior players and staff must lead by example. They must perform strongly on the field but also role model the desired behaviours and enlist the other opinion-shapers in the group to do the same. They must also increase the level of trust and honesty within the group."

The term "adult conversation" was used several times in the report, and again by Argus while discussing its release. The message was as clear as the report itself - time for the Australian cricket team to grow up.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Meety on (August 21, 2011, 4:52 GMT)

I was very heartened by this article, as it indicated some of the detail in the report. Not just parading some scapegoats. It struck a chord with me the comments about fielding. I had long whinged on this site (2yrs or more), that Young shouldn't be the fielding coach. Basball has gloves & don't have slips fielding - the only thing he improved (IMO), was relay throwing, (& side arm throws) - thats it. I watched Oz train at a change of innings during the 1st test - all the players were using gloves! I know their is an injury mitigation factor - but that's dumb! Young may have been better if he implemented some of the KPI stats that Baseball in the US keep - but he didn't as far as I'm aware.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2011, 19:42 GMT)

If your were saying Australia Poor Selection process?

what about last one decade they are top of the world in bowling batting,feilding

Posted by hyclass on (August 20, 2011, 12:59 GMT)

This report was prepared by Don Argus,the former chairman of one of the largest mining companies on earth-a man who oversaw one of the greatest mergers in history and a leader with half a century of credits to his name and the AC Medal for his success in the high pressure world of big business and banking.Its contents are a summary of those actions and inactions and the responsible and irresponsible parties.It suggests the remedies and does so without fear or favour.Only a fool would ignore its recommendations.@ultimatewarrior..another petty Indian attempt to hijack this forum and rubbish it with poor sportsmanship.England are number one in test cricket because the ICC says it is.Its a fact,not an opinion.Its the result of sustained excellence over time against varied opponents and is based on win/loss ratios.Theyre currently thrashing India.Its no accident.They did it to Australia earlier this year.Even if they werent number one,what would that make India?Its time to show respect.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2011, 8:16 GMT)

"The evidence from the Ashes and other recent series is that our basic cricket skills are lacking in key areas, in particular: For batting; batting for long periods; batting against the moving ball; our approach to playing spin; general batting technique in some instances," it read. "For bowling; building pressure; bowling to an agreed plan; spin bowling and captaincy of spin bowling; swing bowling, including generating reverse swing. For fielding; overall fielding, especially catching; General athleticism; this has extra significance as in the panel's view fielding standards reflect the attitude and professionalism of the team.

"For our overall approach; Building batting and bowling partnerships; General game sense/match awareness and cricket expertise, including the ability to problem-solve during the course of a match." An excerpt from the Argus Report. Pass it on to the Indian Team, they need it badly!

Posted by ultimatewarrior on (August 20, 2011, 8:06 GMT)

It is the worst report I can imagine as a cricket fan, must be prepared by some official instead of an ex player. From report it seems Aust.Team is worse than NZ,WI and many. But actually it is not, it is still much better than report is claiming. I guess Australia only thin of self confidence and thick of self doubt. So to be again no.1 they have to stick to basics only (India too is undergoing same phase). I believe India, Australia and Africa are capable to beat this English side. Actually Winning of a team is very less related to Overall Greatness(or Class as usually referred) of its Players. Instead it depends on team's present mindset, confidence and willingness. Look this very same Indian Team has won World Cup just before 2-3 months comprehensively. Further England Team (same core players) firstly lost 5-0 to Australia in Australia then won 3-1. Greatness of a team can be measured by his tenure to beat everybody, not by its players Greatness. Lets see how long England Rules...

Posted by ravi_hari on (August 20, 2011, 5:24 GMT)

I think it is a bold report. Look at the way they immediatelt swung into action and highlighted what ails and what needs to be done. If one compares the complacency shown by BCCI to this it will convey the seriousness of the board. It has surprised many the way the report criticised the fielding. Even at this standards they are way ahead of many teams.The onus is on Clarke and Watson to make the best use of the recommendations. I think Hildithch has had an extended stay and Chappel had to go. A new team of selectors will do a world of good to the team. Someone like a Steve Waugh should be roped in so that he can gel with the present lot better and who can understand the nuances of the sport of today. Ravi Hari

Posted by vj3478 on (August 20, 2011, 5:12 GMT)

more than 50% of the current OZ team are young to international cricket. give them enough chances to grow. Warne, McGrath, Steve Waugh Hayden.. all didnt become world champions from day 1. Good thing is they sacked the current selection panel who were playing with players career. they should have done this before the player contracts. one last thing is captaincy.. clark is not captaincy material.. he cant inspire team. his attitude is wrong. same was with ponting but he was an outstanding player which masked it.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2011, 0:41 GMT)

@MartinC - agree on comments re Eng performance, but would argue that Aus actually has a great deal of talent coming through, its just been daft selections that has been one of the main problems. Hauritz, McDonald, Paine, Cosgrove, Hughes, D Hussey, Hodge, Wade, O'Keefe, Khawaja, Ferguson, S & M Marsh, Lynn, Maddinson, Butterworth, Faulkner, Feldman, Swan, Copeland are all players who have performed well over a number of seasons, had good seasons last year and/or pretty decent overall records. Some of them could have played straight after the retirements and done well, others have been overlooked for pathetic reasons. The selectors have been ilogical in selecting players with "potential", underperformers, or guys with one good display - Doherty, Beer, Lyon, White (as spinner not batter), North, Smith, Krejza, Hilfenhous to name a few. While we did lose some brilliant cricketers, the slide could have been much less with better selections and player management in my opinion

Posted by Vince01 on (August 20, 2011, 0:08 GMT)

MartinC, please read the report and tell us what you disagree with.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2011, 22:35 GMT)

Should have recommended sacking of Cricket Australia's leaders who are ultimately responsible for the situation. They backed the incompetent selectors coach and captain. New blood needed there

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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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