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March 27, 2013
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 hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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