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Inverarity wrestles with Australia's batting woes

Daniel Brettig

April 30, 2013

Comments: 111 | Text size: A | A

John Inverarity and Ed Cowan chat at practice, Melbourne, December 25, 2012
John Inverarity is on the lookout for "players coming through who can bat for long periods" © Getty Images
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Australia's national selector, John Inverarity, has spoken frankly of his panel's struggles to find batsmen capable of thriving in a Test match following the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, admitting he is not sure whether they will emerge in strong numbers ever again.

In a searching interview with ESPNcricinfo, Inverarity said that Twenty20's influence on the Australian summer schedule loomed large among a variety of reasons for the tailing off of Australian batting in recent summers, to a point where the captain Michael Clarke is now the only member of the Test top six with an average of better than 40.

"I don't think anyone has got the exact answer as to why we haven't got players coming through who bat for long periods," Inverarity said. "But one thing I am sure about is young players need to work it out for themselves ... Society is different now, there's fast food and immediate gratification and those things, so whether we'll see it in the abundance that we've seen it over the years before I don't know.

"I think an intelligent young player with some talent, and looking to make his way in cricket, I would think high on his agenda would be developing an appetite and the wherewithal to bat for long periods and make big scores. A young player, if he wanted to play Test cricket, then applying himself in that regard is what we're on the lookout for."

While careful to credit the T20 Big Bash League with building a new audience for the game in Australia, Inverarity conceded the lack of Sheffield Shield cricket across summer's prime months in December and January had affected a player's ability to develop continuity, momentum and the habit of high scoring.

"The cricket scene now is more fragmented than it was, with T20. If you'd said 10 years ago that there wouldn't be any domestic first-class cricket in Australia in December and January you would've thought that was not possible," he said. "The Big Bash League has been a great attraction and in spreading the word of cricket it's been a great success. But in terms of players developing momentum it has made it rather difficult.

"A very good example is Alex Doolan, who has been a very promising player for some time and built up some real momentum in October/November, and then of course the next time he played a Shield match was in February. So that was difficult for him."

Inverarity mounted a staunch defence of the management and rotation of Australian players over the 2012-13 summer, and disputed claims that batsmen - in contrast to bowlers - were disadvantaged by being given the occasional rest instead of playing throughout the year.

"I think that's exaggerated. It does not stand up to scrutiny," he said. "Missing a game or two for an elite professional cricketer, who plays all three formats and for numerous teams, should not be an issue at all. Players regularly come back from a prolonged layoff for injury and bat brilliantly.

"Playing in all forms, players can tend to become jaded. I think Michael Clarke at the moment is benefiting greatly from having a break. Over a period of five years, my view is you'll get more out of a player if he has appropriate breaks. And of course that creates opportunity for others. Jackson Bird playing for Starc in the Boxing Day Test was a great benefit to Australian cricket."

There was also an explanation for why the New South Wales spin bowler Steve O'Keefe has not been selected for national duty, despite handsome domestic figures. Inverarity said he had been close several times, but the panel's collective view had remained consistent that other, better options existed.

"Steve O'Keefe is a very good cricketer. He's taken wickets, and he's a steady batsman," Inverarity said. "Whenever we've been at the selection table, we've marginally preferred other players to him. But he's still regarded as a good cricketer. We're very aware of his figures and we do look deeper than that. But there's a panel of five of us and there's a consistency of view when we select the spinners."

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

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Posted by KhanMitch on (May 2, 2013, 11:21 GMT)

@Meety i am a fan of Khawaja but you have summed it up well mate, he didn't play any red ball cricket since November and he did well in shield which is why he got picked for national honours. Lets hope he gets a descent crack in the ashes because he can be a test star for us. @Mark i am not sure the VC holds much emphasis anymore. We already have a captain, a coach, a batting coach, a bowling coach, a fielding coach, a fitness coach, a high performance manager etc etc - what does a Vice-Captain do? So much of the historical role of captain has already been diminished, so surely VC role is not really that important.

Posted by Meety on (May 2, 2013, 1:07 GMT)

@stumpedlloyd on (April 30, 2013, 23:12 GMT) - Inverarity cannot "...move the BBL..." That is decision-making above his pay grade. He can complain about this in the hope that one day an obvious scheduling issue will get fixed. Yes, he does sound like he is looking for excuses, but he does have a point. When the Lankans came for the second test series for the summer, the Shield comp had been dormant for about 3 to 4 weeks. Could you imagine the County season stopping between NZs tour & the Ashes? It is dumb planning & it will cause continuity issues. This is not the SOLE reason for Oz's batting stocks being low. The reality is that Oz is more exposed to the 20/20 problems, due to the timing of the IPL (& BBL & Champ League too), but also as most of our batsmen have been developed POST the IPL ERA. England & SA's batting line up are mainly players who started FC careers BEFORE IPL & have not had their technique corrupted so much. Oz talent still strong - application not so.

Posted by Meety on (May 2, 2013, 0:29 GMT)

@ landl47 on (April 30, 2013, 22:53 GMT) - Khawaja is a talented batsmen, with the odd question mark over commitment. During the Oz Shield season, Khawaja ended up averaging less than 40, however, there is a big caveat on that stat. In the matches that Khawaja played in, he was the highest runs corer for his team & was often the match highest scorer. He outperformed the top 7 (both sides), in most of the games he played. So I would say his ave of about 39, was worth a lot more. I do agree that there seems to be some desperation amongst fans to annoint Khawaja as some sort of saviour to the Test team. IMO - he is a player, when his head is in the right place, & with a decent run in the Test team, good enuff to average 45 to 50 in Test cricket against good opposition. Khawaja should never of been selected for the ODI side & the madness in the scheduling (coupled with a wash out), meant he didn't face a red ball post Nov, until he was in India.

Posted by Amith_S on (May 2, 2013, 0:03 GMT)

@JosephLangford well said.

Posted by Amith_S on (May 2, 2013, 0:01 GMT)

@SirViv1973 good comments mate, i am part of the Khawaja fan club, wasn't before but his performances for the Bulls really impressed me this year and it helps that i am from Brisbane. But taking state allegiances out of it, the kid does deserve his crack and no one is making him out to be our saviour but i tell you he is one of our better young batsman. Just take a look at some of the highlights of his Ryobi and shield innings for the bulls this year and you will see that he is one of our better prospects for the ashes. My prediction is that he will fire in the Aus A games and start in the top 6 on July 11. Mary and Hyclass make some good points too on his performances and barring a 3 month period after he first got dropped he has performed consistently througout his shield career both for NSW and now the Bulls. And its hard to ignore Mike Hussey publicly backing him as his successor given his brother was also in the running. The ashes could be his making.

Posted by   on (May 1, 2013, 21:15 GMT)

@ SirViv1973 .... I have gone through the UK's stat's in test cricket and showed how he was outperforming most other Australia players during his brief Test Career and being dropped so that they could rush Marsh back into the team proved again how pathetic our selectors are.

Last year he could have easily won the Sheffield Shield player of the year but was consistently pulled out of the Teams to sit on the bench, and was not allowed to play in the SS Final while he warmed the benches in India.

Anyone who knows anything about batting realises that time in the middle is invaluable ..... for some reason last season CA did everything possible to deny UK representative batting time.

Can somebody please remind me of how well Hughes batted in India to continually get selected?!?!?!? And how well Maxwell and Doherty played??

Posted by SirViv1973 on (May 1, 2013, 19:50 GMT)

@Jayzuz, I think Warner's ave was overinflated from playing a lot of ordinary attacks early in his career. If he can keep around the 40 mark then he will be doing very well.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (May 1, 2013, 19:43 GMT)

@Landl47, I couldn't agree more re Khawlja. There does seem to be a general feeling among the majority of oz fans here that he is some sort of Savior. His stats at least in both tests & FC cricket certainly don't back that up and although he has been somewhat hard done by, by not getting picked I don't think he has made an outstanding case for selection. Those expecting him to play a major role in the ashes should be cautious. A lot can change between now & jul 10 but with Warner & Cowan likely to open & Clarke & Watson likely to be at 5 &6 that leaves the other 3 vying for the 3 & 4 spots. You can't see Rogers starting on the bench at his old & I think Aus like the idea of another 'older' head in the middle, which leaves UK & Hughes fighting for the last spot and Khawlja looks more suited to 1st drop than Hughes does.

Posted by hhillbumper on (May 1, 2013, 17:53 GMT)

I thought the Aussies were going to white wash England come what may.Is this part of the mental disintegration?

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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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