Australia news September 26, 2013

Hick preaches Australian batting patience


Graeme Hick believes shifting the mindset of Australia's young batsmen away from a Twenty20 focus and back towards long, patient first-class innings will be key to his new role within the Australian setup. On Wednesday, Hick was named as the full-time replacement for Stuart Law as high performance coach at the Centre of Excellence, where he will oversee the creation of a national batting programme.

Although Hick will largely work with Under-19 and Under-17 squads, he will also mentor the annual intake of Centre of Excellence scholars, which often includes batsmen on the fringes of national selection. It is with those men that Hick will need to instil a patient approach, given the lack of big scores and competition run tallies coming from Sheffield Shield batsmen over the past few seasons.

Last summer, the only batsmen to score three Shield hundreds were the veterans Ricky Ponting and Chris Rogers, while the only others to make two tons were Test players Phillip Hughes and Brad Haddin, and the promising young duo of Joe Burns and Jordan Silk. Precisely what has been ailing Australia's first-class batsmen has been a matter of debate for several years, but Hick believes the first thing to address is the desire to play long, dour innings instead of short, electrifying ones.

"I think there is a little shift in the mindset more towards Twenty20 and the one-day game and the faster forms of the game," Hick told ESPNcricinfo. "I don't know if they're not willing, but players don't seem to be spending as much time at the crease in the four-day games. We're not seeing as many big scores as we used to. That's something I need to have a look at and hopefully I can make a difference.

"In England I think maybe the younger players come through in the first-class system and play more four-day cricket. They've got more fixtures. Here you get your 10 Shield games and that's it, so that may have a little bit to do with it. I just think in general, everyone is wanting everything to happen a lot quicker."

If patience is the aim, Australia could hardly have chosen a more fitting mentor than Hick. Over a 25-year first-class career he scored 41,112 runs, placing him 15th on the all-time tally, and he is one of only eight men in history to score a quadruple-century in first-class cricket, his unbeaten 405 for Worcestershire against Somerset in 1988.

No living player has scored more first-class triple-centuries than the three made by Hick, and Mark Ramprakash is the only man alive to have made more first-class double-hundreds (17) than Hick's 16. Long innings came naturally to Hick and although he fell short of becoming a great Test player, he was unquestionably one of first-class cricket's finest batsmen of all time.

The struggle for Australia's batsmen to play for time has been evident not only in Shield cricket but in the Test team over the past few years. No Australian has scored a Test double-century away from home since Jason Gillespie's 201 against Bangladesh in 2006, and in this year's Ashes, Chris Rogers was the only Australian in the top five batsmen of the series based on balls faced.

"I think it's maybe just educating them on the decisions they're making during their innings," Hick said. "You can certainly play both [short and long formats] quite comfortably, it's just the decisions you choose to make during your innings. When you're approaching 30s and 40s it's about making sure you carry on.

"That was highlighted in this Ashes series and maybe the difference in the result was that England had the bigger innings. I'm not saying those players can't do it, they maybe just need to look at their decision-making when they're out there."

Although Hick will not be directly working with the national team - coach Darren Lehmann and batting coach Michael di Venuto remain in charge there - he will be charged with implementing a national batting programme that will be discussed by former players and current coaches at a forum in Sydney next month. Hick's primary task is to help the new batch of young Australian batsmen and in that regard, he is still preparing to play the long game.

"That's very exciting for me," he said. "If I'm able to be sitting and watching a Test match in five or ten years and realise that I've had quite a big influence on some of the players walking out on the park, that will be great. If that is the case I'll feel very proud of it, but at the end of the day you can only guide them and they have to do the hard work."

Although he is now officially in the Australian camp, Hick believes England's batting depth will hold them in good stead for the upcoming Ashes in Australia, given their 3-0 victory in England in a series in which only a couple of their key men were at their best.

"I'm a little bit surprised by one or two of the comments that have come out from the Australian team, because at the end of the day England scored more runs and won the series 3-0," Hick said. "That was without all their batsmen firing. There might be a bit of banter going around pre-Ashes, sowing a few seeds there. Cook, Pietersen and Trott didn't really fire - KP scored the one hundred but he wasn't at his best. That could be worrying for Australia."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajaram on September 28, 2013, 6:47 GMT

    I am truly glad we have the wisdom of Hick.He will bring in the patience of Rcky Ponting who never gave his wicket away easily like David Warner,Phil Hughes,Glenn Maxwell do.Only Chris Rogers and Ed Cowan from the prersent lot are grafters.

  • James on September 27, 2013, 11:50 GMT

    Lets just hope they don't start playing like England. I'd like the players to add strengths rather than start being super defensive and scoring at two runs an over as a default position. England have just won/saved too many games by time stalling and dodgy tactics, for my liking e.g the glove changing fiasco at Cardiff 2008.

  • joel on September 27, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    @ milepost , without doubt the funniest comment i have ever read on here . Dont worry we cant wait for England to reach OZ . Another easy victory

  • Philip on September 27, 2013, 0:41 GMT

    Graeme Hick's appointment is not the problem. A tailor is only as good as his cloth and Hick's batting cloth will come from a short-form factory called the Pathways Program. The time is ripe for a two-day revolution in the States' championships, at least for 17-18 year olds. If that means playing two-dayers in quarters, to comply with junior bowlers' daily over restrictions, or extending the tournaments then so be it. The benefits could be substantial and not just for developing batting and limiting the reliance on all-rounders. With 100 overs for a completed innings we could see patience, old-ball bowling, spin and even keepers' concentration all tested so that those who end up at the COE know such things are important before they get there. Or we could just stay as we are, and expect Hick to make a silk purse out of something rather closer to the proverbial pig's ear - then replace him when it doesn't work.

  • Alex on September 26, 2013, 23:06 GMT

    It stems from Cricket Australia & their decision to treat Cricket as Entertainment first rather then Sport first. They reward players with big dollars & rewards for being entertaining. A run-a-ball 40 is more marketable then a 5hr 100. Just look at all the promotional material, all the images you see are blokes hitting sixes. If you give a dog a treat when he jumps at you when you get home how are you ever going to get him to sit?

  • Patrick on September 26, 2013, 21:41 GMT

    On further reflection, great appointment, Zimbabwean coaches have a proven knack for taking ordinary teams to unimaginable heights!

  • Dummy4 on September 26, 2013, 18:47 GMT

    All those runs scored for England should actually have been scored for Zimbabwe. Hick is or was Zimbabwean , Like a number of others, would be interesting to read an article on Zimbabwe's lost cricketers

  • anton on September 26, 2013, 17:19 GMT

    Don't worry, Hick doesn't mean defensive batting when he talks about patience. He means they need to be slightly more selective in their shots. Hick was one of the most aggressive, hard hitting bats in the game, so he won't ask the Aussies to play like Rahul Dravid (who can put you to sleep with his batting) all of a sudden.

  • Sean on September 26, 2013, 17:08 GMT

    Wow, it's like the last two Ashes series never happened for some of these posters.

  • Android on September 26, 2013, 14:37 GMT

    Australian batting needs adapting to longer format. but they need to be aggressive when they have upper hand in a test match. this strategy helped them win ashes in bucketloads.English team have a lot to learn from aussie' invincible team if they have to be number one again. dour and grim cricket played by cook and co leads to painful watching and more draws than wins.hope we see changes in both English and Australian way of batting.

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