Australia news September 26, 2013

Hick preaches Australian batting patience

  shares 30

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

  • popcorn 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.

  • TheBigBoodha 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.

  • voma 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

  • ygkd 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.

  • alstar2281 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?

  • pat_one_back 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!

  • 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

  • anton1234 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.

  • 64blip on September 26, 2013, 17:08 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • popcorn 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.

  • TheBigBoodha 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.

  • voma 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

  • ygkd 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.

  • alstar2281 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?

  • pat_one_back 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!

  • 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

  • anton1234 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.

  • 64blip on September 26, 2013, 17:08 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • on September 26, 2013, 14:14 GMT

    I don't see anything but the editorial mentioning "dour" Having watched Hick play many of his innings, most were anything but Dour. In FC cricket he tended to play at between 60 and 80 runs per hundred balls, and that was in a time when hardly anyone else got much above 50. Yeah he scored 405 - but he scored it in under 5 sessions at over 80 runs a session HIMSELF (not as a team - on his own) that was the way he played all through his career at FC level. Nothing"dour" about it. And if"dour" is what wins..then we'll have more dour please.

  • ThinkingCricket on September 26, 2013, 13:32 GMT

    This mindset won't help at all. What will happen is young players will be scared out of playing their natural game. This happens to most teams but it's more acceptable to teams like England that only pick flexible "responsible" players who toe the line. When your main asset is talented players, punishing them for getting out playing shots, will just lead to creating "battlers" like Ed Cowan who will bat interminably till the inevitable happens, but without adding much to the score.

  • on September 26, 2013, 13:15 GMT

    I think some people commenting here are missing the main point of what Hick is trying to say (maybe he's not being so eloquent??) - it's not patience itself that is the key, missing ingredient for the Aussie batsmen, it's good decision-making! Patience can be a tool used in exercising good decision-making, but it doesn't always help to simply be patient without scoring enough. A common-enough tactic for fielding teams is to dry-up the scoring rate, thus building up pressure so that the batsmen feel compelled to take too big a risk and get out doing so.

    The likes of Warner, Watson, Haddin, etc. don't necessarily need to be any more patient - however, they DO need to exercise better decision-making when at the crease (very aggressive batting with the intention of taking the initiative won't work all the time!)

    Like so much else in life, batting requires a balance of aggression & patience, attack & defence, risk-taking & conservatism, etc. Getting it right requires good decision-making!

  • Yevghenny on September 26, 2013, 12:55 GMT

    No! Absolutely not! The key to batting isn't patience, it's scoring runs. Watson got a big hundred at a run a ball, that's absolutely fine because it's the way he is. ======== That was Watson's 3rd test century in his entire test career - to put this into context, Joe Root and Nick Compton have 2 test centuries each

  • on September 26, 2013, 12:46 GMT

    As a life long Worcestershire fan, I'm always going to be a bit biased, but this looks like a great appointment. The reason Hick didn't make it for England was the management. Ray Illingworth eroded his confidence and after a few dodgy innings the England management tried to alter his technique. It's no coincidence that he bloomed again late on when he reverted back to his old style. So, he understands man management and what tinkering with natural ability can do. He's scored big in India and he's played most of his first class cricket at a swinging New Road ground. He's the total package, and as an England man, this appointment now worries me!!

  • milepost on September 26, 2013, 12:44 GMT

    I think the point is that you are patient when the ball is talking. Bell did that especially well during the Ashes and taught everyone how to bat, he saw off very tough spells of high quality bowling and then cashed in. Yes we want to see the Aussies going for their aggressive style but not nicking off with wild swings against seaming and swinging balls. @Sir_Francis, I disagree. Rogers is a better player than Root, Haddin is a better keeper and batsman than Prior, all of the Aussie bowlers are better than Broad, Watson is the best allrounder and we made a load more centuries than England. Yeah you won 3-0 blah blah blah but lets see how they go in Australia.....

  • Sir_Francis on September 26, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    England won because they had the better players. Only Clarke & Harris would have made their team.

    As for Hick, what he preaches has worked for over a century. It's not Rocket surgery. Put your head down and build an innings. Lara, Bradman & Tendulkar all did that.

    It's no surprise someone like Warner struggles to go more than a few hours at the crease. in 5 seasons he's played 8 Sheild games.

    Looks like 20/20 has done the damage that people feared. Young players just don't have the patience, although it's good top see someone like Smith is starting to figure it out.

  • CapitalMarkets on September 26, 2013, 11:56 GMT

    Hick has played a few long innings in his time; he's done it on the field and he listens to people. Being old enough to have watched him struggle to transfer his talents from first class to test match cricket I have come to the conclusion that his difficulties were mental, not technical. There is no other reason for his underachievments. He was a tall, powerful athlete who probably could have done well at a lot of different sports but maybe he never quite felt completely inside the team and that team was not as stable as the current one. You CAN grind at test cricket in a way which is not easy to do playing 50 over crciket and is absolutely impossible in T20. England grinding their way to victory was deeply unattractive and sometimes I felt Australia were the only ones playing cricket. But given that Bell was the only one in the top seven playing to his potential, I honestly think there was no other way to victory. If England can raise their game away, Australia will have to, big time!

  • bford1921 on September 26, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    I think the object is to win games not score runs! It would appear that scoring runs quickly didn't seem to help Australia, perhaps understanding how to play test cricket might help!

  • on September 26, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    On the face of it a good appointment. You surely can't score 40000+ runs without understanding batting and often coaches who had and recognised deficiencies as players make the better coaches. England batsmen have benefited with having good test players with lots of hours at the crease in them, in Gooch and now Thorpe. It's sensible to start Hick on the U19s as that's where the improvement will come but it will take 5 yrs to be seen so it's also important that the current players use him as a sounding board. I think Aus had Graham Thorpe on the staff several years back but let him go.

  • Sugath on September 26, 2013, 11:23 GMT

    I am not too certain that practice and practice is the only way. No it is about the mind moments at that specific time, the split decision what to do. If the stay at the crease told you that your sphere of influence is narrow when compared to sphere of influence then caution is the better part of valor. Also remember that Lara said playing Murali the way forward to make decision late and not early and he was successful. But today coaches do not know what to do, and all they do is too much talk. In the end it boils down to each individual and how his mind set is. Never have pre designed thoughts before you reach the crease and take one at a time. As one famous batsman said, "it is next ball that can get you out, and so do not think what to do till stumps are drawn but live the moment. Sure you can learn from past but it is all about living this moment. That was why the likes of Lara, Bradman and Tendulkar were successful.

  • on September 26, 2013, 11:02 GMT

    You guys are stupid. Yes scoring runs is important . But the reason England won the ashes was the were patient when they had to be. We were not. Patience is the only thing that matters.

  • on September 26, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    Only Chris Rodgers in top 5 based on balls faced? What a ridiculous stat. Who cares how many balls you face if you don't score runs! After Ian Bell the next best 4 were all Australian's based on the one stat that matters to batsmen.... average!! England WERE dour and lucky to get away with it. Australia lost these ashes for themselves more than England winning it.

  • anton1234 on September 26, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    I am wondering if Klinger should be given a go from the start of the return Ashes. He is an opener but I suppose could play anywhere in the top six. He has made a lot of runs sine moving to South Australia and also for Gloucester.

  • xtrafalgarx on September 26, 2013, 10:04 GMT

    No! Absolutely not! The key to batting isn't patience, it's scoring runs. Watson got a big hundred at a run a ball, that's absolutely fine because it's the way he is. The last thing i want to see is David Warner getting out trying to play a forward defence, i'd rather see him get out after trying to smack one. We don't want to play like Englishmen, we want flamboyance, positivity and aggression. Yes, there is a limit to this but the important thing is to score runs, not defending for the sake of it.

    It's doesn't matter if you get runs at a run a ball or if it takes you 300 balls, we just want to see runs scored they way you feel comfortable, AS LONG AS YOU GET EM!

  • on September 26, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    Play the long game - always!!!! Patience is the baseline to a skill set that sets up your team for a victory chance. I like what i am hearing from Hick, he never quite made it at test level, but the dude has a massive record.

  • pat_one_back on September 26, 2013, 9:35 GMT

    @hhillbumper, to be fair to Boof he was speaking more broadly than conservative batting plans; poor over rates, defensive fields, 5 slow turning dusty pitches and... at least one day of otherwise unremembourable, dour batting. I think Aust generally have their balance right to win tests, it's execution and mettle for key sessions letting them down.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on September 26, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    @ Daniel Powel: A load of Tosh I must say. England win because they're excellent, just ask any Oz or Indian fan, where they have witnessed England win both home and away. Opinions are not the same as facts.

  • on September 26, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    England are dour, England are grim, England are dull, and England win. England win big games in spite of - and I saw this as an England fan - having a 'good', but not excellent, collection of players. England win because they know how to play the long game. That is all.

  • hhillbumper on September 26, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    This tallies with Lehmanns comment about England playing dour cricket. The myth of Baggy Green invincibility and the Australian way of playing combine to cause issues.It is good to have aggressive play but if that is all you have then you will fail against the better teams.If you combine this with the T20 mentality then you have issues. When you look at great aggressive batsmen they traditionally also had a defensive technique.Viv Richards was a great aggressive batsman but when needed could defend. It is an issue that Australia will not solve quickly because of the media demand to be aggressive at all times.That is fine but how much fun is it to watch your team lose quite so often.

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  • hhillbumper on September 26, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    This tallies with Lehmanns comment about England playing dour cricket. The myth of Baggy Green invincibility and the Australian way of playing combine to cause issues.It is good to have aggressive play but if that is all you have then you will fail against the better teams.If you combine this with the T20 mentality then you have issues. When you look at great aggressive batsmen they traditionally also had a defensive technique.Viv Richards was a great aggressive batsman but when needed could defend. It is an issue that Australia will not solve quickly because of the media demand to be aggressive at all times.That is fine but how much fun is it to watch your team lose quite so often.

  • on September 26, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    England are dour, England are grim, England are dull, and England win. England win big games in spite of - and I saw this as an England fan - having a 'good', but not excellent, collection of players. England win because they know how to play the long game. That is all.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on September 26, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    @ Daniel Powel: A load of Tosh I must say. England win because they're excellent, just ask any Oz or Indian fan, where they have witnessed England win both home and away. Opinions are not the same as facts.

  • pat_one_back on September 26, 2013, 9:35 GMT

    @hhillbumper, to be fair to Boof he was speaking more broadly than conservative batting plans; poor over rates, defensive fields, 5 slow turning dusty pitches and... at least one day of otherwise unremembourable, dour batting. I think Aust generally have their balance right to win tests, it's execution and mettle for key sessions letting them down.

  • on September 26, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    Play the long game - always!!!! Patience is the baseline to a skill set that sets up your team for a victory chance. I like what i am hearing from Hick, he never quite made it at test level, but the dude has a massive record.

  • xtrafalgarx on September 26, 2013, 10:04 GMT

    No! Absolutely not! The key to batting isn't patience, it's scoring runs. Watson got a big hundred at a run a ball, that's absolutely fine because it's the way he is. The last thing i want to see is David Warner getting out trying to play a forward defence, i'd rather see him get out after trying to smack one. We don't want to play like Englishmen, we want flamboyance, positivity and aggression. Yes, there is a limit to this but the important thing is to score runs, not defending for the sake of it.

    It's doesn't matter if you get runs at a run a ball or if it takes you 300 balls, we just want to see runs scored they way you feel comfortable, AS LONG AS YOU GET EM!

  • anton1234 on September 26, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    I am wondering if Klinger should be given a go from the start of the return Ashes. He is an opener but I suppose could play anywhere in the top six. He has made a lot of runs sine moving to South Australia and also for Gloucester.

  • on September 26, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    Only Chris Rodgers in top 5 based on balls faced? What a ridiculous stat. Who cares how many balls you face if you don't score runs! After Ian Bell the next best 4 were all Australian's based on the one stat that matters to batsmen.... average!! England WERE dour and lucky to get away with it. Australia lost these ashes for themselves more than England winning it.

  • on September 26, 2013, 11:02 GMT

    You guys are stupid. Yes scoring runs is important . But the reason England won the ashes was the were patient when they had to be. We were not. Patience is the only thing that matters.

  • Sugath on September 26, 2013, 11:23 GMT

    I am not too certain that practice and practice is the only way. No it is about the mind moments at that specific time, the split decision what to do. If the stay at the crease told you that your sphere of influence is narrow when compared to sphere of influence then caution is the better part of valor. Also remember that Lara said playing Murali the way forward to make decision late and not early and he was successful. But today coaches do not know what to do, and all they do is too much talk. In the end it boils down to each individual and how his mind set is. Never have pre designed thoughts before you reach the crease and take one at a time. As one famous batsman said, "it is next ball that can get you out, and so do not think what to do till stumps are drawn but live the moment. Sure you can learn from past but it is all about living this moment. That was why the likes of Lara, Bradman and Tendulkar were successful.