Australia news

Sheffield Shield points under review

Daniel Brettig

October 10, 2013

Comments: 16 | Text size: A | A

The WACA pitch of the eve of the third Test between Australia and India, Perth, January 12, 2012
The English points-scoring system may be adopted if pitches that help batsmen develop aren't cultivated © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Australian cricket may adopt a version of the English County Championship points-scoring system for the Sheffield Shield, in an effort to reduce the incentives for states to play matches on the kinds of under-prepared pitches that have contributed to the nation's current batting drought.

On the day some of Australia's foremost cricket thinkers met at the SCG to debate the troubling lack of quality batsmen both in the national team and in the domestic and grade tiers below it, Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland revealed that continued preparation of green seamers tailored for outright results would force a change to the way the Shield was contested.

The longstanding Shield system of two points for a first-innings lead, six for an outright result and none for a draw had always been thought to encourage attacking cricket in the traditional Australian vein. But in recent summers, it has been pointed to as an encouragement for the states to ensure matches reached outright results on bowler-friendly surfaces. Sutherland said the system was under review. The English model, where bonus points are awarded for first-innings totals over 300 scored in good time, is believed to be under consideration.

"There is a question mark we have in our own mind as to whether the incentives are in the right place to deliver the best pitches," Sutherland said. "If we have a points system that is heavily loaded to an outright result, then people may well roll the dice on a less prepared wicket. If you have a look at a lot of other places around the world, their domestic four-day competition has a different points system, where there are bonus points.

"We will have a look closely to see how the pitches play out and what happens in Test cricket, but we are having a look at our points system to understand whether it is creating incentives that end up in the wrong place. Shield cricket is the best place to prepare players for Test cricket. Therefore it follows that we should play on pitches that are as much akin to Test cricket as possible.

"We've played nine Test matches in a row [in India and England on pitches] with hardly a blade of grass on them, you don't get that in a lot of places around Australia. In Shield cricket it's a different environment. We have definitely had the conversation with people around the country to say there are certain parts of the country where we are expecting pitches to be more like Test cricket pitches."

Pat Howard, the team performance manager, had previously flagged his desire to replicate Test cricket even more closely in domestic matches by extending Shield fixtures to run for five days. He said the trade-off between gaining results to win the Shield and preparing players for Test matches had been discussed at some length with the states.

"If you're in the state system you want to win the game, and to win the game you need to get results. But as their only opportunity, the Shield's got to produce players for Test cricket," Howard said. "So it's a really clear mandate that we've been discussing - we want the Shield pitches to reflect Test cricket. If you're going to play there, we want it to be the same. We think the Test pitches are good, we think the curators are doing a good job, so do the same."

The batting forum was attended by a long list of coaches, former players and mentors, including the Australia captain Michael Clarke, Phil Jaques, Ricky Ponting, Ian and Greg Chappell, Darren Lehmann and the new Centre of Excellence batting coach Graeme Hick. The state coaches Stuart Law, Dan Marsh, Darren Berry, Trevor Bayliss, Greg Shipperd and Justin Langer were also on hand. They were addressed by Howard and Lehmann then presented with a range of data before breaking into workshop groups.

"I don't profess to know everything about batting," Lehmann said. "Those guys have played a lot more Test cricket than I have, so why wouldn't we actually ask about where we're going with our batting. And have a look also at the grassroots level."

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

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Posted by David_Bofinger on (October 14, 2013, 0:17 GMT)

We don't need a new kind of pitch, we need a variety of pitches - batting strips, grass tops, dust bowls, turners, seamer's paradises, etc. - so our batsmen are familiar with any particular type of pitch *before* they find themselves player for Australia on one overseas. This shouldn't be that hard, especially if most grounds are dropping the pitches in anyway. Rewrite the rules so states are encouraged to create more than one kind of strip over the course of a year. Perhaps: you get bonus points for bowling people out, bonus points for scoring runs, but only the lesser of those two totals.

Posted by   on (October 12, 2013, 9:20 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx, There is a lot more than 11 players with test cricket potential on the shield scene at any one time. Probably more like 25-30, just look through the squads. No, not all of them will make it but if things run their way probably half the guys playing shield cricket at any one time could find their way into a test side at one point or another. Just look around the place right now.

QLD; Harris, Khawaja, Burns, Hartley, Hauritz, Cutting. NSW; Smith, Haddin, Henriques, Starc, Lyon, Cummins, Hazlewood, Clarke, O'Keefe Vic; Rogers, Hussey, White, Wade, Siddle, Pattinson, Holland, Christian, Mckay Tas; Cowan, Cosgrove, Doolan, Paine, Faulkner, Hilfenhaus. SA; Hughes, Ferguson, Sayers, McDonald WA; Voges, S Marsh, M Marsh, Coulter Nile, Agar.

There you have it and I've not even included Johnson or Watson as I don't even know who they play for anymore! Then there's the Copelands, Beers and Bollinger etc that also get the odd game, certainly a lot more tha 11 players

Posted by hhillbumper on (October 11, 2013, 17:00 GMT)

there is an irony reading this that in the 90s County cricket was derided as the worst tournament in the world and we should all follow the shield model.Perhaps it is the players and not the system? I remember a time when our bowling attack was Peter Martin and Richard Illingworth was in there too.It is to do with the players because frankly if England had played this current side back in the 90s then we would have won the Ashes.It has to do with mental strength as well and some would seem to suggest that this is lacking in current Aussie talent.Obviously this can't be true because in the media you have won all these tests recently but it would appear you have an issue

Posted by ygkd on (October 11, 2013, 3:34 GMT)

Can you produce a batsman in half the time on a diet of half-cricket without ending up with one quarter of the player? That, I think, has been the problem - too much short-form cricket and too much short-term thinking. It could take a decade to properly rectify the problems with Australia's long-form batting, not because the problems are cyclical but because they're structural and the players developed under the changes won't be seen for some years yet. That doesn't mean however that a change to the Sheffield Shield points allocation couldn't help, it's just that it'll be just one of a number of steps that needs to be taken and some of them are much harder steps. Two such hard steps are putting the apprenticeship back into batting, by not rushing in young blokes on perceived talent alone, and putting the emphasis back on longer-form cricket in the formative late-teens and early-twenties age groups.

Posted by MinusZero on (October 10, 2013, 22:56 GMT)

Great idea. The County system encourages batting quick and also getting wickets to earn more points

Posted by   on (October 10, 2013, 20:44 GMT)

@ Chris_P ..... point taken. As did Khawaja and Hughes as I remember.

Posted by   on (October 10, 2013, 20:40 GMT)

WOW!!! How about the fact that the ACB appointed a coach that couldn't coach, selectors who refuse to select the best test team or Australia A Team or ODI Team (with preference going to NSWmen), trainers who break literally everyone who come into the squad and a Captain that can't Captain, who's culture made everyone think of themselves first before the team to the point where "assassination by run out" appeared to be a common practice.

I guess that it is the groundsmen at the WACA who are responsible for the Queensland Team playing all their 6 round robin OD's in the Ryobi Cup over 11 days (while NSW play theirs over 24 days) on slow, worthless Sydney suburban pitches. Everyone know that batsmen should be able to attain good scores and develop solid batting partnerships in 50/50 games.

These batting opportunities have not been denied them by groundsmen at the WACA, MCG, Gabba nor Adelaide Oval ..... but by the worthless, incompetent ACB!!!

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (October 10, 2013, 17:02 GMT)

@Goldenraaus, it's true that if your technique is good enough on green tops you should bat well on flat tracks. The catch is, if you bat on green tops ALL THE TIME, you will be so shot of confidence that by the time you face up on a flat wicket, your so shot of confidence it's goodnight.

Posted by   on (October 10, 2013, 14:03 GMT)

By the way, England's Test players play no County cricket once they are established/contracted. The competition is used in part to get them to that level.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (October 10, 2013, 13:21 GMT)

I was privileged to hear a couple of Australian test players from the 40's/50's discuss this very issue a while back. "Ray and Kieth taught me how to bat, of course I already knew, but playing them made everything after easy" These were the days when the Sheffield Shield was harder than Test matches !

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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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