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Watson calls for balanced schedule

Daniel Brettig

November 18, 2013

Comments: 16 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson acknowledges the crowd after falling for 176, England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 1st day, August 21, 2013
Shane Watson is trying to ensure the next generation of Australian cricketers have the system they need © Getty Images
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Shane Watson has called for a greater sense of scheduling balance in the Australian summer, arguing the game down under will suffer if it continues to push the Twenty20 Big Bash League at the expense of the increasingly marginalised Sheffield Shield and domestic limited-overs competitions.

No Australian cricketer has gained more from T20 than Watson, who may never have returned to Test cricket without his resurgence for the Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural edition of the IPL. But after being elected to the executive of the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) in place of the resigning Simon Katich, Watson stressed that Cricket Australia should carefully consider their recent headlong pursuit of the shortest format, which has squeezed the first-class and 50-over tournaments to the fringes of the season.

The ACA are currently preparing a State of the Game Report to be tabled before CA in December, and it is expected to propose a tighter version of the BBL to be played in a less disruptive timeslot than the current window across the prime December-January phase of the season. Watson told ESPNcricinfo that a better schedule, more equitable to all forms of the game, needed to be found.

"We're getting a lot of information at the moment from all the players and the past players and working with Cricket Australia to be able to try and get the best balance," Watson said. "I know the balance really seems to have shifted towards Twenty20 cricket and the BBL - I've certainly played a lot of T20 around the world, but there's also a balance you can get that doesn't take away from the Sheffield Shield and the Ryobi Cup.

"The BBL is obviously a money-earner and people love watching it, but you've got to find the balance so it's not all in one direction geared to one competition. That balance needs to be found, and that's where the players need to have a good voice, but they're on the ground and know what's working and not working to continue their development as cricketers, and also the development of the game.

"There's no doubt T20 has brought different sponsors and different people to the game of cricket who wouldn't normally have been coming through the gates. But it's finding that balance so we're able to develop all-round cricketers who can play hopefully all formats, so it's not young kids coming in and just being tailored to T20 cricket, it's being tailored so you've got the foundation to be able to adapt to any form of cricket you do play."

Also casting an eye over how Australian cricket can rejuvenate its batting stocks after a generation of decline, Watson echoed the words of his batting mentor Ricky Ponting by insisting that the CA talent pathway, and domestic competitions from grade cricket up to the Shield, needed to be strengthened by ensuring the best coaches were in place at developmental stages.

"It's as simple as developing the talent we've got in Australia and getting the best out of them," Watson said. "We need to have the coaches there to get the best out of the talent we've got - we've always got a lot of extremely talented cricketers coming through and that's always been one of the big strengths of Australian cricket. We need to work on developing what we've got, making sure the right coaches are in the right places, to grow the love and passion for the game, but also the talent and skill they have. Give them a good grounding so that when they move up they have a really sound foundation."

Watson's elevation to the ACA executive committee, a group including Michael Hussey, George Bailey, Marcus North, Neil Maxwell an Lisa Sthalekar, confirmed the high regard in which he is held by many of his peers. Positions on the committee are voted on by all domestic and international players.

"To think that I've got enough votes to be voted onto the ACA executive certainly does mean a lot to me," Watson said. "It's nice to know people think I've got the right type of personality and the right type of experience to be able to give a lot to continuing to develop the game. It's something I've been very much thinking about and talking to [the chief executive] Paul Marsh about for the last couple of years and it's come up now because Simon Katich has stepped down.

"One of the big roles I'll play is to have input into what's needed, whether it's at grassroots level, grade cricket, first-class cricket or even the Australian team and the academy. There's a number of things in the development area I think they can improve. That's what we're about, the input we can have to try to grow cricket from the grassroots up, so once a few of us older guys have moved on and stopped playing there's a lot of really good, young, talented guys coming through."

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

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Posted by RightArmEverything on (November 20, 2013, 7:17 GMT)

@Ozcricketwriter, I think that would be a good idea for Australian players. I doubt the overseas recruits e.g. Gayle, would be available for that long for a whole Shield season, they'll have commitments with their national sides. That wouldn't bother me at all, but I don't think CA would go for it because they want some big names to attract the crowds and the gate money.

Posted by Little_Aussie_Battler on (November 19, 2013, 5:06 GMT)

If Watson fails in the first couple of tests, that should be sayonnara to his test match career for good. He has concentration issues, manages to get himself out consistently after getting a start, hardly ever bowls because he is too fragile. It is time to give someone else a go.

Shame, if he just did a Siddle and worried about the long form of the game he could have been a great player. But he has put the devil's candy ahead of his legacy so he will now have to live with the regret.

Posted by RJHB on (November 19, 2013, 2:17 GMT)

This is heartening to hear, especially from the T20 super advocate, but will it fall on deaf ears? Bottom line is, CA want the biggest money spinner, the BBL, on in the holiday season to maximise bottom lines, nothing else seems to matter to them. No other country puts on their T20 comp in the middle of their season, pissing all over their home schedule. Yet they still make a ton of money. Start it February, end it mid March, then conclude the Shield by beginning of April and you're clear of the IPL, easy.

Posted by smudgeon on (November 19, 2013, 1:33 GMT)

In a sense, while the BBL has dictated terms in regards to the scheduling of cricket, it has also made what I think is an interesting change: moving the 50 over series into a carnival format preceding the summer, a few rounds of Shield, the BBL itself, then following this a return to Shield. Given last summer some players bemoaned the constant changing of gears required between formats, doesn't this make a little more sense to do them in separate blocks? Like it or not, BBL is a huge money spinner for CA, and it's not going away. Fans love it, players love it, CA loves it because sponsors love it...so it will increasingly command more time, effort, and attention than the other formats of the game. Sad, really. I appreciate Watto's words, but unless T20 cricket worldwide is abducted by aliens and our memories of the format scrubbed, it's all just unintentional lip service.

Posted by Mitty2 on (November 19, 2013, 0:44 GMT)

Please tell me he's joking... He's joking right? This is the man who's played more games for the Rajasthan Royals over the last two years than he has played for Australia and he's talking about limiting the T20 scheduling and having more of an "input" into Australian cricket... He's also the man who prefers to bowl for his IPL team than for his county... PLEASE Watto, if you want more of an input, just retire from test cricket!

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (November 19, 2013, 0:14 GMT)

May I also add that retiring test players should also be strongly encouraged to go and play a season or two of Shield cricket after their test careers.

The greats, Gilchrist, Warne, Hayden, Langer, Mcgrath, etc, none of them played any Shield cricket after retiring. T20 was king amongst these greats.

What does this say to the young players coming through? How much would a young batsman learn seeing off a spell from Warney or Mcgrath in a match situation?

Posted by Cricket_Froth on (November 18, 2013, 23:41 GMT)

It's the elephant in the room and everyone knows this, except James Sutherland and Cricket Australia. They're focused on short-term gain at the expense of the sustainable longevity of cricket. We're about to go to battle with England in 5 Test Matches across 6 weeks and we can't call up battle hardened blokes from the Shield because they're all playing Big Bash. The ridiculous ODI tour of India already forced a few guys to miss Shield games. It'll be February 2014 and some of our best cricketers won't have played cricket for any longer 3 hours at any one time. This is insane.

Posted by Buggsy on (November 18, 2013, 22:55 GMT)

Seems as though everyone gets this point except CA.

Posted by alstar2281 on (November 18, 2013, 22:28 GMT)

How I would improve the schedule: T20 should be played in a 3-4week window Starting in the December School Holidays and ending mid-Jan. Sheiffield Sheild & ODD should run Oct-Mar (less the recess for T20) and should be played in Rounds every 2nd week Wed-Sat, or Thu-Sun. This would allow you to play a ODD either side (Wed night / Sun), which would reduce some travel costs. The tests (excluding the Melb & Syd) should be played every other week. A ODD game should be on free to air TV every Sunday there is no international cricket on to enable young players to watch (as they play Saturday). ODD should return to a full Home & Away Schedule. Every state should have 1 home ODD game in a regional venue. State players return to Grade cricket every time they are without a state match. My final change would be to eliminate the T20 Franchises & get back to the State system but allow them an import quota. I don't feel a passion for a franchise team the way I do for my state & I never will.

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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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