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April 13, 2006
Bruce Reid, the former Australian left-arm seamer, has sounded a warning about the dearth of quality fast bowlers in Australian cricket at present, and believes that the current international incumbents will have to hang in there for a little while yet before the next generation is ready to step into their shoes.
"They are not jumping out of the trees as such," Reid, Hampshire's bowling coach, told Cricinfo at the county's press day at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. "One or two guys in the first-class system are getting there, but otherwise there's a bit of a lull at the mo.
"We haven't got three or four who are ready to take over," added Reid, "so Australia is really relying on those current guys to hang around for a couple more years to see us through this little patch."
Such a pessimistic outlook is good news for England ahead of the forthcoming Ashes rematch. During the recent Australian summer, the selectors made half-hearted attempts to blood one or two youngsters, such as Brett Dorey and Mitchell Johnson, but aside from the admirable 30-year-old, Stuart Clark, there have been no significant personnel changes since the Ashes.
Consequently, Australia - to universal surprise - turned back to the old faithfuls, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz, for the current trip to Bangladesh. "Gillespie and Kasper seem to be bowling okay again which is good news," said Reid, "but if you look back to the last Ashes, Australia struggled to bowl sides out."
Part of Australia's problem in the Ashes stemmed from the absence of a specialist bowling coach, an issue since rectified by the recruitment of England's mentor, Troy Cooley. "It's a catch-22 when you've had such a good bowling attack for so many years," said Reid, "you think you don't need one. Then when a couple of those guys get a bit old and some new faces come in, or a couple struggle as Jason did in the Ashes, then who do you turn to?
"There's always been an abundance of batting coaches but the poor old fast bowlers have been left to their own devices a little bit. If they can have someone to come and talk to, then so much the better. It's a way of getting the best out of that player."
Of all the young players vying for the Ashes, Reid's own tip for the top is the strapping 24-year-old left-armer, Johnson, who stands 6'4" tall, and bears more than a passing resemblance to Reid himself, who took 113 wickets in a 27-Test career that was plagued by injury.
"He's tall and quick and moves the ball around, and he's got the potential to play a big role in the Ashes," said Reid. "I did well as a left-armer against England, as did Brendon Julian. It's something people haven't often seen before, and it could provide the variation Australia need."
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