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February 24, 2013

Australian cricket

It's not Pat Howard's fault

Jarrod Kimber
Pat Howard, Cricket Australia's general manager of team performance, cops a lot of unwarranted flak  © Getty Images
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"I'm sorry Australia but test match has very quickly slipped away! I wonder how many test matches Pat Howard played in India @warne888," said Damien Martyn as @Dmartyn30 on Twitter.

In case you were wondering Pat Howard, Cricket Australia's general manager of team performance, has played no Test Matches in India. Rugby Union, the sport Pat Howard played, is not that popular in India. But had Pat Howard played Test cricket in India, would Australia have had a better day today?

Hugh Morris, England's managing director, also never played Test cricket in India. His three Tests were all in England. But unlike you or me, and most importantly Pat, he knows Test cricket.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have played Test cricket, and those who haven't. I assume, unless you are Ray Bright or Venkatapathy Raju, you haven't played Test cricket. That means, for some people, you are not qualified to have an opinion on Test cricket. You can simply not understand what it is like to have played the game at that level. The pressure, the conditions, the fans, the stress and the constant post game interviews where people ask you, "how did that feel". You have never dealt with any of them.

Hugh Morris' England team beat India in India. And perhaps those three Tests he played were enough to help him guide a team to victory, but it's probably more to do with the two Test quality spinners, the best swing bowler on earth, a captain who doesn't sweat, KP, a brutal meticulous coach and the resources the ECB have put into their team being as well prepared as they can for big Test series.

Hugh's job is not to teach anyone how to play cricket, but ensure that the team has the right coaches, equipment, backroom staff and "structures" in place to win cricket matches.

That is what Pat Howard is there to do as well. It's a radical appointment, and for those who believe only cricket people understand cricket, it's hard to understand how a rugby player can help. But think of Pat Howard as a fixer. Mickey Arthur, Michael Clarke or John Inverarity come to him with a need, and instead of them overseeing it, making cold calls or sending out hopeful emails, Pat Howard does. He also speaks to experts to try and find solutions to Australian problems, deals with player management, is involved in organisation and development, yet has very little impact with what happens on the field.

Howard doesn't coach, select or bat.

Cricket Australia realised through the Argus report that it was no one's job to do all that. So they made it one and gave it to Howard. Someone at the top of the tree, to oversee all aspects of Australian cricket. Clarke captains. Arthur coaches. Inverarity selects. But no one was really looking after the whole package. Someone to bring everyone together, to have a cohesive plan, and for someone to be blamed outside of the coach, chairman of selectors or captain when things go wrong. That is Howard's job.

I'm no Pat Howard apologist.

I'm not even saying it's a real job, or that he is worth his salary, I am definitely not sure how effective he is, or whether someone else could do his job better. I am not sure whether this job wouldn't be better as just a fixer rather than as a grand title of GM.

But I fail to see how Pat Howard's non-existent Test record in India, or his non-existent Test record anywhere, is the reason that MS Dhoni started putting cricket balls over the fence.

Of course, I am no Test player. So maybe I see this different than someone who has made a Test century in Chennai, but there are certain things that seem obviously not Pat Howard's fault.

Pat Howard did not drop Dhoni, or even fail to run him out when given the opportunity. It also wasn't Pat Howard who dropped Bhuvneshwar Kumar when flinging himself for a tough catch. That was Ed Cowan.

At no stage did Pat Howard demand that Michael Clarke only bowl Pattinson for six overs on the second day. Sure, he might have been involved in the informed player rotation management, but Pattinson's under bowling seemed more to do with the bizarre inner team thinking than anything resembling a mid-match rotational process.

Pat Howard was not on the field to drop his shoulders as the Dhoni-Kumar partnership took hold. Not one mis-field was perpetrated by him either.

It was Moises Henriques' ugly, across-the-line swipe that gave India a total they could pass on day three, giving them the upper hand in this Test. Howard has never played a shot that bad in India.

Australia haven't played spin well, or in India well, well before Pat Howard worked for Cricket Australia, and realistically, before he even played rugby for Australia.

There is nothing Pat Howard can do to suddenly make Nathan Lyon better. Sure he can gets coaches, and invent a software package that can expand his mind, but unless he invents bionic spinning fingers or does and arm transplant with Warne, Lyon's progress from handy spinner to good enough to run through Kohli, Tendulkar and Dhoni consistently isn't really in his hands. You can enhance performance, you can't play god.

It's also no fault of Howard that Jon Holland and Michael Beer are injured, that Australia don't quite believe in Xavier Doherty, or that Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith aren't close to Test quality spinners. All Howard can do is get Fawad Ahmed a passport and hope Adam Zampa is a slice of magic.

Australia have fast bowlers, and this pitch does not help them enough. However, Pat Howard does not control Indian groundsmen, even the BCCI can't always control them.

Even the selection of the team isn't Howard's fault. Test cricketers John Inverarity, Andy Bichel, Rod Marsh and Michael Clarke picked this side. They decided on Moises instead of Maxwell.

Australia just aren't that good at the moment, Don Bradman as GM, coach, chairman or tsar wouldn't change that.

Better Australian teams than this have been embarrassed by far worse batsmen than Kohli, Tendulkar and Dhoni travelling to India. It happens.

I suppose most importantly, had Clarke caught Dhoni, had Australia taken a run-out, had Cowan caught Kumar, or if Dhoni had been given out with a dodgy lbw, and Australia might have had a lead, or be 80 for 0 at stumps with a small lead, would Pat Howard get credit for that?

Probably not.

Pat Howard's job seems mostly to be blamed by former cricketers for poor performances. If something bad happens in world cricket it's the fault of the #bleddybcci. If England lose an ODI, it's #trottsfault. And anything and everything bad that happens in Australian cricket means that we #blamepat.

And what happens if Pat Howard is fired due to the pressure from Martyn or Warne.

The blame will just move to Mickey Arthur, who also didn't play Test cricket in India, or anywhere, and also, shockingly, as Jeff Thomson once brilliantly noted, is not even an Australian. If Mickey is fired, we can blame John Inverarity, after all, he only played six Tests, and that's not really a career. And then James Sutherland, another outsider who never played a Test in India, or anywhere.

Currently Damien Martyn is a mosquito repellant entrepreneur. Martyn has never been a mosquito or a candle. And unless he was sent into the wilderness unfairly after that shot in Sydney and studied science, I doubt he's an entomologist. Yet, there he is, selling these candles using his fame as a former cricketer, his charismatic smile and his skills on social media.

Sure, I bet there are some experienced old timers from inside the mosquito repelling business who think he shouldn't be there. They probably believe that he doesn't know what he is doing. That he could never understand what it is like to be a real mosquito person. Can't understand the pressures of the mosquito business. They probably know of many people are more suited to the mosquito set up. In fact, if the mosquito repellant is made properly, it doesn't even need a salesman. They just see Martyn as another hanger on in the mosquito world, using modern methods to confuse people when the simple old school ways have always been the best.

I think they are wrong, and I think that Damien Martyn should be given the chance to sell mosquito repellant candles. If he shows over a prolonged time that he can't sell the candles, even if the candles just simply aren't that good, he'll either step down will be simply replaced. If the candles do sell, people will just claim they were good candles, and that anyone can be successfully with a good product.

Luckily for Martyn, there is no mosquito candle press to heckle him. Unluckily for Pat Howard, whether he is successful or not in his job, there are some people he will never win over.

Although, as it seems like the main part of his job is to be blamed when Australia fail, he is actually doing it rather well.

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Posted by Kunal Talgeri on (February 25, 2013, 7:07 GMT)

Jarrod, I admire the empathy you bring in your writing. It makes for fresh perspectives based on sense. I wish Shane Warne developed empathy during and after his cricketing career. His comment on Howard reaffirms the recent but sparse view that Warne would have made a terrible Australian skipper, especially for industrious youngsters in the side who may not have been talented at first sight. He sounds like Ian Chappell's mouthpiece. The best he can do is be quiet, than spar with cricketers on the field or attack administrators. For the record, Warne has no record in administration, just as Howard may not in sub-continental cricket.

Posted by Brasso on (February 25, 2013, 2:02 GMT)

Brillian, brilliant piece! Crikey, I hope Damien Martyn and Warnie read it. Then again, I doubt they'd have the nous to understand the underlying points being made. Thanks Kimber!

Posted by bundybear55 on (February 25, 2013, 0:16 GMT)

Pat Howard never played a test in India so not much he can do about the performance. Warne actually did play 14 tests against India so could have done something about it. Averaged 47.18 with the ball - might have been better if Howard had played instead.?!

Posted by Jagger on (February 24, 2013, 19:21 GMT)

Best quote: "Craig Howard went from a freakishly talented wrist-spinner to a boring club offie. Australian spin did much the same." – J. Kimber. Love it, Jarrod. Re above: There is certainly a foul wind a blowing and 'informed' (or is it "rotated") knowledge of the subject seems immaterial! Maybe the legacy of socialist media will amount to a voice for those who previously no one would listen. I wonder, does this critical observation make me a hater, troll or bully...?

Posted by rust.booty on (February 24, 2013, 18:01 GMT)

nice article as always

Posted by Fred on (February 24, 2013, 17:42 GMT)

I also find the fact that Damien Martyn's twitter feed is full of retweets of people telling him how wonderful he is quite disturbing.

Posted by Saxon on (February 24, 2013, 16:47 GMT)

Excellent approach to responding to those that question other people's 'credentials' when not relevant.

The mosquito comparison makes it clear to anyone/everyone. Ouch, Damien Martin!

Posted by nnn on (February 24, 2013, 16:41 GMT)

mosquito candle press, hah

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