November 13, 2016

Australia's system is broken

Injured fast bowlers, a dearth of good young batsmen, and a captain impeded by the management - all this while the team faces three big series
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Peter Siddle returned to international cricket in the Perth Test after being sidelined in February this year but was ruled out from the next Test due to a back injury © Getty Images

While Australia capitulated at the WACA and then collapsed at Bellerive, both India and England prospered in Rajkot.

The implications of these scenarios are many and varied. Australia are in distinct trouble against South Africa, and unless this trend is reversed quickly, the selectors face the prospect of wholesale changes for the upcoming series against an improved Pakistan outfit.

Australia then face a tough tour of India, a playground where they have recently experienced more recriminations than celebrations, followed by a visit from England next summer. To say the next few weeks are crucial to Australian cricket is akin to saying the world awaits Donald Trump's presidency with bated breath.

Most of Australia's recent failures have stemmed from poor batting displays, but the inability to keep fast bowlers fit for duty is shaping to be just as big a problem.

A short while ago it appeared Australia's pace bowling future was bright, with Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins all capable of swinging the ball at genuine pace, while Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle provided consistently probing spells. In addition, there were other hopefuls with pace and talent at the Shield level who promised adequate back-up in case of the odd injury.

I don't think the system allows you to captain Australia properly. There are too many people to tell to get stuffed

Since then there has been a string of injuries as long as the sartorius muscle, which leaves Starc and Hazlewood as the last men standing. It's a bleak picture that provides skipper Steven Smith with a migraine-style headache and the administrators with many questions to answer.

When a team has lost four Tests in succession - three of them from virtually impregnable positions - there are bound to be questions about the captain's right to retain the job. However, the job of the Australian captain has been made increasingly difficult over the years by some questionable administrative decisions.

In 2011, I told the Argus review: "I don't think the system allows you to captain Australia properly. There are too many people to tell to get stuffed. At least when I was skipper, you only had to tell the manager to butt out if he wanted to stick his nose into the cricket side of the business."

With that said, the Argus review recommended an additional layer of management and even more impediment to good captaincy.

Smith's job has been made infinitely harder than mine ever was. At least I was in control of my own destiny, which is a must when all the wins and losses go against your name. Smith doesn't have that luxury and he's also impeded by a development system that is faltering, bordering on total engine failure.

Cricket Australia held the Argus review and another one into the safety of the game following the tragic death of Phil Hughes. However, it hasn't addressed the failure of a system that should provide selectors with a production line of successful young batsmen from first-class cricket. The current system has been an abject failure for at least a decade, mainly providing a string of journeymen and ageing debutants, and yet, nothing seems to change.

Actually, that's not exactly true. There are more coaches, more theories on how to play spin bowling, and fewer overseas successes. While the failures in India, England and Sri Lanka were treated with an "out of sight, out of mind" approach by the public, the inability to cope with a weakened South African attack on a reasonable WACA surface has shone a fierce spotlight on Australia's batting frailty.

India, on the other hand, have a plentiful supply of talented and technically efficient young batsmen. England, who used to eschew selecting youth as though that would inflict a plague on the side, have blooded two young batting hopefuls on the tour of Bangladesh and India.

Australia are now at the point where the ageing-debutant policy is a proven failure and they will be forced to choose a few younger batsmen on a speculative basis.

With a tour of India and a tough home series against England looming, this is not ideal. It could go one of two ways: either it'll be a triumph for youth or cause the pain often felt in seeking longer-term success.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • eddiehemmingswobble on November 16, 2016, 12:57 GMT

    There is a wider picture here. Australia resemble what England looked like in the 90's. That is, that they lack depth, and are subject to knee jerk, reactive selections that actually expose the issue at hand, and that is they don't have the cattle any more. The country is currently hell bent on political correctness and that is hurting all of its sporting teams. I have never seen such poor Australian national teams, and in turn have never seen such an inward looking country. The two are related. When the like of Botham, Willis, Lamb, Gower and Gatting steadily retitired from English cricket in the early 90's, they were replaced by sub standard, mentally inferior individuals who I choose not to name with the exception of Darren Gough. They were the product of an education system that was, at the time opposed to competition and the potential degrading of ones self esteem. I know this because I lived it. I'm literally watching history repeat itself as an Australia Citizen. Unbelievable

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on November 16, 2016, 9:49 GMT

    Yes, its all down to Adam Gilchrist's golf ball. ha ha ha Should have used a few mints in his glove instead

  • cricfan39262021 on November 15, 2016, 20:31 GMT

    Australia was previously successful because they built a team. The current unit isn't a team - it's a group (and an ever-evolving group) of players who play cricket. Our selectors have a bad habit, more recently, of knee-jerk selections. Here's a novel idea: pick new players into the team based on form - not potential or past results, but current form. Right now there are two players in the domestic competition who should be in the current unit: Cam White and Sayers. With regards to the final test against SA, I think the selectors should leave the current unit as it stands. Make them play for respect - and don't leave it up to other players.

  •   Chris Silva on November 15, 2016, 18:23 GMT

    Arrogance, unnecessary aggression on the field are the main reasons for Australia's downfall. When Adam Gilchrist resorted to having half a golf ball inside his glove and got the blessings from Australia and due to them being big boys got away with the umpires, match referees and the ICC. The writing was on the wall that if was a matter of time before they got reduced to lower levels.

  • Harold-I on November 15, 2016, 11:06 GMT

    i don't agree with the premise. Batters don't get out for single digit scores because of a "system". They get out either because they're not good enough or their form/attitude/mentality is broken. The batters are definitely good enough, that you can see from their record. So it's something else. I do agree there are way too many voices around, and the batters just need 1 or 2 they trust. They need Langer to keep them focused on the narrow path. They need Hayden for some spunk. The need Ponting for motivation. But not 30, just 1 or 2 to get in their heads, calm them down, remind them of what they can do, and then let them go. Less is more. Sometimes.

  • AltafPatel on November 15, 2016, 8:11 GMT

    Aus was not short of bowlers. So not good excuse to have bowlers injured. You got Starc, Hazlewood, Siddle, Lyon. On other part, SA got Steyn injured and played almost nothing in series. Morkel too injured, and Philander got injured in 2nd innings. Also SA was having bowlers like Rabada who has not played more than 5 tests and debutant Maharaj, Abbott too not played more than 10 tests.

  • ooper_cut on November 15, 2016, 7:08 GMT

    Michael Clarke was the last of the classy test batsman OZ had. The jury is still out on Warner. All others including their captain Smith are very second class at best. A total revamp is needed, from the top.

    Butttt, hats off to the saffers, winning 3 series in a row in Australia, they truly deserve to be No.1. I cant see Eng or Aus or any team beating SA in SA.

  • Pradeen on November 15, 2016, 1:54 GMT

    Don't Worry Aussies ,our brother is coming over there for 3 Test. Again put a flat track Smith & CO will easy win three 3-0. I am excepting similar the condition (like hobrat) for PAK team . If there is some assistant blowers then i would say our brothers will fights hard to win or level series. And I am hoping for low scoring match. Misbah please patient with blower and attack fourth line ..

  • cricfan21278003 on November 15, 2016, 1:36 GMT

    To everyone who says the new age of T20 has destroyed batting technique, I have just two words to say: Haseeb Hameed !!

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on November 14, 2016, 12:46 GMT

    sagirparkar .... I too was encouraged to see Steve Waugh say he might be interested when Rod Marsh goes. Marsh has said he will go in June 2017 but I can see (HOPE more like) him going early if the current debacle continues. Team just looks stale and agree the impediment is probably Sutherland. The elephant in the room is that Howard, R Marsh (& M Waugh & Hohns) & Lehmann should all go and obviously Sutherland is aware that if these correct changes are made people are going to look at the head of the snake as Dale Steyn might say and wonder how he put these people in place. With Gillespie as coach and Steve Waugh as selector and the involvement of people like Ponting and Chris Rogers I don't think major improvement would be far away.

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