Australia ask Hick to teach batting patience
Graeme Hick, one of the greatest batting enigmas in England's history, has been called up to sort out the mindsets of young Australia batsmen increasingly wedded to Twenty20 cricket.
Hick will not have time to influence the Ashes series - Australia, despite being in a state of turmoil, plan to announce their squad on Wednesday, even though the opening Test at Trent Bridge will still be 12 weeks away.
But Australia's decision to call up Hick to teach their batsmen how to play long innings reflects their uncertainty about how to deal with the influence of a T20 format that promises quick rewards and instant fame.
Nobody loved batting more than Hick. He only scored six Test hundreds for England in 65 Tests - none against Australia in 10 attempts and was pilloried by the English media during an international career that was viewed as largely unfulfilled.
But he made 136 hundreds in 25 years at first-class level when his batting often seemed inexorable. It was those qualities which has persuaded Troy Cooley, the head coach at Australia's centre of excellence and Stuart Law, the high performance coach, to summon him to Brisbane from his home nearby on the Gold Coast.
"In the first-class system here there was only one person who had scored two hundreds in Sheffield Shield cricket by mid-January, not including the guys that played in the Test matches," Hick told the Sunday Express. "That's unheard of, and when I spoke to Stuey Law and Troy Cooley (that was something they identified. Having put together some biggish scores in my time, they thought I could pass on some of my methods."
Hick will work with some of the younger players in Australia's set-up from mid-May onwards. "It's a unique system in that players can go from Grade cricket to Test cricket very quickly," he said. "The way the Australia team is at the moment I would think that a lot of these younger guys will feel they have a real chance of making it into the side in the next 18 months or so."
Hick's 405 for Worcestershire against Somerset in 1988 remains one of the most remarkable batting feats in England's first-class history - only exceeded twice in the country - but he has not been used in any capacity since his retirement. Australia are out to prove that his knowledge is worth tapping.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo