Australia in England 2012 June 27, 2012

Australia chase All Blacks' dominance


Australia's blueprint for sustained supremacy in world cricket is being informed and inspired by the New Zealand All Blacks' enduring domination of international rugby. Encouraged by the rugby grounding of Cricket Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard, Michael Clarke's team and the pathway beneath them are being shaped with New Zealand's century-old dominance of the oval-ball game as a major influence.

As part of Australia's push to rise again in the world rankings, all Cricket Australia contracted players are now assessing themselves according to the individual player program used by the All Blacks in the lead-up to their 2011 World Cup victory. Earlier this month, New Zealand rugby's high performance director Don Tricker and their player development manager Mike Anthony were the keynote speakers at CA's sports medicine and coaching conference in Canberra.

CA are also looking closely at the relationships fostered by the All Blacks with New Zealand's five Super Rugby professional club teams, to better aid the movements of players and coaching philosophies between the states and the national team. Much as Super Rugby added another layer to a system that had once flowed seamlessly from provincial sides to international level, so Twenty20 club teams are adding complexity to the task of managing players from state cricket to ODIs and Tests.

Howard told ESPNcricinfo he aspired to the sort of long-term performance level that New Zealand have kept up for decades, despite being among the smallest nations playing the game. A similar goal was outlined in last year's Argus review.

"I try to refrain from going to rugby because obviously it's where I'm from, but on a world scale the All Blacks are very hard to compare against - a nation of four million people who over a 100-year period have been extremely dominant in a world sport," Howard said ahead of Australia's ODI series against England. "They constantly innovate, and they turn players over a reasonable amount, so there are some learnings there for us."

One of the central tools being brought over from New Zealand to Australia's cricketers is the individual player plan used to assess performances, strengths and weaknesses. These questionnaires allow the players' own views of themselves to be cross-referenced with coaching and selection judgements, resulting in more rounded and constructive discussions of ways for each player to improve.

"We have adopted it and it's gone quite well," Howard said. "So very much being player-led, the players take their individual player plans and look at where they're performing well, or areas to improve on, and we obviously support it with the coaches and the sports scientists to address those gaps. Also for the coaches to say 'we thought your strengths were here, you think they're there, let's actually use that as a discussion to assess the reality'. It is a good affirmation for some players and coaches to look at different parts of players' games.

"New Zealand have used it for a couple of years and the fact is that the players get the input into really being able to sit back and assess their own game. I think that's an important part of reflecting. They'll often think about their core skill, but whether or not they're physically in great condition, mentally in great condition, assessing all the parts of their disciplines where they can look for that edge to get into the team.

"Just the ability to reflect is important, and to a certain point it doesn't matter where it comes from, as long as it comes from a sound place with some reasonable background. Someone else has nicely tested it for us, which is a great thing."

In Canberra, Tricker and Anthony presented to the nation's coaches on how New Zealand had created the right environment for success. Howard said that while CA could take plenty of succour from the All Blacks' ability to stay at the top of rugby despite repeatedly facing other larger countries, he acknowledged that New Zealand's focus on the game and its smaller geographical area made several of their measures more easily employed.

"There's no magic bullet, and funnily enough they used that term as well. You need to have a combination of things to make sure your environment is something that helps you excel," Howard said. "But we've got to take their processes and try to take them over a far larger geographical area. New Zealand is a little bit like England, a little bit smaller, and obviously the geographic divide of Australia means you have to run those different satellites a little more strongly.

"But they were very big on player plans, dealing with sports medicine but also sports medicine being a balanced part of decision-making - it can't drive decisions but it helps form them. Those things were very good messages and support coaches making good decisions and in a cricket sense coaches with their selection panels.

"They presented very well, had some very similar ideas and concepts for where we want to go, and also some things that we're already doing, so the confirmation of our methods was also good for us. Obviously they come from a very successful environment. It was pretty meaningful."

Howard's non-cricket background has proved to be an asset for CA in combination with experienced cricket minds like those of the coach Mickey Arthur and the national selector John Inverarity. He said the search for outside ideas had so far been fruitful, though always leavened by the need to adhere to basics.

"Don Tricker, the guy heading up New Zealand rugby, has a softball background. And the fact he came from an environment outside rugby in that country, was huge," Howard said. "The ability to come in and question things is a good thing. We've got some guys on this tour from outside as well, so I think it's important to assess yourself against your competitors, but also other sports."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • zenboomerang on June 29, 2012, 6:13 GMT

    Seems Brettig is really stretching what Howard actually said "I try to refrain from going to rugby" & "there are some learnings there [player management]"... All Howard has done is look at some performance techniques that the All Blacks have been using for 2 years which have proved successful, culminating in a WC victory - after all, Howard is our Performance Manager for CA... As for Oz looking to become dominators for over 100 years, well that is just a media beat up...

  • dummy4fb on June 28, 2012, 16:10 GMT

    well this is ridiculous. A lot of people forget that cricket is Australia's NO.1 SUMMER SPORT. The winter is divided among AFL, League, Rugby and Football. No point making excuses by stating rugby is NZ's no.1 sport. One thing I could never understand is why our cricket team can never be as successful as our rugby team(s). One obvious thing is poor management of the game from grass roots to senior levels. We do punch above our weight in CWCs but we aren't a consistent cricketing nation.

  • SpadeaSpade on June 28, 2012, 15:36 GMT

    Firstly I was very opposed to Pat Howards appointment, but its not his fault that CA hired him. We need only look at what Aussie rugby teams have done under the coaching of arguably NZ best rugby coaches Mitchell & Deans. Neither the Wallabies nor the force have achieved anything great under their rein. Last time i looked the wallabies had won more world cups than the All blacks. Australia lost its dominance due to the retirement of 3 of wisdoms all time greatest players. and the revival was only stifled but Pontings rigid captaincy. I predicted great things for the ausies under Micheal clarke and I'm still firm in that belief, under his leadership the team is moving forward, his willingness to bowl a spinner and throw the ball to part timers on gut feeling or use unorthodox field settings are just a few of the qualities that he has restored to this team that sadly went to water under punter. Let Pup dictate whats required not someone with no cricket bacground.

  • zn264 on June 28, 2012, 14:53 GMT

    Wow there are some extremely jealous rugby fans commenting on this article! The All Black are the best team in the world by a mile and always have been. Just look at the most recent results! Aussie struggle to beat the Welsh, SA draw with England, the Scotts can't score tries...and da da da da da dahhh The ABs smash the Irish by 60 points. Oh and yes the world cup, well funny things happen in world cups, but I would rather keep the number one spot than worry about trophies (even though we currently have that too). Now to beat the Windies...c'mon black caps!

  • Shafi79 on June 28, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    well if their planning on modelling themselves on the All Blacks ... maybe they can also take a cue from the South African cricket team ... under achievers at every world cup :p Seriously though hailing from Sri Lanka, love my rugby as much as my cricket and have always been a huge fan of the All Blacks ... had to wait a long time since 87, for that second world cup win though ... Aussies arent going to win too many world cups if they plan on emulating the mighty All Blacks :D

  • Slobberdog on June 28, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    @Franko333: That's probably more a reflection of the level of Indian professionalism rather than some kind of magic potion possessed by the NZ Rugby Union administration. The perception is that most Indian cricketers are not hard trainers. Clearly many are poor fielders with low physical fitness levels. They don't practice on the types of playing surfaces found throughout the world (that matters in this game - and it's a weakness shared by numerous teams). When foreign coaches try to force professional work ethics on the team, they run into trouble. India relies mostly on raw talent from their giant population pool and, so far, that hasn't been enough to become consistent world-beaters.

  • ed.dixon on June 28, 2012, 13:21 GMT

    Huh? Why aren't Australia basing themselves on the Australian cricket team that was pretty well unbeatable for 15 years or so? Or is this Australia tacitly admitting that actually they were just pretty lucky to have 4 or 5 of the best players in history turning up at the same time and that the coach, as Warne so memorably put it 'is just a bus for getting you to the matches'.

  • KiwiRocker- on June 28, 2012, 10:36 GMT

    This is laughable stuff! Finally, I got an oppertunity to comment about something New Zealand related. While, I admire the persistent dominance of All blacks for more than a century but it does not help when you actually do not win when it matters! England won the rugby world cup in 2003 despite being an average team as they believed in winning ugly. All Blacks have only won world cup twice and choked at many important occasions...There are some ridiculous comments being made around here by Indian fans who have no clue what All Blacks are and so on..All Black have been dominant because each New Zealand player takes a huge pride when they wear the black Jersey..Indian cricketers can never match that. India's most ove rated player of All time Tendulya only plays and cares for records..What exactly has he won? Pat Howard will be best advised to look at model of Steve Waugh's era Australian team as they are dominant and had a mental edge over opponents!

  • BoundaryCrtitic on June 28, 2012, 9:55 GMT

    One thing i would like to point out. The World Cup of rugby was an after thought, prior to 1987 there was no world cup, it was based around tours. The All Blacks dominance was well established prior to that. Yes, the All Blacks have got a habit of losing the one off games at the pointy end of one competition every four years. But, in the last 50 years only England, Australia, South Africa and France have beaten the All Blacks. 1953 was the last time Wales have beaten New Zealand and no other national team have. If that is not a dominant record, I don't know what is. So I can understand why people maybe looking at how to emulate this.

  • cricketcritic on June 28, 2012, 9:44 GMT

    I'm not convinced CA needs to do this, but NZ have been extraordinarily successful in rugby. They've won the WC twice, made the finals every other WC and ranked no. 1 consistently from year to year. Contrary to popular belief they also have fewer playing numbers than countries like France and England - so not a bad example to follow if you must

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