Peter Roebuck
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Former captain of Somerset; author of It Never Rains, Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh and other books

After the debacle

To repair its reputation and standard of cricketing excellence, Australia must restore the strength of its domestic cricket and introduce balance in its corridors of power

Peter Roebuck

January 19, 2011

Comments: 60 | Text size: A | A

Tim Nielsen addresses the media after being confirmed as Australia's new coach, Melbourne, February 5, 2007
Tim Nielsen: perhaps too nice a guy © Getty Images

Over the weekend, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Hauritz, David Warner and Phillip Hughes turned out for their clubs. At once, it was a commonplace event and a promising sign. It indicated a return to basics, an involvement in the game at the grassroots, a willingness to submit to its cruel authority. It is, also, an important part of the rebuilding already underway in Australian cricket.

Shaken not so much by a widely expected Ashes defeat as by the calamitous nature of the results, alarmed by the slide to fifth in the Test rankings - the only ones that really matter - and worried about the impotence of its young players, Australian cricket is undergoing a radical review of its structure and performance.

How radical the conclusions will be remains to be seen. Plain as day, the system is not working as efficiently as previously. Nor has Australia been in the vanguard of change. England created Twenty20 and even wore more suitable whites on the field in Test matches. Nor could Cricket Australia find a suitable candidate for the post of ICC vice-president from within, while the decision to award the coach a new three-year contract before this summer's campaign began has drawn criticism. Even the promotion of Greg Chappell as talent manager and selector has been questioned, as attention was drawn to his patchy recent record.

Accordingly, the review will consider all aspects of Australian cricket. The very existence of a board containing two members from each state has been condemned as outdated. Cricket is no longer a mainly domestic game to be presided over by past players or ageing administrators with years of devoted service in their records. Rather, it is an international affair and a modern multi-million dollar operation.

Not that the game should not come first. Cricket does not exist to make money. Commerce is a means to an end; that is all. Woe betides the nation that concentrates more on the bottom-line than the production line. A balance is needed between officials with expertise in management and finance and those best able to keep the game on the correct path.

Still, the feeling grows that Australian cricket ought to follow the practice applied by other sports of appointing a commission to run its affairs. It seems a reasonable proposal, calculated to leapfrog the local game ahead of its overseas rivals.

Assuming it's proposed and accepted, the commission ought to reflect both the diversity of the nation at large - Australia is far more of a melting pot than either its cricket or its caricature pretends - and the importance of the female of the species. That Australia has fallen behind in women's cricket confirms that the game has lost its previous drive.

Inevitably, the administration will also come under scrutiny. James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, has been in the hot seat for ten years and his performance is bound to be examined. Even the best executives can run out of steam. Likewise a back-room packed with experts in public relations and media will be overhauled. The sight of the selectors naming 17 players for the Gabba Test at a ceremony arranged almost a fortnight before the Ashes series was due to begin did not enhance the dignity of the game or the credibility of those involved. Naturally, the Englishmen chuckled into their tea.

Even the medical and fitness staff will be called to account. Australian cricket has suffered a terrible rash of injuries. Of course cricket is played on hard grounds, with a hard ball, and occasional setbacks are to be expected. However, the list is long and not limited to fast bowlers, young or old. Clint McKay, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Michael Hussey, Simon Katich, Moises Henriques, James Pattinson and Callum Ferguson can be included in the long list of walking wounded. Obviously, the current methods are not working.

Meanwhile, Shane Watson, once as fragile as porcelain, plays every match while Brett Lee, Peter Siddle and Ricky Ponting, till he broke a finger, looked the fittest of the players. Fitness is another issue. England looked sharper and more athletic than their hosts. Australia were out-fielded. At one stage, the home captain observed that a bowler had "hit the wall." Doug Bollinger did not look fit enough and he was not alone. The primary responsibility lies with the player himself, but the coaching staff needs to demand the highest standards.

Nor can the coach emerge unscathed from the debacle. That Tim Nielsen is a good man is beyond dispute. No one has a bad word to say about him. Perhaps that is the problem. Popular figures are not always best-placed to instill rigour. Respect is more important than fellow-feeling. Nor did Australia's tactics seem especially astute while few players improved as the season went along. England were superior off the field as well as on it.

The selectors too will be asked to explain themselves. By now the response may sound drastic but its manner will be measured. The only reason to look backwards is to light the path forwards. Andrew Hilditch and colleagues may argue that they picked the best side from the players at their disposal and that the problems are deeper-rooted. It's not easy to be a selector in a nation used to winning and full of opinions. Still the responsibility was taken on gladly and the fees accepted willingly.

The past is another country and right now Australian cricket is in trouble. Changes of personnel and customs are in the offing, and even an unexpected victory in the World Cup will not stop them

Hilditch and the panel suffered from poor timing. Perhaps, the addition of Chappell and the loss of Merv Hughes upset the balance. Plenty of opportunities had previously arisen to ditch Nathan Hauritz and Marcus North, yet the panel waited till the Ashes was approaching or else underway. Of the replacements, Xavier Doherty looked inadequate, Phillip Hughes was still sorting out his game and Steven Smith seemed to be batting too high at No. 6.

From a distance, it seemed that the original commitment to hold the team together till the end of the Ashes was suddenly ditched in favour of a more progressive strategy. If so, it was both too early and too late. Clearly the panel cannot survive its errors. Not that selection was the critical issue. As Hilditch tried to point out in his tongue-tied way, England were better with bat and ball.

By no means can these honest servants of the game be allowed to duck their responsibilities. Only after all these debates have been completed is it worth talking about the captaincy and the playing field, the influence of the IPL, the effects of the Australian Football League's ever-stronger venture into New South Wales, and the significance of the northern hemisphere's increasingly strong stranglehold on the sporting dollar and so upon the prospects and locations of the players. It's worth pointing out that a large majority of the players, and all the important coaches involved in the Ashes series were born below the equator.

Perhaps these topics can wait for another day. Meanwhile, Australia have a World Cup to defend. Although Ponting's side occupies top place in the ODI rankings, it does not look good enough to retain the trophy for a fourth time. From afar, it might seem that a country that has held the World Cup for 15 years, been top of the Test rankings almost as long, and been a beaten finalist in the World Twenty20 is going along well.

But the past is another country and right now Australian cricket is in trouble. Changes of personnel and customs are in the offing, and even an unexpected victory in the World Cup will not stop them. Three innings-defeats at home against the third-placed team told the story. Australians expect high standards and appreciate straight talking. Of course, the two are connected. Now is the time for Cricket Australia to chart the course forwards with a view to restoring domestic standards and establishing best practices in the corridors of power. Only then will the wider world once again feel the wrath of the baggy green.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It

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Posted by Dr.Qwert on (January 21, 2011, 11:28 GMT)

the problem isn't the standard of Domestic cricket its the selectors being too narrow minded, Marsh was a far better option than Hughes to open the batting & no surprise given the chance he's looked very classy against the English. 1 of the Main issues is that players really struggle to find their spot in a team, Michael Beer & Doherty were struggling for first class games not too long ago as only 66 players get a go in any given round of first class cricket. When you knock out those who are probably too old to bring in now like Jacques, Voges, Manoe, Krejza, Dave Hussey... a few who look promicing but aren't quite ready for tests like Maddison, Pattinson & the couple international players & the pool of talent is fairly small. you're probably down to 40-45 players eligibe in your pool across all positions regardless of form & quality.there's proof if you think about in the success of the likes of Klinger, Blizzard, Christian showing they're top quality when they move & get a chance.

Posted by Wozza-CY on (January 21, 2011, 11:06 GMT)

JeffG...yeah, I understand we're not going to dominate world cricket with the current crop of players, in fact no one probably will, SA stars starting to get on abit Kallis, Smith, Boucher etc. Indian stars certainly getting on Ganguly, Tendulkar, Laxman etc. It's one thing getting outplayed & beaten by a better team. I'd just like to see a team of scrappers not give an inch & fight all the way. Too many soft dismissals. I don't think the current players lack any skill, if they were really hungry for the game, I wish they'd portray that more on the pitch & in the nets. I do think our media hypes our players up too much all hoping for the next 'star'. As I say, I'd rather a team of 'lesser lights' & scrappers go down to a superior line up than see what's been going on this summer.

Posted by JeffG on (January 21, 2011, 9:32 GMT)

@Wozza-CY - absolutely you need to do the basics right and play to your strengths in order to get the best results you can - the current England set up is the perfect example of doing that. BUT - even doing that, a team is still not going to win more than 50-55% of it's matches. That is the reality of modern cricket. Every other team (who haven't had the luxury of Warne-McGrath) understands this and accepts that there will be good and bad runs of results. I don't think Australia (fans, players or officials) have come to terms with this yet. I still think they believe that changing the set up of their sport will enable them to return to those halcyon days of the late 90s/early 00s. All i'm saying is that was a freak period, a one-off and even if Australia do everything right they will still be "only" another good team. And by not recognising that, they are running the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Posted by Jim1207 on (January 21, 2011, 2:55 GMT)

Solution must be simple. Ricky used to say that Aussies play hard and fair and win the game. Why don't they just do the same, Ricky is still the captain, right? They can't because they were not playing hard and fair but they were terrorising the opponents with quality players and unbearable sledging which they cannot pose now. Ricky used to behave like a hitler and battle like Alexander when everybody around were legends but now his true color and ability are being exposed which itself eats him all the time. His avg since 2007 is around 40s but every aussie was telling themselves that he is not playing well for only last 1 or 2 years. Same for the team - they didn't believe that team needs to be grown, thought legends will born out of nowhere. Accept the reality, that those ours-is-perfect-domestic-structure boasting are good to hear when things are fine. At least if Warne had been made captain, he would have captained even now and would have rebuilt a strong team. Fire Ricky first.

Posted by Wozza-CY on (January 21, 2011, 0:50 GMT)

JeffG..clearly you can't replace 1100 test wickets overnight. Many people understand as well as the fact that bowlers like Warne & McGrath come along rarely. What Oz cricket fans want is for our team to play accordingly. Clarke was at logger heads with the coach about playing more conservative before and after breaks in play. Clarke wanted to 'play a natural game'. That worked fine when you had Gilly in the middle order or Warne & McGrath to bowl them out cheaper. The team needs a reality check and go back to basics & not 'flash' at everything. Do things like, have the openers see off the new ball, play to your strengths, block an over if you have to, bowl maidens, build pressure. The result wouldn't have changed, England were the better team through the whole Ashes series. What we need is better organisation, more discipline & pick the right players for the job & not get caught up in political or state based selections. Just pick the best team, lead & coach them well.

Posted by JeffG on (January 20, 2011, 13:32 GMT)

@meety - I honestly do think that 95% of the problem is down to Warne & McGrath retiring. The numbers are clear on this. When both of them played in the same team, Australia won 68% of it's matches. When one of them was missing, that fell to 59%. When neither of them played, it fell again to 55%. Or to put it another way, even that "great" Aussie team was no better than any other "good" team - say the current SA team, who have a similar winning % to that. Of course, Australia's winning percentage since they retired has been 49%, so it is a bit lower but it's still the kind of winning percentage that most teams (including England and India) can still only aspire to - and it's 2nd only to SA in the period since Warne/McGrath retired. I think a reality check and a lowering of expectations is needed here.

Posted by Meety on (January 20, 2011, 7:36 GMT)

@ c5nv2838a47i - Re; 2nd tier comp. There is a 2nd XI comp called "Futures" or something like that. I don't believe that many games are played but includes ACT as well as the other states. I'd like to see a NT side playing with some retiring greats playing a mentoring/playing role in the side. Based out of Darwin, this would be good for Oz cricket as Darwin's pitch is about as close as Oz can get to simulating a sub-continental pitch. The NT Shield side, (doesn't have to play in the Shield comp - maybe just against State sides who have the bye), would almost be a spin acadamy where they always have 1 or 2 spinners in the starting XI. I think the Shield should start a little earlier & the Internationals be available, I also think the Big Bash needs to be condensed, so that more ist class games are played in January. Maybe move the Big Bash to October?????? Get more Internationals playing Shield & beef up the Futures comp.

Posted by   on (January 20, 2011, 5:23 GMT)

@Munro_Mick, the comment regarding AFL in NSW has nothing to do with the availability of grounds, but it's about young cricketers choosing to play Aussie Rules rather than cricket. It's easy to see why - in the elite AFL competition, as of next year, there will be 18 teams, each team has 18 on field players and slightly more than that number again in the entire team (usually made up of 42 players), that is there is a position for nearly 750 men to be a part of an elite football team. Compare this with cricket. There are six first class teams in Australia - NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, plus the Australian team - made up of 12 players each - for a total of only 84 first class cricketers, plus perhaps another 20-25 that would play regularly, i.e. less that 120 men in total playing elite cricket. It's easy to see why juniors with the talent are picking AFL more than cricket...

Posted by ssampath on (January 20, 2011, 4:38 GMT)

Peter Roebuck always give a fair assessment. The major problem that Australia have had over the years has been that they always stick to winning combinations and change personnel only when the person retires or he gets injured. When the old guard is back, the new person sits out again irrespective of his performance ... How else can you expect some body like brad hodge who has scored so heavily in domestic cricket not tried enough at test level ( he has a double hundred in tests). The other problem they have is that they brand resources very quickly. How can they not include some body like a David hussey or a Cameron White in their test teams inspite of they scoring so prolificly in the domestic competitions and so Stuart Clarke, who has done very well in the test matches that he has played . krezja not tried enough ... On the other hand, people like Mitchell Johnson / Dougie bollinger continue to be automatic choices or back ups for the main teams. The entire system needs a overhaul

Posted by trumpoz on (January 20, 2011, 4:18 GMT)

If we look back 25 years when Australia had to last rebuild - Captain grumpy, a Coach that could terrify players and bringing in and trying younger players. It really took them 4-5 years to find and develop a core of players that would start to bring Australia back as a force in world cricket. This sort of thing will not be quick and it is right to look at the administration as well as the players. People bagging Michael Clark as not being right for captaincy need to look at what he was doing in the Sydney Test..... Ok he didn't score, but he will come back to form and has a lot of runs in the bank. His handling of Mitch Johnston was excellent - bowl 2 overs of rubbish, get dragged and come back later. He did that with a number of bowlers and at one stage had Beer and Watson bowling because they were the ones who could put it in the right spot. His captaincy was a lot more patient than Ponting and I honestly think he is the man for the job.

Posted by   on (January 20, 2011, 3:01 GMT)

Geez you're generous to the selectors Mr Roebuck. Your comments 'Phillip Hughes was still sorting out his game and Steven Smith seemed to be batting too high at No. 6." are almost as unbeliveable as the selection of the players in the first instance. Neither had shown any form that suggeted they were up to playing for Australia. Both had just over 100 runs a piece in domestic 4 day cricket. Hughes averaging under 20 and Smith around 30. This is the real problem: players are being selected on reputation alone and form is being ignored. Hence Michael Clarke rolls on without contributing squat.

Posted by thefountain on (January 20, 2011, 2:44 GMT)

One issue also is too many weet bix approved players. Munro_Mick. Have you seen the ratings for A-League? Very, very poor. Soccer/Football has always had high junior participation. I don't think it would really affect cricket talent. The ideal AFL player is someone who is six feet six and can run fast and jump. Also the ideal fast bowler. AFL is the best run sport in Australia right now.

Posted by gzawilliam on (January 20, 2011, 2:33 GMT)

Geez Pete You reckon!.. Do you ever write anything other than this subject? Yes australia needs a structure revamp. The selectors need to go. We've heard it all before the last few weeks.

Slow news day or what!

Posted by RohCricket on (January 20, 2011, 2:11 GMT)

australian cricket needs to look to the future, but that does not mean it has to take drastic measures. obviously, on the playing field we have to go back to the basics. the players dont seem hungry enough. i dont think i saw a single player completely shattered by the ashes loss. it wasnt the same reaction to when they lost in 2005. the players have to focus on the basics. the pace attack lacked penetration. only ryan harris looked remotely dangerous, while johnson and siddle had their moments. we must get hauritz back into the lineup. i think we should get two decent openers, which would solve our n.6 problem because we could get watson in at 6, or even at 5. ponting has to be given more chances. he hasn't looked too bad and he has been down on his luck. the fielding must get sharper. and johnson has to be dropped till he can be consistent. all in all, the players havent looked focused or hungry or settled, but we can't forget we lost 7 of our best players in the last 5 years.

Posted by   on (January 20, 2011, 1:58 GMT)

In my view, just dealing with the top of the tree does not cure the disease. A good hard look needs to be taken to junior cricket. There appears to be a solid drift away from cricket of talented youngsters at the 12-15 yo age group. I put this down to the introduction about 15 years ago of "politically correct" cricket - everything rotates, everyone gets a bat (maximum number of runs then retired, open one week, no 11 the next) and bowl (minimum 2overs each), even the field is rotated! Also the introduction of plastic cricket is a disaster and an insult.

Until the age of about 16, cricket is not real - it is not based on merit, it is not producing specialisation, it is not producing captains. The best get bored and give the game away.

15 years later the test team is weak

The junior system needs a total overhaul and the politically correct mums and dads told to find another sport!

Posted by BhuvG on (January 20, 2011, 1:55 GMT)

Its astonishing to hear comments like 'its time for radical changes for cricket in Oz'.I understand fans emotional albeit irrational response,but thoughtful writer like Peter (ok to hear from Gideion H.)saying this?Not long ago Ozs bragged about their cricket and cricket administration and its strength of grassroot level infrastructure and what not.All of sudden everything vapourized by English Ashes Fire Ball.First,give credit where it is due,have anyone seen an English team play like they did during this Ashes campaign?Easy, NEVER!Second,the fact that Oz lost 3 campaigns out of last 4,there is no need to panic now.Third,importantly,Ozs downfall started in the summer of 2007 (exposed by the visiting Team India) when they shamelessly appealed one bump catches and screamed for LBW when the ball hit the body or not to save their face.In the end, they lost everything in front of the world.Back then they called it 'playing hard'.Take out Ricky, what u left w/ is 10 guys u want to forget.

Posted by Scgboy on (January 20, 2011, 1:38 GMT)

Agreed there are no easy solutions and much soul searching is required.

It also puts pay to those whom used to chirp or complain how things were so one sided or boring.i was never one ,and was plenty thankful for everything cause the other side of the coin , is pretty much what we have to live through now. How they must be reveling in the show of contest , such as 98 all out or 280 to 664. such glee and joy must fill their hearts,oh wait you mean those are the folks that didn't event bother to attend the grounds or watch on the telly.such joy must be almost too much for them to bear. they cant even bear to watch the result.No thats not subtracting from England's superb performance ,but at the moment who cares about them , its we who have to pick up our socks.

Posted by Boba_Fett on (January 20, 2011, 0:40 GMT)

There was always going to be a drop in standards after Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, etc retired. That team was a once in a generation team and it is unfair for anyone to expect similar standards by the next generation.

What has been disappointing is the lack of strategy by the game's leaders to manage the transition. Players are generally allowed to stay on far too long. Witness Ricky Ponting's clear intent to hang on for as long as he possibly can. His insistence of hanging around the team after his injury is also an impediment to allowing Michael Clarke to stamp his own authority on the team as captain. As Ponting is unwilling to give an inch in this regard it should be up to the coach to set the boundaries. Yet more evidence that Neilsen is not up to the job as coach.

They alway say a fish rots from the head...

Posted by Meety on (January 20, 2011, 0:03 GMT)

@ JeffG - you said it was simple - but I think it is too simple to say Oz domination was JUST because of Warne & McGrath. Oz had more depth than other sides. Pakistan had the 2 Ws + Saqlain Mushtaq (the inventor of the Doosra), they didn't dominate (bloody good on any given day). Oz was great because 1) We fielded better than every one else 2. We Bowled better than everyone else (Warne, McGrath, GILLESPIE, LEE, BICHEL, KASPROWICZ, REIFFEL, MACGILL), 3. We BATTED better than everyone else. Warne & McGrath were the icing on the top. Oz started the long road from mid 1980s hacks to 1987 WC Champions to 1990/2000s champions by getting the fielding right. Playing 4 FRONTLINE bowlers & selecting the best 6 batsmen. Ever since Flintoff buttfunked us in 2005, Oz selectors searched for a clone - we are close with Watto, but we have stuffed our balance up with AB Mac, Smith & to a lessor extent North (his offies were in consideration) being used instead of selecting specialists.

Posted by popahwheely on (January 19, 2011, 23:13 GMT)

Aussies are going through the same thing the Windies went through in the 90's hopefully they don't end up like the current WI.

Posted by aaditya98june on (January 19, 2011, 21:57 GMT)

It is time for Australia to reflect on and acknowledge the real greatness of Shane Warne and Mcgrath. Australia could have hadled/absorbed loss of any other player(players ) and even the so called Coach, but what it could not absorb was the loss of these two all time great players. May be may be if Steve Waugh had been around, the sheer fighting spirit that he embodied could have helped Australia in compensating the loss, but then Ricky Ponting is no Steve Waugh. May be now Australians will realize the wrong done to Shane Warne in not making him the Captain when he richly deserved to be. He was denied purely on non-cricketing grounds what was his due as an Australian cricketer.

Posted by c5nv2838a47i on (January 19, 2011, 21:27 GMT)

Another solution is to increase the standard of cricket played underneath Sheffield Shield level. I suggest a 2nd xi competition run concurrently with the 1st xi comp. This would entail a squad of around 25 players for each state, and when a 1st xi match starts, a 2nd xi match starts nearby against the same opposition, probably one session later (thus allowing the 12th man of the 1st xi to travel to the 2nd xi match where he is guaranteed a game). This would allow players beneath first class standard, or who are being blocked from selection because of other players (think Steve O'Keefe not getting a game for NSW because Nathan Hauritz returns to NSW). In any case it will allow younger players in state cricket the chance to play 10 Three-and-two-thirds-day matches in a season with the expectation that good form (runs and wickets) may lead to 1st xi selection. Far better than the ad hoc 2nd xi season currently being run. Expensive too... but maybe the Test players should get less $$$?

Posted by getgopi on (January 19, 2011, 21:23 GMT)

I have always associated Australia with a lifestyle involving running and swimming in the beaches. It seemed that everytime a reporter interviewed Hayden, he was holding a surfboard. To think that so many of its players are on the injury roster...

Are standards for mainstream -- never mind Cricket-- lifestyles declining over there?

Posted by c5nv2838a47i on (January 19, 2011, 21:19 GMT)

I think one solution should be a reciprocal playing agreement with England - First class counties can hire and select as many Australian players as they want during the northern summer, while Australian State sides can hire and select as many English players as they want during the southern summer. It would increase the playing standards of both competitions.

Posted by Munro_Mick on (January 19, 2011, 19:28 GMT)

Mr Roebuck, what on earth has the AFL in NSW got to do with this? If anything dear sir, the increased presence of AFL in NSW is GOOD FOR CRICKET. Note that Australian Football is played on ovals. The brand new facilities at Blacktown that was a shared project b/w Cricket NSW and AFL NSW is an example. AFL still retains a very distinct season and off season, i.e. summer, when cricket is played. What you might want to question instead is that NSW is the home of soccer in this country and they play thier peak domestic league across summer stepping on the toes of cricket. Soccer is now a 12 month consideration, with local grass roots seasons and the A-League running across the entire year let alone the constant supply of matches on SBS or 1HD or Foxtel. Save your concern about the AFL please - the main thing is Australia had achieved a competitive advantage what with cricket academies and all, but, Australia stood still for too long. Simple.

Posted by popcorn on (January 19, 2011, 17:14 GMT)

Ian Chappell and his crony Shane Warne will taunt John Buchanan for his Coaching, I couldn't care less - the ONLY difference in the last three years is the absence of Jiohn Buchanan. Australia have ONLY lost their powers to raise the bar through their then never-say-die spirit, their ability to mentally disingrate the opposition with their supreme confidence,their ability to raise the bar through superlative performance that came from a Jonathan Livingston Seagull mental framework to raise the bar, higher, faster,set benchmarks like scoring 400 runs in a day - that's what got Australia the Number One spot in Test Cricket for 10 years, 16 consecutive Test wins, not once but twice, three consecutive ODI World Cup wins, and a 5 nil whitewash of the Poms in 2006 -07, achieved only once before, 85 years ago. There is no dearth of talent in Australian domestic cricket or Test Cricket. The frailty exists in the mind. GET JOHN BUCHANAN BACK - if he declines, get a mental conditioning coach.

Posted by Roycomeback on (January 19, 2011, 16:55 GMT)

Agree with@Gilly4ever. CA lost all credibility when they didn't back Andrew Symonds during 'Monkeygate'. Also, the sooner the players realise that their 'Hollywood' lifestyle should come second to cricket.

Posted by anikbrad on (January 19, 2011, 16:27 GMT)

the problen is with the mediocre support staff and selection pannel. This started with nielson and buchanon. They were doing well as the team never needed guidence, but now when they needed support system, selection and direction they have fall flat on face.

Posted by anikbrad on (January 19, 2011, 16:19 GMT)

god atricle a real good one for a yr or so. No solutions but picture rightly potrayed.

Posted by vermasandeep04 on (January 19, 2011, 15:24 GMT)

The Aussie admin first of all needs to get rid of the Ostrich attitude that everything is ok and all they need is "consistency" and "keep doing the right things" etc. Guys! Wake up..Or else you will become like the West Indies soon

Posted by KishoreSharma on (January 19, 2011, 14:52 GMT)

There seem to be a lot of kneejerk reactions around. The present system has served Australia very well over the past couple of decades, the recent debacles notwithstanding. With a large number of players retiring, a downturn was bound to come and England have become very good. None of this justifies scrapping the existing structure - unless the standard of world cricket today is higher than it was when Australia were winning under the present system. Rather, the key is to ensure that cricket remains healthy at grassroots level and young talent continues to be spotted and nurtured. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater!

Posted by vhgupta on (January 19, 2011, 13:54 GMT)

The problem lies in leadership....Ponting is one of the great players cricket has produced....but his role in leadership definitely seems to be over....but the bigger trouble is there is no replacement...pup is struggling to find a place in team, forget about leadership. Some blame has to go to Ponting (of course, overall system as well) for not able to fill the void created by greats who have retired. One of the leadership aspect is to nurture younger talents and convert them into stars....example of which was shown by Warne in opening IPL. I doubt that cricketing talent has suddenly disappeared from the country who have ruled the charts for more than a decade. They should get new blood at leadership and allow him to build the team which can compete much better than existing pack.

Posted by   on (January 19, 2011, 13:54 GMT)

What are the solutions for Australian cricket? Re-think the domestic setup? Introduce more youth into the team? I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. Will be interesting to see how they move forward from here.

Posted by mayankonthemove on (January 19, 2011, 13:52 GMT)

I find it really funny that not long ago, both Australian Domestic Structure and Ponting's Team were the role model for all of the cricket fraternities around the world. Now suddenly what has happen to this great structure that everyone is behind Australian Cricket.

May be it teaches a valuable lesson, 'Before being a champion team try to be real sportsman and develop a respect for your opposing teams'. Because once its not your time, you never know what and how much you are going to face in future.

(Mr. Ponting, are you listening??)

Posted by DiBosco on (January 19, 2011, 13:22 GMT)

All the hand wringing when it's as much as to do with the cyclical nature of sport as anything else. It's possibly an even more stark contrast than it would be due to the incredible Australia team of the last fifteen to twenty years.

Roebuck's pathetic attempt to belittle the England team with his comment about the vast majority of the team being born south of the equator is both innacurate and spurious. A majority, maybe, vast, no. Relevant? No? Only Pietersen and Trott were brought up in the Southern Hemisphere and both have mostly learned their first class trade in England. Not only that, Pietersen, as he has done for a couple of years now, played a peripheral part in the outcome. The bowling unit that outshone the Aussies are as English as you could get as was England's main run scorer.

Posted by CrIcketOz on (January 19, 2011, 12:51 GMT)

(cont) At the expense of this neverending desire for youth has been a number of taleneted cricketers who because they are simply over 23 years age are unable to play second eleven cricket and we are left with kids playing kids as the level just below the once mighty sheffield shield competition. I'm all for youth but am also a believer if you are good enogh you will shine through didso placing a restriction on cricketers simply because of there age is restricting mny taleneted cricketers. Andres Strauss noted that the young cricketers in Australia didnt seem to have the swagger nor confidence they once did when playing tour matches this summer. Hardly surprising considering many of them have not earnt a plce in their shield teams and are playing as a group of kids without expereinced heads to guide and push them

Posted by CrIcketOz on (January 19, 2011, 12:45 GMT)

Australia was at the top for so long that a generation, or at least a group of cricketers who are now between 29 to 37-38 years old have all missed the opportunity to play consitently for Australia despite being more than good enough. Think Martin Love, Brad Hodge, Ashley Noffke, Jimmy Maher, James Hopes, When Cricket Australia finally realised there was going to a mass exodus from a great team there answer was to focus on youth. Unfortunately this has come at a cost. The Futures Leage that has replaced the State second eleven competiotion brings forward young players who are nowehere near ready for second eleven cricket let alone sheffield shield. But as aresult of this we are being infuluxed with young players who are just not up to standard and have not had to earn their place as was the case in the past. A look at sheffield shield batting avergaes will provide testament to this fact.

Posted by SkillNotResult on (January 19, 2011, 12:38 GMT)

Not sure that I can agree that, "Cricket does not exist to make money." I agree that it shouldn't, but I would like to know what evidence that there is to support that it doesn't. Selecting as many NSWmen as possible for the test team- consistently encouraged by the media outlets, (as recently alluded to by Ian Healy), so that the biggest consumer market in the country can buy more newspapers or watch more sponsored TV; preparing batting paradises so that games aren't likely to last less than 5 days, for the gate receipts; Steve Smith appearing in a TV commercial for a national communications company before he had even played a game for Australia; an on-line betting firm's latest odds being spruiked by TV commentators in the middle of an over; mediocre cricketers like Pollard and others making more money than those loyal to their country, and skilled in all three forms of the game... ample evidence to the contrary.

Posted by   on (January 19, 2011, 12:23 GMT)

The Australian players should always go back to playing for their clubs & their states sides. One of the main reasons the Australians were no 1 for a long time, by playing against each other which meant improving the standards of the fringe players with better competition. Resting players is an over reaction & overrated. I thought playing for your state was just as important as playing for your country.

Posted by Dhoni_fan_from_a_dada_era on (January 19, 2011, 11:50 GMT)

stop going over the same thing again and again. Australia has lots of problems so do we. India too is doing with that same age old regional structure. The same players become totally different when they play positively. That is not being found in aussies.

All they need is to get a few good games. probably field a few youngsters. Shaun marsh et al are excellent possibilities. and an agressive captain. that's all.

Posted by bestbuddy on (January 19, 2011, 10:11 GMT)

Cpt.Meanster has hit the nail on its head - the current generation of Aussie cricketers is not nearly as talented or as motivated as the last. Juast look at Aussie cricket a decade ago. Outside the Aussie team at that stage were Mike Hussey, Dave Hussey, Michael Bevan, Michael Elliott, Martin Love, Brad Hodge, and others who all averaged 50+ in first class cricket - now we have guys in the aussie team who dont average anything close to that - callum ferguson is touted as a middle order player for the future with an average of 36! Aus are falling into the same trap as the Windies, expecting the next generation to just take care of themselves, instead of nuturing it, and now they are paying the a Saffa I kinda enjoy it, but would actually prefer an Aussie team to hammer the poms...they get so egotistical over just a few wins...

Posted by Wypinkara on (January 19, 2011, 10:00 GMT)

Nice Article..But Mr. Roebuck you have spoken only about the ailments in the aussie side. What about solutions ???

Posted by Rahulbose on (January 19, 2011, 9:54 GMT)

The shy is falling! The sky is falling! The shy is falling! The sky is falling! The shy is falling! The sky is falling! The sky .. Ashes defeats do funny things to Aussies. What they need to do is find a proper Captain and no Mr Pup won't do.

Posted by hungDaddy on (January 19, 2011, 9:36 GMT)

wat dey need is guidance from srisanth

Posted by StarveTheLizard on (January 19, 2011, 9:15 GMT)

New blood in the system might be called upon. There is a new generation of cricketers coming through. They have new attitudes and motivations to the players that came before them. Having a play station doesn't make someone a bad cricketer. I find it remarkable in this day and age however that the cricket team were so unfit. Anyway, hopefully the panel contains some qualified individuals who can see the real problems. Also, I hope any recommendations they bring in are adopted.

Posted by JeffG on (January 19, 2011, 9:01 GMT)

It's very simple. The reason why Australia were so good for so long is because of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Having the 2 best bowlers in the world (and possibly 2 of the top 5 of all-time) in your team and being able to bowl them in tandem for long periods meant that Australia were invincible. The reason why Australia are now not as good is because Warne & McGrath have retired. They are effectively now "just another team". And the solution is simple - find another Warne and another McGrath !!! Of course, this isn't going to happen and Australia need to come to terms with this and the fact that they will never be able to dominate teams again (this may take a while to sink in.) They will have good matches and series and they will have bad ones, just like any other team but that is what they are now. Aussies need to get used to this and no amount of changes and restructuring will help.

Posted by hyclass on (January 19, 2011, 8:57 GMT)

A system without integrity is no system. Ive heard of the endless changes that are required-how there is a dearth of talent in first class cricket. Its all rubbish. The country is filled with excellent players. O'keefe, Copeland, Swan, D.Hussey, Hodge, Cosgrove,Neville and Hauritz who was dropped.Its impossible for them to demonstrate their quality if they arent picked. A small group of men inherited the same excellent setup that saw the rise and dominance of australia in the professional era. The only failing in that system is their failing. Noone believes Nielsen or any of the rest of staff can coach.The fitness staff have been terrible. Sutherland is in damage control after years of neglect. Ponting and Hussey were retained for years batting 40% below their average while other players were ignored based upon age.In any working environment, age must be secondary to performance. Where in 2011 is discrimination acceptable.Sack them.If it were any of us, it would have happened long ago

Posted by   on (January 19, 2011, 8:56 GMT)

@cricket_wins, while I agree that Hussey, Katich and North (all West Australians, you'll note) certainly did wait a very long time to get their call up to wear the baggy green, Phillip Hughes is only just turned 22, and has only played 43 first class matches. You can hardly put him in the same category as players that have played well over 100 first class games, and scored many more thousands of runs.

A rotation policy does not work in Test Cricket. There isn't enough of it to justify it. You MUST pick your best 11 cricketers, and stick with them as long as they are the best 11 cricketers.

Others have said it. We need to modernise the structure around the team. Someone like Andrew Dimetriou (AFL Commissioner) would make an excellent Chairman of CA. He certainly wouldn't leave Hilditch and Nielson in their cushy positions. A new selection panel needs to be selected. I'd love to see the likes of AB and Langer on the panel, although Langer is too close to the team at present.

Posted by jaidev_bhavya on (January 19, 2011, 8:46 GMT)


Posted by KCKCKC on (January 19, 2011, 8:00 GMT)

It's not a simple matter of selection or selection policies. Any team has been great when it's been able to produce great players at domestic level. The real trick to this is the pitches. If you have really sporting wickets around the country with enough variation all around, you will find good bowlers coming through. With good bowlers coming through the batting gets better. Look at West Indies in it's pomp- cracker pitches for great athletes to have a good bowl on. It's not just Richards, all of the batsmen were above average because they faced Marshall, Garner, Holding and Roberts in the nets and domestic games. The same goes for Oz in its hey day. Great sporting wickets and even trundlers like Reiffel and Fleming were willing to bend their backs. This in turn allowed ok guys like Hayden to become great. Bring back your pitches. The rest will sort itself out.

Posted by Meety on (January 19, 2011, 7:35 GMT)

@Governor - good one re: Rixon, he would be better than Nielsen by a mile. Just wait until you hear the anti NSW brigade go off if that happenned! I say if we can't get Rixon - bring back Bobbie Simpson & install a nuts and bolts reconstruction of the fielding skills that have deserted Oz over the last 5 yrs. If we can be the best fielding side in the world, our bowlers get better results, the opposition are under extra pressure (no let offs), & our batsmen will be in more commanding positions & better mindset. One of the odd things that have occurred over the last 10 years - is that Oz Jnr cricket is improving in International events, won the last U19s World Cup. Seems the more our juniors get better - the less the conversion to International player.

Posted by candyfloss on (January 19, 2011, 7:28 GMT)

The guys sitting in the office cant do anything if the guys on the field arent skilled or cannot perform.As far as I know it is the same domestic structure which helped them scale new heights and now with a rough phase they want to make radical changes.The split innings is a joke though but every thing else about the domestic structure looks fine,perhaps the aussies would differ but reforming the domestic system does not look like an answer to me.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (January 19, 2011, 7:23 GMT)

Simple changes. 1) Hilditch must go as head selector, replace him with e.g. Mark Taylor or Allan Border, or someone who has talent themselves and had to earn it. 2) Nielsen must go as coach, to be replaced with e.g. Geoff Marsh or Tom Moody, people who are experienced coaches with a wealth of hard fighting international experience. 3) Ponting and Clarke must go as captains, to be replaced by someone with a tactical mindset, the only choice being Cameron White. Make those 3 simple changes and the rest will take care of itself.

Posted by cricket_wins on (January 19, 2011, 5:48 GMT)

I feel this is a matter to do with simple motivation - budding talents, knocking on the doors of national selection, would be eternally motivated to perform at first class level. Phil Hughes, Simon Katich, Marcus North, Mike Hussey himself, all of them were consistent performers for a long time at First Class level. But that was because they didn't yet get a chance in the national team. All spots were taken for more than 6-7 seasons. Now when every great performer of the Aussie juggernaut side is retired, with only one major guy left (who is under fire now), all the top talents have been drafted into the side, leaving a dearth of talent at first class level. Australians should use the rotation policy to good use and keep someone constantly in the hunt.

Posted by nzcricket174 on (January 19, 2011, 5:34 GMT)

Its really not that complicated what's wrong. Coach, selectors need to go.

Posted by Aussasinator on (January 19, 2011, 5:29 GMT)

Rebuilding is always through youth. Australia hasn't realised it for the past 3 years. I dont see a great urgency to look towards youth even now. So one sees no immediate threat to the Nos. 4 and 3 teams above Australia in the World Test rankings.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (January 19, 2011, 5:10 GMT)

Well well Peter, I like the way you have analyzed this whole Australian debacle. The fact however remains that these current generation of Australian cricketers seem uninterested in cricket. It doesn't matter whether it's the baggy green or the buggy blue, the fact of the matter is there is no 'act of the phoenix' in Australian cricket's future. What Australia will become is a team of mediocrity in the coming years with droplets of brilliance from a player or two in certain encounters. The middle berth of the ICC rankings will be theirs for many many years. India, South Africa and England will be the three best teams in the foreseeable future leapfrogging each other from time to time. I don't think anything is wrong with Australian cricket. The problem is within their heads. They just seem uninterested. I can clearly remember Andrew Symonds talking about how much he wanted to get out of such a dressing room where according to him - "these kids just love playing their playstations".

Posted by katandthat3 on (January 19, 2011, 4:21 GMT)

Pretty spot on Peter. It is the perfect time for Australia to do a total revamp both on and off the field. How much remains to be seen as most people don't tend to volunteer to put their head on the chopping block. Hopefully everyone that's been involved in the last 12 months can be struck by a bolt of accountability and let some fresh ideas and attitudes be bought in to revitalise Australian cricket.

Posted by landl47 on (January 19, 2011, 3:52 GMT)

Lots of criticism, didn't see any constructive suggestions. Everyone has seen that Australia is in disarray; indeed it was obvious before the Ashes started. Fixing it is another matter. Contrary to what Mr. Roebuck says, professional sport IS all about money. That's why it's professional- it exists because people will pay to watch it, advertisers will pay to sponsor it and TV will pay to broadcast it. Of course, the best way to make money is to be win. Let's hope Australia is more successful than the West Indies in identifying and rectifying its problems now that the great side has disbanded.

Posted by Governor on (January 19, 2011, 3:25 GMT)

Steve Stumper Rixon is the best man to replace Tim Nielsen as coach of Australia. He has an excellent coaching record with New South Wales and New Zealand. On a second point, the independent review of Australian cricket must be completed by individuals who are totally independent from the CA, the CA Board and the respective state cricket Associations. An independent panel led by Ric Charlesworth with Barry Richards, Ian Chappell, Ross Smith (Sport Science) and David Parkin would provide an objective and honestly brutal report on the state of Australian cricket. If the review is chaired by Mark Taylor, James Sutherland or an individual who has an association with Cricket Australia, the review would be a waste of time and money!!

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Peter RoebuckClose
Peter Roebuck He may not have played Test cricket for England, but Peter Roebuck represented Somerset with distinction, making over 1000 runs nine times in 12 seasons, and captaining the county during a tempestuous period in the 1980s. Roebuck acquired recognition all over the cricket world for his distinctive, perceptive, independent writing. Widely travelled, he divided his time between Australia and South Africa. He died in November 2011

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