Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell Ian ChappellRSS FeedFeeds  | Archives
Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

Coaching kills the batting star

Young batsmen seem to be developing more slowly these days than in the past

Ian Chappell

April 7, 2013

Comments: 75 | Text size: A | A

Javed Miandad drives, Surrey v Pakistanis, 1st day, The Oval, August 7, 1982
Javed Miandad: largely self-taught © Getty Images
Related Links

Recently I stated that the Australian production line has slowed to a crawl, which begs the question: are there alternatives to developing young batsmen for an international career?

I was surprised last August when I attended the Under-19 World Cup to find that among the major nations, in all bar one case, the fast bowlers were way ahead of the batsmen in development. The exception was India. They had batsmen with uncomplicated footwork who also possessed the shots to take charge of an attack, with Unmukt Chand being the standout.

My mind went back to when I first saw Ricky Ponting as a 17-year-old at the cricket academy. After five minutes it was obvious that here was a young batsman who looked every inch an international player. Apart from Chand, I didn't see one batsman at the U-19 World Cup who displayed similar traits.

Ponting recently questioned the amount of short-form cricket now played by batsmen in their development stages. In an interesting observation about his junior days, he indicated he had to be removed by the bowler, not by a set of rules. "I was batting until someone got me out, and if that took them a week then that's how long it took them," he said.

In trying to devise a better method to produce batsmen for the modern game, is it worth delving into the past to improve the future? Along with the example of Ponting's upbringing, there's further compelling evidence from the background of both Garry Sobers and Javed Miandad - two champion batsmen with totally different styles, who played a lot of their youth cricket on the street.

When asked why he batted without a thigh pad, Sobers said he grew up using a picket off a fence, facing bowlers delivering a rock that was rounded into shape with tape, while playing on a rutted road. He explained it was in his best interests to hit the unpredictably deviating "ball", because if he missed, it was going to hurt.

Then there's the development of Sachin Tendulkar. He played in hundreds of matches on the Mumbai maidans, often moving from one game to another on the same day. Contrast this with the structured net sessions or long stints facing a bowling machine that a youth cricketer currently endures.

Having benefitted as a youngster from good coaching, I was appalled when I read former Australia legspinner Bill O'Reilly's sentiments on the breed. "If you see a coach coming," O'Reilly wrote, "run and hide behind a tree." However, I eventually came to the conclusion that if you don't receive good coaching when you're young then you're better off with none at all. Like O'Reilly, many of Australia's champions came from the bush and learned by practising their art in unusual ways for hours on end. Don Bradman, Stan McCabe and Doug Walters were three batsmen in this category. The conclusion to be drawn? They worked things out for themselves and eventually knew their own game inside out.

This accords with the 2013 TED talk on child learning delivered by Sugata Mitra. The eminent professor suggested it's best to pose a question to kids and let them unearth the solution for themselves. This is what Bradman, Sobers, Tendulkar and Miandad were doing in different ways. They also benefited from playing against men at a young age, which is one sure way to hasten the development process.

There are now more coaches in the game but there's less batting artistry. The modern methods are often devised to produce more power and better hitters, with a leaning to the agricultural rather than any pretence of artistry. Often, this is a case of mistaking change for improvement.

In his coaching book Sobers laments: "One of the tragedies of cricket coaching is that the greatness of the game's best players has been revered but never followed, praised but never preached." He has a point. The players with the best records succeed more often under all conditions than those with inferior statistics.

Tendulkar and Michael Hussey are good modern examples. They both developed a solid batting foundation complemented by a wide range of strokes and then adapted their game to the different forms. This is a better proposition than taking a hitter's approach to batting and then hoping it translates into success in the long form of the game.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

RSS Feeds: Ian Chappell

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Amith_S on (April 10, 2013, 7:50 GMT)

@FlemingMitch nice one mate, his commentory was very biased, everytime Brayshaw came he literally fell off his seat, you would think they were related. @Hyclass fair points but in saying this selection 'system' needs and overhall. The Australian batsman can only be better for the experience in India, so not much needs to change aside from perhaps Khawaja coming in which as been long overdue. And Watson needs to bowl as well. And i am hopeful we use one of our shield spinners as the second spinner rather then someone from outside. Given that Australia and the UK both attract high levels of immigration there are bound to be examples of foreign born players in both teams. What surprises me is that Ahmed Fawad can just walk-in to the Aussie team once he gains citizenship, while in England he would first have to serve a seven year qualification period before being selected.

Posted by Fleming_Mitch on (April 10, 2013, 7:00 GMT)

I said it before that certain players in the India series were picked on reputations they might earn in the future rather then batting. To hear the likes of James Brayshaw verbally fall off his chair on air as Maxwell thrashed around like a branded stallion was not good. Lo and behold, thanks to the heavy breathing of Brayshaw et al every time the camera zoomed in on Maxwell's face, suddenly he's worth a mill and a baggy green to boot.Watson's non-bowling highlighted that unless he bowls he can't hold a spot in the team as a batsman at Test level. As much as i repsect him we either get him bowling, or forget him forever in the creams.Khawaja's non selection over the last 3 months has not been acceptable and the kid is made for test cricket and one of the few whose technique hasn't been affected by T20 cricket so he is a must for the ashes. Sunil great list of young players there mate, shows that we do have the batsman coming through.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (April 9, 2013, 11:11 GMT)

Sunil you are obviously very knowledgeable on the young batsman around the country. Exciting to see Maddinson, Harris, Head, Patterson come through. Also agree that Khawaja is our next best batsman and can't wait to see him fire in the ashes. @AidanFX i think Hughes is returning to his old technique and that's fantastic to see, hopefully a big ashes for him as well coming up.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (April 9, 2013, 11:03 GMT)

@Mary its hard not to talk about the ashes, its just too exciting and only 3 months away. I think that the starting xi should be Warner Cowan,Hughes Clarke,Khawaja, Watson, Wade, Starc, ,Sidle, , Bird, Lyon. Watson must bowl and we must have 6 batsman. As you mentioned Khawaja must get his chance and is a key batsman for the English conditions. I'm also encouraged by the young batsmen; Nic Maddinson, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Kurtis Patterson, Cam Bancroft, Will Bosisto and Sam Hain (in the unlikely even that Hain chooses to play for Australia instead of England). I've added a few names to those you put there. But Ian Chappell, whose talent spotting of technically strong young batsmen I admire immensely, thinks Australia still has massive problems with the technique of young batsmen and he wasn't at all encouraged by the U19 World Cup in 2012. So I'm still rather concerned about all this.

Comments have now been closed for this article

Email Feedback Print
Ian ChappellClose
Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.

    How we misunderstand risk in sport

Ed Smith: Success, failure, innovation - they are all about our willingness to take risks and how we judge them

'Smith revelled in captaincy'

Modern Masters: Graeme Smith gave you the impression that he's not going to back down, whatever the contest

    No repeats

ESPNcricinfo XI: From Sheffield to Jalandhar, grounds that have hosted only one Test

    England's selection errors could lead to series defeat

Ian Chappell: Persisting with Cook as captain, and picking batsmen with limited techniques, will hurt them

Have England lost their new-found identity?

Hassan Cheema: Cook and his boys seem to have fallen out of touch with the relentlessness that took them to No. 1

News | Features Last 7 days

Ridiculed Ishant ridicules England

Ishant Sharma has often been the butt of jokes, and sometimes deservedly so. Today, however, the joke was on England

Vijay rediscovers the old Monk

The leave outside off stump has been critical to M Vijay's success since his India comeback last year. Contrary to popular opinion, such patience and self-denial comes naturally to him

England seem to have forgotten about personality

They have to see a glass that is half-full, and play the game as if it is just that, a game; and an opportunity

Bhuvneshwar on course for super series

Only 15 times in Test history has a player achieved the double of 300 runs and 20 wickets in a Test series. Going on current form, Bhuvneshwar could well be the 16th

Ishant's fourth-innings heroics in rare company

In India's win at Lord's, Ishant Sharma took the best bowling figures by an Indian in the fourth innings of a Test outside Asia. Here are five other best bowling efforts by Indians in the fourth innings of Tests outside Asia

News | Features Last 7 days
Sponsored Links

Why not you? Read and learn how!