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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

'The worst batting side to leave Australia's shores'

It's a tag that has been used for previous inexperienced squads as well, but given the state of the Sheffield Shield, this time it might just stick

Ian Chappell

July 28, 2013

Comments: 97 | Text size: A | A

Dennis Lillee has Alan Knott caught behind for 92, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 2nd day, August 11, 1972
Australia took an inexperienced side to England in 1972, but the players had proven that they were of Test class © Getty Images
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Before departing for this disastrous tour of England, the current Australian side was compared to the 1972 and 1989 teams. Let's get it straight, the only thing the three teams have in common is they were all lambasted by the English media as "the worst to leave Australian shores".

In 1972 and 1989, Australia had a number of good young players in the team, with a few more waiting in the wings. In 1972 we didn't know just how good Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh were going to be, but there was never any doubt they were Test class. They confirmed their status in no uncertain terms - with Lillee taking 31 wickets, Chappell scoring two crucial centuries, and Marsh gathering 23 victims in the series.

The current side's inconsistencies are often excused on the basis of inexperience. The 1972 Australian side that triumphed at Lord's boasted two debutants, and seven of the 11 players had between them played a total of 18 Tests. That side went on to level the series 2-2 at The Oval, against what was then regarded the best team in world cricket.

The 1972 Australian team then went on to become the best side around. The core of the touring party was complemented by a number of other good young players who had performed well at Sheffield Shield level.

In 1989, Allan Border's team sprung a surprise on a struggling England side and won the series 4-0. Once again, this team had a core of good young players in Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ian Healy, who were aided and abetted by some vastly experienced senior players. The core of this team carried all before them, once again with the addition of other talented players who had succeeded at the Shield level.

And therein lies the crucial difference between those two sides and Michael Clarke's team. When players of the earlier eras performed well at the Shield level you could be fairly certain they would make a successful transition to Test cricket. In the 1960s, Garry Sobers, then the best player in the game, described the Shield competition as "the toughest cricket I've played outside Test matches".

When Australia were beating everyone in the late '90s and early 2000s, people told me it was the coaches and the academies that made the team strong. "Bollocks," was my response. "It's the same as when Don Bradman's 1948 Invincibles were so good. It's the system that produces the outstanding players."

That system was a far cry from the current Shield competition, which is virtually bereft of Test players and runs a distant second in importance to the glitzy BBL. Not only can't Clarke rely on any strong recruits waiting at home for the next tilt against England, he's already handicapped by an order containing some marginal Test batsmen.

There are complaints about the current Test batsmen not showing patience and being wayward in their shot selection. Patience and shot selection result from a player being sure of his technique. When he's comfortable, a player can ride out a storm of good bowling for an hour or so and then cash in later in the innings. Batsmen who aren't certain of their survival instincts tend to panic and play indisciplined shots.

Far too many members of Clarke's team are batting mainly for survival. Any batsman who isn't looking to score at every opportunity will stunt his footwork and limit the chances of success. Clarke is saddled with the flawed products of a once great system that has been allowed to decay.

And it's not as if the administrators weren't warned. More than a decade ago a former player told the administrators there was trouble looming: "A lot of the Sheffield Shield competition is club cricket in drag," he told them. These thoughts were echoed by at least one other former international. The board's response brought to mind the words written by Don McLean in his hit song "Vincent": "They would not listen/ They did not know how/ Perhaps they'll listen now."

And perhaps, after numerous tries, the English media has finally got it right. This could well be the worst batting side to ever leave Australia's shores.

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

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Posted by jay57870 on (July 31, 2013, 11:30 GMT)

Ian - Looking at rear-view mirrors won't help Australia: There are blind spots! The present cricket mess is due to multiple factors. The one consequential factor - Ian's blind spot - is the absence of a core nucleus of senior players: notably Ponting, Hussey & Katich. As Adam Gilchrist says: "a lot of Australia's batting trouble started when Simon Katich was relieved of his position". Ricky was axed from ODIs with a phone call. Michael feared he'd be dropped. So they went prematurely, leaving a hollowed "inexperienced squad"! CA diligently executed Chappelli's half-baked theory of "use-by dates" for "ageing stars"! OMG! Recall Ian's "Mirror, Mirror on the wall" dictum to Tendulkar to retire in 2007? Ever the prognosticator, Ian declared "Harmeet Singh & Unmukt Chand ready for internationals" after WC U-19! Thankfully India doesn't listen: they managed the transition well, IPL & all, under MS Dhoni (an Ian unfavourite)! But how did he miss Ashton Agar under his radar? A blind spot, Ian?

Posted by 5wombats on (July 30, 2013, 22:48 GMT)

@ticktac (July 29, 2013, 14:04 GMT) Rubbish. The Don played half of his cricket in the dry and heat of Australia and in England he played on uncovered sticky dog wet pitches. The man was a genius and a gentleman. And as for your claim that Australia have only been great in the last decade or so and the rest of the time were "average" - well - you have just shown how much you know about cricket if you think that.

Posted by ben.p. on (July 30, 2013, 6:38 GMT)

CricketingStargazer, yes, I do mean the West Indies that Australia beat 5-1 in 1975/76, but, if you read Andy Roberts' contribution on this website some time ago, the result masked some awful umpiring by the Australian officials. Have a look at the number of lbws awarded against each side. Clive Lloyd's blueprint for the team that went on to beat the world was actually conceived nearly a year earlier when playing India in the Caribbean. The visitors chased down a score of over 400 to win the Port-of-Spain Test, and from thereon he decided to focus on developing an attack based purely on pace, which he felt would have won that game had it been available to him.

Posted by RohanMarkJay on (July 29, 2013, 22:24 GMT)

Top article from Ian Chappell. He has great knowledge of the game.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (July 29, 2013, 21:15 GMT)

@salazar Actually, that is what I said about Clarke. On Khawaja, you are right. My bad.

The bottom line is that Australia are selecting players with records that would not have even got them into the "A" side a few years ago.

Posted by Kenny57 on (July 29, 2013, 20:49 GMT)

Iain Chappell 's insightful comments illustrates why Cricket Australia ignores the opinions and experience of the broader cricket community at its peril. As an organisation CA seems to suffer from collective low self esteem in that anybody with a long term association with cricket is automatically considered less capable than an "expert" recruited from outside. Since the now infamous Argus Report cricket in increasingly dominated by various carpetbaggers and snake oil merchants in all aspects of administration , sports "science" and promotion of the game with obvious results. If some good can come from this debacle it will be that cricket community will regain some confidence in their own abilities and judgement and take back control of the game.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (July 29, 2013, 18:56 GMT)

@Balaji well said mate, we do have class acts and as you mentioned Agar, Khawaja and Smith are future class players for us, add to that list Maddinson, Burns, Pattinson, Starc and we will have a dominating team within 5 years, some may call me too optimistic but lets wait and see.

Posted by salazar555 on (July 29, 2013, 17:49 GMT)


Actually only Clarke averages over 40. Khawaja averages 30.09 and is like all the other batsman, lucky to be playing, because anyone with that average wouldn't have got near the side 10 yrs ago.

The aussie bowlers are their strength, if they could find a decent spinner they might be able to make a contest of it despite the batsmen being so poor

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 16:30 GMT)

Finally, Ian Chappell comes out of his shell and admits that this Australian team is the worst of all time. I agree with him on a number of things, which is surprising to me itself. Yes, the Aussies of the 1972 and 1989 series all had very good and talented youngsters who would eventually improve to lead Australia into the next decade as world beaters. However, this current team doesn't really have anyone who have the skills or talent to dominate the world for years. Perhaps we can point to Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, and young Ashton Agar as potential class acts for the future. But, unless they all consistently contribute, it will be hard to know who the next generation of Australian cricketers are that are going to put Australia back at the top of test cricket.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (July 29, 2013, 15:22 GMT)

@ben.p You mean the West Indies side that Australia beat 5-1? It was that humiliation that gave Clive Lloyd the model for his great side of the late-70s and early '80s.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 15:14 GMT)

@Westend You say the 1970 side that got thrashed by SA were bad, BUT that SA side was a super side that would have beaten anyone, in fact the side that should have followed them( but for the exile), would have been arguably the greatest test team of all time

The fact is even in sides well beaten by England such as the 1956 and 1981 contained future greats like Benaud and Border. I am struggling to identify any in this Australian side

Posted by ben.p. on (July 29, 2013, 15:08 GMT)

Correction, Mr Chappell: the best side in world cricket in 1972 were undoubtedly South Africa. They just weren't allowed to play, that's all. Furthermore, while you may be right that Australia then 'went on to become the best side around', their tenure of that accolade was comparatively brief. Perhaps you don't remember West Indies' meteoric rise to world dominance by the mid-1970s?

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 14:46 GMT)

@ticktac- now the real ignorance is coming out. Taking Bradman out of the equation altogether Australia have had some of the best batsmen to ever play the game. From Bannerman, Murdoch, Trumper, Hill, McCartney, Ponsford, McCabe, Barnes, Morris, Harvey, O'Neill, Walters, Chappell brothers, Jones, Waugh brothers, Ponting, Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Clarke- and I'm sure the list will continue. For a country with a population only twice the size of Mumbai you have to admit that is something pretty special. Don't be envious, just enjoy!

Posted by ticktac on (July 29, 2013, 14:04 GMT)

dont agree with chappel here...credit needs to be given to english bowlers and also, Australia have been dominant batting side only in last decade or so, otherwise it has been average team in cricketing history, dont tell about bradman..he was an individual with all due respect but played all his matches against england in similar conditions

Posted by geraldps on (July 29, 2013, 13:13 GMT)

Nigel. Actually the 72 series went like this. England won the first test. Australia won the second, thanks to 16 wickets by Bob Massie. The third test was drawn. England won the fourth test on a pitch groomed for Derek Underwood to spin the ball square. Australia won the fifth test. So, Australia were never two down. Only one team has ever come back from 2 nil down in an Ashes series, and they had a guy called Bradman playing for them.

Posted by Westend on (July 29, 2013, 12:19 GMT)

I think the worst batting side to leave our shores via India for South Africa was in 1970 where Australia were thrashed 4/0 and Ian Chappell averaged 11.

Posted by 5wombats on (July 29, 2013, 12:16 GMT)

I've been checking out the papers here and a few of my old club muckers. Nobody is comparing this lot with the 1989 Australians! The other thing that is interesting is that this series has been relegated! This mornings Sydney Morning Herald has 14 pages of sport. Sure - it's the middle of the footy season and it's hotting up now that the Sharks got up on Penrith. 8 pages of Footy and 2 pages of aerial ping-pong. The Ashes 2103 has just one page - ONE PAGE! It was never like this when Aus were beating England! "CA will have to do something about this...." is the general consensus. There is a battle royal going on. On the one hand Big Bash seems to be popular and competes well with the other short attention span sports and they have their protagonists. It makes money. Then you have old schoolers like Chappelli (and me) who can see the incompatibilities. Looks as if Aus cricket is at a crossroads - a crossroads the like of which I never thought I'd ever see. Which way will it go????

Posted by kurups on (July 29, 2013, 12:02 GMT)

Great analysis by Ian. Straight talking and nailed it. One of the best observers and analyzers in the game, My Favorite. This is the master class paragraph ..Very worthy points to note carefully- "..........Patience and shot selection result from a player being sure of his technique. When he's comfortable, a player can ride out a storm of good bowling for an hour or so and then cash in later in the innings. Batsmen who aren't certain of their survival instincts tend to panic and play indisciplined shots".

Posted by dmat on (July 29, 2013, 11:49 GMT)

Chappell is right with what he says but lets come up with some solutions instead of continuing to say what's wrong. 1 Sutherland has to go 2 Start with juniors and get them playing competitive games rather than the airy fairy stuff 3 Develop a career pathway for juniors who want to be part of test cricket (this means no 20/20 cricket for them) 4 Fastrack some decent coaches and put some of the millions CA earns from BBL into coaching kids properly 5 Put extra resources into umpiring (last season we lost a kid to cricket for the season after he got a couple of very dodgy decisions from the opposing coaches - sad but true) Tough decisions need to be made for the future of Aus cricket and Sutherland is not the man to do it.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 9:53 GMT)

@Kunal Raut- fact is they didn't score those 16 runs. Close doesn't equate to actually winning.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 7:56 GMT)

One key line from the article is "went on to level the series 2-2 at the Oval". That indicates that they must have been 0-2 down at one stage, as the current team is. I agree that we have screwed up our system and the current players have some work to do, but let's not call the tour a disaster yet. Yes, we lost very badly at Lord's, but it is not like the runs deficit carries over into the next test. All we need is a couple of batsmen to click and put on a partnership, and pressure will be on. England were looking very shabby in the field when the openers put on 80 in the second innings of the first test. We need to stop losing wickets in clumps though - that is what kills any pressure which might have been built by the partnership.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 7:24 GMT)

David Warner,S.Marsh,G.Belliy,M.Clark,U.Khwaja,S.Watson,B.Haddin,S.Smith,P.Siddel,M.stack,R.Harris

Posted by DaisonGarvasis on (July 29, 2013, 7:20 GMT)

And perhaps, after numerous tries when finally the time has come for Chappelli to tell Sachin to actually retire, he is going to be busy looking at and fixing Aussee problems!!! Had he been looking at the Aussee problems when he was busy telling Sachin what to do, may be, just may be things would have been slightly different. But then you never know - whatever he said to Sachin didn't work, so there is assurance that had he said anything to Aussees it would have worked.

Posted by SanjeevHN on (July 29, 2013, 7:07 GMT)

I completely agree with Ian Chappell. I think selection policy of Australians is also to be blamed. So many players in last two years (around 40 i guess) and the policy of resting players (Siddle in Perth). I am firm believer in that when a player is playing well and in form, he should be playing at all time especially in Test cricket.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 7:04 GMT)

Mr. Chappel, if at all Haddin-Pattinson had scored those 16 runs you would have sounded different.

Posted by Naresh28 on (July 29, 2013, 6:24 GMT)

Well Done - Chappell. This needs to be drummed into CA. Its a real pity to see Oz cricket at this point. I'm sure things will change now that the message continues to be drummed in by the media. The baggy green cap has no got no meaning!!!!!

Posted by MrPud on (July 29, 2013, 6:19 GMT)

They are the worst fielding side Australia has dispatched in years as well. Watson must be removed from the slips pronto! He can only catch them if it comes at him. As soon as he has to move, he's no chance. Also first slip should never have to dive to the wicketkeeper's side.

Posted by DragonCricketer on (July 29, 2013, 4:47 GMT)

Hey Chappelli, What about ALLl Aussie sides. What about the first test side after Packer. I think it was v England in Brisbane led by Yallop. I suppose that doesnt count as the best players were unavailable. Didnt Yallop write a book about the series titled "Lambs to the Slaughter" ha ha ha

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 4:15 GMT)

In the wake of 1977 Kerry Packer circus, An Australian outfit with 7 debutants and a 42 yr. old recalled captain beat India twice is succession. the T20 league attack has created a similar sort of situation. No reason Aussies will not bounce back again..

Posted by Jeremy303 on (July 29, 2013, 3:21 GMT)

Don't see why Cosgrove and Silk can't open for Australia. Cosgrove has had decent form over the past few seasons and Silk looks a good prospect for the future. They formed a successful opening partnership for Tasmania. Tinkering with the opening partnership has hurt us, but Rogers won't have long in the side and it will changed again. If successful, the Cosgrove and Silk opening combination has a good 5-6 years in it. Yep, I know. "Elite athletes" are not allowed to be as large as Cosgrove. That's why we will never see another Taylor, Boon, Merv or maybe not even another Warne make the side again. Imagine if none of those players were selected because they were too large? My XI for the next three seasons (obviously not taking into account pitch conditions, form etc): Cosgrove, Silk, Khawaja, Clarke, Warner, Watson, Wade, Siddle, Pattinson, Harris, Ahmed/Lyon. It's a tough call because the back to back ashes series is followed by a tour of South Africa.

Posted by cricket_ahan on (July 29, 2013, 2:21 GMT)

@Sunil. I agree with you... this team is not as bereft as people think it is. Yes, the current Shield competition needs to return to its former glory and importance, but genuine batting talent is genuine batting talent. If the Shield tournament doesn't provide the required proving ground, the current crop should be given Test after Test to keep developing their techniques. Let's also not forget that many Aus players can still go to England and play in County teams using them as another proving ground. The key is they need to practice the right skills - Tests require batsmen (by in large) to be patient and learn to bat long innings. These batsmen have talent (Smith and Khwaja look good, and Warner could be the next Matthew Hayden), but it needs to be applied in the correct way. This is where the coaching staff become involved - to guide the players in the right direction.

Posted by   on (July 29, 2013, 0:32 GMT)

Or to quote the last line of that song,

They would not listen, they're not listening still Perhaps they never will.

Which could mean a serious decline for Aussie cricket and that is bad for World Cricket.

Popcorn 20/20 again.

Posted by jr1972 on (July 29, 2013, 0:13 GMT)

I was in Australia in the early 90's and was taken to see a NSW v Queensland Sheffield Shield game by my uncle. It was 10 steps up from watching my county Warwickshire "conjure" up results with the amicable opposition. The competitive, abrasive edge was there and so was the quality cricket. It was therefore no real coincidence in my eyes that Australia were at or near the top and England were well and truely at the bottom of test cricket. @Amith_S, why is it that when someone tells it the way it is they are seen as negative? Reality is what it is! Are you and like-minded others saying that positivity and affirmation are the key to success? The first step to getting back on track is to have an open appraisal of the current status, and if that is a damning one then so be it.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 23:52 GMT)

Lets face it, ANY side batting on the final day pitches in both Ashes Tests wouldve struggled to chase down even a small total. The footholes outside the lefthanders off stump were an absolute minefield. Lets see if England can bat out a final day on these dry deteriorating pitches. It would only take England to lose the next Test for the British media to go into feeding frenzy, and it may unravel very quickly for England.

Posted by bouncer709 on (July 28, 2013, 23:42 GMT)

So now Austrailia will depend on Pakistani talent, Usman Khawaja and Fawad Ahmed, believe me we have more natural talent here in Pakistan playing in the streets, but just PCB ignore them, if Australia want, they can import few more from Pakistan. Just want to give example of Zulfiqar Babar, PCB picked him now when he is 35.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 22:57 GMT)

Put Shield cricket back on TV!

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 20:41 GMT)

the reason why Australian batsmen haven't been able to perform in shield cricket because the pitch has been helping the seam bowlers very much. the pitch doesn't spin so shield teams hardly play spinner. our batsmen cant score hundreds because they cant play spin and don't know how to bat for long period of time. we need pitch which helps batsmen, seamer and spinner. I expect nic maddinson, Jordan silk, alex doolan and joe burns to perform.

Posted by Cricfever_PM on (July 28, 2013, 19:44 GMT)

History won't repeat sometime!! It's time for Australia to take duff decision on their openers, with Warner getting good warm up against SA A side he is sure for next test and Roger didn't impress well in both the test along with his partner Watto so Aus may consider Warner & Cowan as they even had two 100+ partnership in Indian condition. Clark must score big in next test match and their bowlers need some mentor to boost them as they still bowling well but they don't have proper support from their batsmen!!! Their spinners are going nothing so Faulner may be good choice as allronder!!! My XI for Next match are Cowan, Warner, Watson, Clark, Smith, Hughes, Haddin, Faulner, Bird, Siddle & Harrish!!!

Posted by Fine_Legs on (July 28, 2013, 17:43 GMT)

Funny thing is, the gap is less than you would think. The first test was very close, either team could have won - I refuse to discount last wicket partnerships, they are as much a part of cricket as anything else. The more you think, and the more you remember Michael Hussey's amazing performance at this year's edition of the IPL, you keep thinking that was the one thing the Australian board could have done better - they could have stoked his hunger for just that bit longer. Can they do that even now - have a quiet conversation somewhere over a beer and see if he wants another bite for Australia's sake?

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 16:56 GMT)

Maybe Mr Chappell forgets the 1985 Australians, say at Lord's? Graeme Wood who despite a career test average of only 31.83 still turned out to be a mainstay of Australia's batting, "Mr Compulsive Hooker" Andrew Hilditch, the South African Kepler Wessels who despite an average for Australia in the 40s never seemed to belong, Border himself (whose 196 won the match and masked the ineptness of the other batsmen), a very young and inexperienced David Boon in only his fith test, Greg Ritchie in his 11th test whose 94 was the only real support given Border and Wayne Phillips who had just sacrificed a promising career as an opening batsman to take up the wicket-keeper's gloves? At the time, this team was euphemistically described as the most inexperienced that had ever represented Australia.

Posted by KhanMitch on (July 28, 2013, 16:46 GMT)

This team will prove the critics wrong, i expect us to fight for the remaining tests and then make a real showing back in Australia. When that series finishes we can make the judgement on how good or bad we are. Pattinson, Starc, Khawaja, Warner, Smith will be sold fixtues in the team by then.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (July 28, 2013, 16:29 GMT)

I will also go with Sunil and Amin, Smith, Khawaja, Warner, Burns, Maddinson, these are the guys that will become our next Chappells, Borders and Waughs.

Posted by Amith_S on (July 28, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

I am a big fan of both Chappell brothers especially Greg who i rate as one of the all time greats but this is a very negative analysis. Our young batsman failed in India but most do on their first tour there and now we have a pressure series on again. I concur with Sunil, watch out for Smith and Khawaja making this ashes series their own and to add to Burns and Maddinson also add Head to that list. Time to take a positive pill Ian, our batting stocks will develop but how can they when we chop and change the team so regularly, stick wiht the current lineup till the end of the ashes and we will see some confident young batsman emerging.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (July 28, 2013, 16:10 GMT)

@Sunil i agree with your list of players and they are all good young batsman. There wasn't much good to come out of the last game minus Rhino's performance. But to see Clarke and Khawaja fight it out with the ball turning a mile showed the other batsman that we can fight. Khawaja is not a natural spin player and much more comfortable against spin but he fought it out for a well made 50 and it would have been good for the other lefties in the side to see how he handled him. We can come back in this series but like a few folks have mentioned we need to fight and show some grit which we aussies are well known for. I am happy with the likes of Smith, Khawaja, Burns and co leading our batting stocks in years to come.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (July 28, 2013, 15:47 GMT)

I personally think our young batting crop has some future champions in it, Khawaja is a long term number 3 if we can give him more then 1 game in a row and his 50 odd in the Lords game was very good from which he can kick on. Warner and Smith are good talents too and just need time to establish themselves and then you have the likes of Burns and Maddinson moving up, future for our batting is much better then what most folks think.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (July 28, 2013, 15:32 GMT)

@landl47 Interesting suggestion, but you are a bit out with some of the facts. Greig was the England captain at the start of the summer but lost the job when the Packer affair was leaked, on May 7th, during the Sussex match early in the tour hence, as you say, Mike Brearley led England. Virtually the whole 1977 tour was played in the shadow of the Packer affair, with almost all the Australian side involved and, to put it mildly, highly distracted by the events off the field.

It's interesting to look at the players in the squad who were uncapped before the 1977 tour: Len Pascoe, Ray Bright, Kim Highes, Mick Malone, Craig Sarjeant & Richard Robinson (David Hookes had played one Test) - some pretty good players in there!

Posted by chitti_cricket on (July 28, 2013, 15:17 GMT)

Continued: As influential figure and most respected figure in Australian cricket, which is one of their primary sport, cannot you chime in and do any thing? We all want competitive and dodgy Australian way of cricket. Not this tame performances from them. Australia not only produced Don B, many batsmen like him, who have fought against all odds. Even today Steve W is a hero to me. Because these icons provide inspiration to almost all people in all other walks of lives. Truly speaking even 3-4 years back I have never though Australian cricket team will perform so low, it is beyond belief. Again it is not technique, potential and T-20 etc that are ruining the Australian cricket, but the mind set with which these new guy are playing and they should not be given these many chances.

Posted by chitti_cricket on (July 28, 2013, 15:10 GMT)

Dear Ian, Cricket is not only a game played on park but also mentally. As you said there are some technical flaws in Australian batters technique but not all that worst sir, They are mentally distorted at this time. A through coaching and tell them where their off stump is and to smartly use feet to spinners make them adequate to cope with this England attack. Honestly speaking we all should agree some of the Australian batters batted arrogantly against quality bowling Ian, don't you see Watson, who is doing the mistake again and again. In olden and golden days do you think Watson would have made to final 11, I don't think so, same with Cowen, is it not? All outside Australia even as recently as 2003 aroundish used to think even Australian A sides were enough to beat best of the sides. Where is that bench strength? Sir, in my view more than BBL it is selection process that is making mockery of Australian Cricket than anything, Contd:

Posted by tinysteelorchestra on (July 28, 2013, 14:59 GMT)

I wouldn't agree that the 1981 Australian side was 'dire'. That was a freak series, remember - had it not been for Botham, they would almost certainly have won at Headingley and Edgbaston and regained the Ashes by going 3-0 up with two to play.

Also, this series isn't quite over yet! Yes, Lord's was a disaster for the Aussies, but Trent Bridge was a nail biter. As a long-suffering Pom I learned long ago to never write off Australia.

Posted by Beertjie on (July 28, 2013, 14:56 GMT)

Agree @landl47 on (July 28, 2013, 4:42 GMT) that the '77 squad was the previous worst in living memory. Of course, the fact that many thought that these were likely to be their last tests (since they had signed up for Packer) probably had a significant effect on their morale. This lot have no excuses but the idea mooted of a 5-day Shield in 2014 deserves trialling. Developing patience and humility required for most of the next decade. It's losing to England that will be so hard to stomach, but they are now reaping the rewards of proper structures.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 13:50 GMT)

81 was a pretty dire squad. Hughes and border were class and yallop had some great moments. Wood cold be good. Dyson was rubbish. Trevor Chappell was shield quality. Martin Kent. Hilarious. Dirk wellham on a whim. Marsh fading fast.

Terrible selections hurt, Doug Walters soaking up 6 matches in the summer then dropped for the tour. G Chappell stepping out. (They probably should have made dougie captain for the tour, in hindsight - he was an excellent shield captain)

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 13:42 GMT)

1] If you marginalize a system, then the system will marginalize you! you are slready seeing the results! Shefeild is where you sow the seeds to reap a harvest! As an Indian cricket fan, we love a strong Ausi team. Its fun to fight the strong than to win against the weak!

2] The other thing is u cannot mix sport n politics! Where is Katich? Why was Hussey given his due? You loose good playets and the team spirit is affected!

Posted by bford1921 on (July 28, 2013, 13:33 GMT)

the truth is somewhere in there, but it is not yet clear the impact a number of elements are having, not least of which is they are playing a decent England team. The generation of Australia batsmen that are now having difficulty grew up before T20 took hold, so it seems unlikely to be the route cause. Perhaps cricket is not as popular as before, the wickets are not so good, more pressure to score faster rather than build innings, whatever the problem, Australia need to begin addressing now. It is likely to be a combination of issues that all have a detrimental impact. Are these players less talented or less developed? If the former then they need to find better players, if the latter then the systems is clearly failing. Either way the ashes are likely to stay with England for a while.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 13:10 GMT)

Well, any batting side to leave Australian shores after Don Bradman retired will naturally be the worst. So let's get used to that!

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 11:45 GMT)

you look at the selections of the team since 2008 steve smith,henriques,hughes bad first class records smith doesnt even bowl. they picked players they didnt give a good too, kryza bowled well in india, bowls in perth doesnt bowl well what do u expect when perth at the time was a spinners grave yard, mcdonald didnt get a chance, katich got dropped obviously politics he was hard nosed and could play test cricket watson as an opener hasnt made a run in 16 tests how is he getting a game, playing spinners and not staying with them or picking spinners with bad first class records, smith, doherty both cant buy a wicket play michael beer in one test and dont stay with him, now player agar who doesnt look like he is going to take a wicket and has had no grounding in first class cricket selectors have to go u cant have a bowlers in your team making more runs than the batsmen, nsw havent done nothing for years yet the australian top order has 6 of them in it work that out what a joke

Posted by John-Price on (July 28, 2013, 11:42 GMT)

I think the writer needs to look further back than the current state of Shield cricket - the Big Bash is only three year's old and its impact is yet to be seen.

Meanwhile Joe Root has played masses of T20 - last season he was to be seen opening the bowling and batting number 3 in the finals of the FLt20. He seems to have done OK.

Posted by Batmanian on (July 28, 2013, 11:30 GMT)

Let me see... Watson (marginal, on Test achievements), Rogers (marginal because he's old), Khawaja (marginal on concentration and stepping up to Test level), Hughes (marginal on technique), Clarke (world class, with a marginal back), Smith (marginal, but seems to be doing better than most), Haddin (historically marginal when needed; much redeemed in First Test). That is one marginal top seven. Sure, it's an improvement on having Cowan, the marginalian's marginalian, and it remains to be seen whether Warner's talent (and marginal Test achievements) will budge Khawaja or Hughes. It's a truly terrible side. I suppose going in to '89, it looked like Geoff Marsh (B-), Taylor (unknown), Boon (B+) Jones (A-), Border (A) Steve Waugh (B as a Test player), Healy (unknown), and ended as Marsh (A-), Taylor (A+), Boon (A-), Jones (A+) Border (A+) Waugh (A+), Healy (B+ as a bat).

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (July 28, 2013, 10:57 GMT)

3 reasons: 1) All of the reasons Chappelli states here. 2) Retirements of great players all at once. 3) These greats Gilchrist, Hayden, Warne, Lee, McGrath, after retiring how many of them went back and played a season or two of SS to raise the standard? None.

They all went and made big $$$$$ in the IPL, they abandoned Sheffield Shield in favour of t20. What does that say to young players coming through (and administrators too)?

Ex players are not exempt from criticism too Chappelli.

Posted by Biggus on (July 28, 2013, 10:55 GMT)

@Slysta:-Actually, this series took place before WSC started. The signings were taking place as the series was going on, but there was at this stage no other 'Australian team'. It may well be that the players who were signed up were more focussed on what was to come but the selectors had the full group of Aussie players to choose from.

Posted by Slysta on (July 28, 2013, 10:39 GMT)

@landl47 and @dutchy - At least the 1977 Australians had the excuse of being gutted by World Series Cricket... the 2013 Australians are the best of the best (I use the term loosely...). The best we have... and it's embarrassing. Lehmann is probably *still* one of the best three batsmen in that dressing-room.

Posted by sifter132 on (July 28, 2013, 10:32 GMT)

I would say that batsmen who succeed in Shield cricket still could go on to be good Test players. Trouble is...no batsman has been succeeding in Shield cricket! When was the last 1000 run season? Michael Klinger and Chris Rogers in 2008/09...There were 18 x 1000 run seasons between 2000/01 and 2008/09. None since. THAT is the problem.

Posted by das60 on (July 28, 2013, 10:20 GMT)

Don't bother to compare warner and walters.Doug Walters won at least 3 Tests on his own and is the only batsmen to score a century in a session 3 times and averaged 48.As for 69/70, Bill Lawry was captain and they had just played a 5 test series in India on turning wickets and then straight to South Africa on bouncy wickets.The Sheffield Shield has always been 4 days in my life-time,which is 60 years, and produced great cricketers but then all test players played in the shield, unlike today,so their is no-one to pass on the skills required.This has been coming for 20 years i am afraid,and because of the amount of hit and giggle cricket around who knows how much longer before it is fixed.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (July 28, 2013, 10:12 GMT)

Chappell is right, and though long overdue, both Clarke's and Lehmann's positions must surely be on the line here. Clarke just survived the India debacle (where almost the entire world was screaming for him to move up the order and lead, not hide), and Lehmann's role must be called into serious question if Australia lose the next test. New leaders and players are what is required, not just an endless shuffling of Titanic's deckchairs.

Posted by tony122 on (July 28, 2013, 10:07 GMT)

@Redbac- Ian Chappell as usual provides a unique and refreshing perspective. I like the idea of reducing 50 overs and eliminating 20 20. After watching T20- 50 over contest seems meaninglessly long. I think we can experiment with 40 over a side- with two inning each team. or we can go for 30 over a side. I think it will retain features of both T20 and 50-50. I personally find Test match cricket most exciting, but really if kids these days like 20 20 more who are we to say we should play more test matches? It is not that youngsters have not been exposed to Test cricket- they know it and they have chosen their preference. Cricket as a spectator-commercial sport is afterall played for the masses not for a few players and minority connoisseurs. Too bad for us but I see in next 20 years Test Cricket becoming a rarity and played occasionally between 3-4 teams.

Posted by CustomKid on (July 28, 2013, 10:07 GMT)

@vatsap lol I have to agree! Old chapellie has never had a lot of positive comments to say about S.Waugh. Regardless both greats of the game and ill listen to their insights.

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 28, 2013, 10:06 GMT)

Great article by Ian, hopefully this lands on Sutherland's desk.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 10:03 GMT)

@JimmyKuys- quite obviously you know very little about Australian cricket. Lawry and Stackpole opened, Ian Chappell at 3, some bloke called Walters at 4, Ian Redpath at 5 and the languid Paul Sheehan at 6. That wasn't the worst Australian batting side ever. Not even close.

Posted by tony122 on (July 28, 2013, 10:01 GMT)

Lots of people are complaining they are loosing interest in Ashes! Come to think of it Australia simply decimated England in Nineties and early noughties but still people found Ashes pretty exciting. So what happened? Why people enjoyed Australia dominating one sided contests and not England? I think answer is Australians used to be a genuinely great team(superior to any current team including Eng and SA) so people enjoyed their one sided romp as evidence of their greatness. But England of today is merely good and watching it dominate Australia is not fun at all. Players like Shane Warne, McGrath, Steve Waugh,Ricky Ponting,Mark Waugh,Gilchrist,Langer,Hayden have poor substitutes in Swann,Anderson,Trott,Pieterson,Bell,Prior. Only Cook may be as good as Langer or Haydo!

Posted by Biggus on (July 28, 2013, 9:53 GMT)

@dutchy, landl47:-Wash your mouths out with soap gentlemen. Comparing Watson to Doug Walters! Besides the small matter of Doug's batting average being 15 higher tha Watson's he's also got a better bowling average, and nobody ever suggested he was an all-rounder. His career batting average versus the Windies also happens to be in the 90s, something Watson could only dream of. He may have been a failure in England but he was a wonderful player. The day Watson joins Walters in the Australian cricket hall of fame I'll eat my hat.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (July 28, 2013, 9:34 GMT)

@scarab666 I agree and they need to get rid of greentops in the Sheffield Shield and create test standard wickets with each pitch going back to the traditional test match characteristics as in the 90s.

Posted by dutchy on (July 28, 2013, 9:31 GMT)

landl47 you are dead right - 77 is the perfect analogy. One champion batsman (Clarke/Chappell), an erratic performer who on the right day can destroy attacks but that day often doesn't happen (Watson/Walters)... plus a bunch of batsmen who seem destined to disappoint despite their talent (Hughes, Smith, Khwaja / Serjeant, Hookes, Cosier), a grafter who came to cricket late (Cowan/ McCosker) a gritty keeper (Haddin/Marsh), some really good fast bowlers (Harris, Pattinson, Siddle, Bird / Thommo, Pascoe, Walker, Malone) and uninspiring spinners (Agar, Lyon / O'Keefe, Bright).... It doesn't exactly match up but would any one be surprised if we went down 3-0 here too?

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 9:20 GMT)

Jimmy Kuys, you need to check your facts. Chappell did not make 4 ducks in the 69/70 series (it was 3) and he did not lose the series. Bill Lawry was captain, not Chappell.

Posted by Timmuh on (July 28, 2013, 8:57 GMT)

Indianbybirth, apart from picking the fourth and fifth wicketkeepers the squad in England is very close to the best Australia has available. I would have had McDonald in Watson's place, but the others who could push all had poor Shield seasons and underwhelming Australia A returns. Burns, Shuan Marsh, Dave Hussey. The selectors can only pick from what they have available. And what is available is poor, due to both a low point in natural abaility and systemic problems from the Shield through club down to a ridiculous lack of basics being taught in junior cricket in favour of eight year olds winning slog-happy games. The disconnect with Test players never seen at Shield level has got worse, but beneath that are also a myriad of modern problems. It will take exceptional talent to overcome system failure. And if the system is fixed it will take 15 years to filter up.

Posted by DragonCricketer on (July 28, 2013, 8:28 GMT)

Hughes gave up BBL and IPL for the longer game in England and Aust last yr to work on his technique. Seemed so strong and improved. Runs on the board at an excellent average. Pity he didn't get 100 in 1st test to give him a less survival inclined innings. I wonder what the record is for number of times to regain your position. This is Hughes 3rd go and I see him being dropped and chosen a couple of more times yet.

Posted by Indianbybirth on (July 28, 2013, 8:27 GMT)

Its frustrating to see Austalian getting beaten so badly by english men. I am surprised to see the australian selectors doing nothing as a damage control. The best thing that can do now is to change the team a little bit to avoid white wash. The team that they can look in to is; Shane Watson, Simon Katich (if not retired),Shaun Marsh, Michael Clarke, Steven Smith, David Hussey, Brad Haddin, Brad Hogg (if not retired), Pattinson, M Johnson,P Siddle If the Katich and Hogg is retired then bring David Warner and Lyon. Have Starc and Bird as reserves. Kwaja can also be a good bet in middle order.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 8:26 GMT)

Very rich coming from someone who scored 4 ducks and lost the series 4 - 0 in South Africa in 69/70 my choice for worst Australian batting side

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 8:05 GMT)

SAeems to me that our players today feel for every ball by placing their front foot down, not across the wicket and hope the ball hits the bat. Who these days plays off the backfoot for Austrtalia, where are the o'Neills, burges I Chappell, Harveys who played the ball on both its length and line. How many leg befores do we now have, no doubt the DRS has made more but get a life aussie batters and use the bloody crease as we all did with success

Posted by popcorn on (July 28, 2013, 8:00 GMT)

I am an eternal optimist.I hope this side springs a surprise, and levels the series 2 -2. Better still win the series 3 -2. I say this because purely on comparison: Joe Root annd Johny Bairstow are rookies, similar to Steve Smith and Ed Cowan.James anderson compares in terms of experience with Peter Siddle,and Michael Clarke in full flow is better than any of Cook,KP,Trott or Bell.We have Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin who are senior and mature. Shane Watson falls in the Category of "Also Ran" horses.

Posted by AltafPatel on (July 28, 2013, 6:56 GMT)

Recent poor form of Aus, that is probably worst ever in their history losing 6 consecutive tests and still no hope to break them, resultant of BBL. Same thing cost to Indian team by IPL particularly in tests when they lost to 4-0 to Aus and then Eng in back to back series in 2001.

Posted by tushansu on (July 28, 2013, 6:12 GMT)

There is still hope left for the Australians. nearly every batsman has got a start in the series and every bowler has some wickets under their belt. their situation is not entirely hopeless and all they need to do now is to get their acts together and start performing consistently to challenge the might of current England squad. Michael Clark has been getting good deliveries and Watson has been patchy. all he needs is to to keep patience and stick it out to get going. i for one will be hoping for an Australian victory to spice up the ashes, because that is how it is supposed to be.

Posted by scarab666 on (July 28, 2013, 5:55 GMT)

Ian Chappell is right about the Sheffield Shield being the training ground for our future national players. Cricket Australia unfortunately are putting the profits of the BBL ahead of player development and now its starting to show with our slide down the world rankings. For a start, the Sheffield Shield should be played over 5 days not 4, each state should have a 2nd XI for our up and coming juniors (U23) played over 4 days. Domestic crickets biggest problem is the fast tracking of talented players into the Shield or National teams , more time spent in grade cricket by our younger players will hone better skills to handle playing at the top level.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 5:31 GMT)

If Watson and Clarke play carefully this side won't look this bad. But considering their current form it looks distinct reality. I never thought I could lose interest in ashes but its happening. Fingers crossed, hoping for cracker of a third test.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 5:14 GMT)

my Australian eleven if there are no injury and no ego, just on quid skill : Watson, warner, Shaun marsh, Hughes, Clarke, David hussey, brad haddin , Lyon, Pattinson, Johnson, Siddle

Posted by VillageBlacksmith on (July 28, 2013, 4:46 GMT)

yep they sure are terrible... and articles like this will keep them down there... aussie are doing a great impression of making a sows ear... out of a sows ear... it will be interesting to see how long lehman lasts/sticks it out...

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (July 28, 2013, 4:39 GMT)

@John Duffield, Honestly, looking at the County Championship and SA domestic competition averages, they arn't that good either. Less that 3 people scored more than two centuries, the averages are in the mid thirties except for a handful of standout performers like punter, robson and taylor But the rest you can throw a blanket over, even the bowlers don't seem that great, i think SA and ENG are headed down the exact same path.

Posted by Antir on (July 28, 2013, 4:12 GMT)

Do not worry Academy cricket will save Sheffield Shield cricket. We just need to keep telling all our young cricketers that they are awesome and everything will be ok. The practice of finding all our elite players before the age of 14 and fast tracking them is working as intended.

Club -> Grade -> Shield -> Test = Win !

Posted by Wacco on (July 28, 2013, 3:58 GMT)

@ vatsap......they were good enough. Boon,Taylor, Marsh, Jones, Steve, Border in '89 were far better at that stage than this group under Clarke. Hughes Rogers, Khwaja, blah blah just dont have that talent.

Posted by wch77 on (July 28, 2013, 3:49 GMT)

Vatsap, Jones scored a double ton against the West Indies in the final test before the Ashes tour 89. What do you mean, not established?

Posted by SamRoy on (July 28, 2013, 3:43 GMT)

That England side in 1972 was a very good one but it was not half as good as 1970 South African Team that hammered Australia. That was a truly great side. There haven't been that many really great test teams. The 1948 Australians, 1970 South Africans, the 1980s West Indians and the early to mid 2000s Australians.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (July 28, 2013, 3:19 GMT)

Yep, they sure are terrible.

Posted by Chris_Howard on (July 28, 2013, 2:57 GMT)

The problem with the Australian side is the selectors' continual pampering to Watson at the expense of other players. While every other batsman in the team has to earn his spot and also has to perform in every Test to be sure of keeping it, Watson has a spot wherever he likes, for as long as he likes no matter how poorly he plays, no matter how often he gets out because of the same fault in his technique.

Drop Watson and notice how much more refreshed and reinvigorated that side looks.

Posted by   on (July 28, 2013, 2:39 GMT)

You just have to look at the bowling and batting averages in the Shield and then compare them to County Cricket and South African franchise cricket. Quality cricket competitions have high batting averages and low bowling averages. Poor quality cricket competitions have low batting averages and very low bowling averages. Sheffield Shield has low batting and very low bowling averages.

The lack of overseas pros and Aussie Test players does mean the quality of Shield Cricket suffers. I would bring back 1 overseas player per state and end all age restrictions in the 2nd XI competition.

Without a quality first class competition the development of Test players becomes very hit and miss. Just look at the West Indies and New Zealand. If you can't trust the quality of first class performances then the selectors have to start picking players subjectively. Not a good position to be in.

Posted by vatsap on (July 28, 2013, 2:32 GMT)

Wow. This must be a first, article from Ian Chapell, the words Steve Waugh and Good in the same sentence. Wondering though about the senior players in the 89 squad. Apart from Border the others including Boon, Marsh, Jones were still not established.

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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.

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