The Ashes 2010-11 January 8, 2011

Clarke and Nielsen differ on batting approach


Michael Clarke, the stand-in captain, and the coach Tim Nielsen have disagreed over Australia's Test batting tactics in the aftermath of the side's horrible Ashes loss. The lack of runs was a key problem for the hosts throughout the 3-1 series defeat and it has become clear that there was a clash over the best method of survival.

Nielsen, who has been in charge since 2007, said the batsmen had to learn how to adjust their mind-sets to avoid losing wickets at crucial times, which was a feature of the campaign. However, Clarke, who replaced the injured Ricky Ponting in Sydney, said he told his men not to alter their attitude in the second innings, when they were attempting to hold off the rampaging tourists.

"[It was] 100% to play their natural game," Clarke said of his instructions. "For me, if I try to occupy the crease and block, I know I'm going to have no chance for success. Every individual is different, but you have to stick to your game plan. You have to play your way."

Nielsen disagreed after watching his batsmen fall around breaks in play at vital stages of the past five Tests. "They are little things we need to improve, it's not about saying you can't play a cover drive or a cut shot or can't catch the ball," he said. "Players don't get to this level without being able to do that, but it's us improving as a group to identify those times and realising that sometimes you need to put your own game on the back burner."

It is not unusual for a coach and captain to have different views. Nielsen was angry this week with Stuart Clark, the former Test bowler, for suggesting Nielsen and Clarke had problems in the West Indies during the World Twenty20. Clark had written about the pair's relationship for the Sydney Morning Herald at the start of the final Test.

"It is my belief Clarke will want full control, and this might mean Nielsen has to take a back seat on several fronts," Clark wrote. "It might be better if he provides support and guidance to Clarke rather than a dominant hand.

"He should then ensure the rest of the side are having their requirements met - be they extra netting time, throwdowns, catching, fielding work, bowling work or just sitting down and talking to players about their fears and concerns. This might take away from the more glamorous work of deciding when to declare or who should be 12th man, but it's still a very important part of building a successful team."

Nielsen insisted he did his best during the Ashes but could only point to three players - Michael Hussey, Shane Watson and Peter Siddle - who had improved over the past six months. Before the season he signed a contract to the end of the 2013 Ashes and James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, delivered a surprising vote of confidence.

"He's doing a great job with the development of players and at the same time we have some significant changes in the personnel within the Australian team and team management," Sutherland said. "The decision that was made, the board's very comfortable that Tim's contract should be renewed through that period. Tim's fine."

Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said after the match that his panel had done "a very good job" during the series. When Nielsen was asked if he rated his own performance the same way he said: "We've done our very best, no doubt about that. We did everything we thought we could do and we tried everything we could have."

While Nielsen ran out of answers for his team, his support staff also struggled to lift the players. Every time Australia bowled the wicket looked flatter and slower, with Troy Cooley suffering badly in comparison with David Saker, England's Australian bowling coach. Justin Langer's batting advice was either ignored or not useful, and the fielding was also disappointing.

"The planning was there, it was just our inability as a group to do what we wanted to do with bat and ball," Nielsen said. The players have been the only ones to accept blame for the side's worst series of results in history.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 5wombats on January 9, 2011, 17:38 GMT

    @popcorn; Buchanan presided over some of the greatest cricket players who ever walked the planet - it would have been shocking if those players had not put together a record like the one they did. Buchanan had very little to do with that teams sucess and Neilsen even less. Now how about you reply? You are good at contributing - now stand up and justify what you say when challlenged.

  • dummy4fb on January 9, 2011, 17:17 GMT

    I think Nielsen is a little bit of a problem. Australia should be looking for a new coach. Since he came in, I can't think of one thing Australia have done well.

  • dummy4fb on January 9, 2011, 16:39 GMT

    From where I look, Australia should not be surprised at the drubbing. In fact they should & would have known that this was going to be a tough series to save even before it began. They stayed in denial & borrowed confidence. Having known this, the plan should have been to make it hard & tough for england to be on top (I understand Aussies always play only to win, but these were not the usual circumstances & an underdogs approach from the start was the demand of the situation) .. & we all know england can't fight it out for long when confronted with sustained pressure. Clarke's explanation was laughable & like a King gone broke, but a King nevertheless. U play your natuaral game when you have the tools to back it up, else it all goes up-side-down. The real ingredient missing from the Aussies, discounting for the lack of skills, was the famed Aussie grit. But then you cant expect that from players who arnt sure of their places for even the next test. Selectors to blame all the way.

  • LALITHKURUWITA on January 9, 2011, 16:02 GMT

    Cracks are everywhere. As I said before, if CA needs to improve, they need to remove the selection pannel, coaching staff and both captains. With the current bunch Aussie cricket will fall further. @AndrewFromOz I do agree with you.

  • Poonting on January 9, 2011, 15:57 GMT

    D) To be continued.

    I am too mad to keep writing about these twits, for further details of my rant, bookmark this page.

    Coming soon.

    I am going to rip this team apart.

    Death to Australian cricket. The resurrection begins tomorrow.

    Every journey begins with a step.

    Heads must roll.

    Fingers bleeding.

  • Poonting on January 9, 2011, 15:49 GMT

    B) Arrogance, for whatever reasons.

    This starts at the top. Yes, I am talking about the Punter Ponting. One of the most arrogant individuals on earth. This has now filtered down through the whole team, arrogance is one sure way to lose a test match. Test cricket is a game of patience, there is no room for arrogance in test cricket. It is a game of humility, one where we must respect the opposition and judge every ball on its merit. The Aussies went into this Test series with an ayre of invincibility, this is a sure way to defeat. One cannot sustain such arrogance for 5 days, one is surely to be undone with this mindset, save arrogance for T20 where muscles mean something, Test cricket is a game for the mind.

    C) Crazy selection, what the? Really?! What the!?!?!

    Lets begin with Nathan Hauritz. An Ashes series is no forum to blood new spin bowlers. Why not go with a tried and true formula, sure maybe he wont break through a batting line up, but 'The Kid' can hold up an end. To be cont.

  • Clyde on January 9, 2011, 15:28 GMT

    I doubt if any Australian would want to play in or watch a game of cricket orchestrated by coaches. I want to be able to see the people deciding the moves. Even in soccer the coaches are on the sideline. The function of a coach in cricket is invisible and hence not credible. I am sure Mr Nielson is a very nice man and so on and so forth, but he has nothing to do with whether a player or team is going to do well. For Australia to come back it is going to take talent that has never been seen before, by anyone, let alone just Mr Nielson. All this mentioning of coaches for this, that and the other thing is discussion of a group whose names generally don't ring a bell. Flower is a pleasant exception under the heading 'coach'. I am sure England's players aimed for some of his qualities, which unmemorable coaches don't have. It seems to me Australia has players who can't bowl at the wicket, keep their bats in front of the wicket or throw the ball in its direction.

  • Poonting on January 9, 2011, 15:26 GMT

    I am angry, bloodlust overwhelms me. As a lurker of CricInfo for the past 3 years I have thoroughly enjoyed reading comments and insights into this beautiful game, but today I have taken a stand a decided to provide insight.

    Australian cricket has been in decline for some time. Myself, like others, have despised the direction of Australian cricket for at least the last 5 years. It has become nothing more than a commercial vehicle, another pop culture trend, something where style means more than substance. Lets break this down...

    The Australian Cricket nightmare, how it happened.

    A) Style over substance: Players are being chosen in the same way that models are chosen, how they look and how marketable they are to whatever sector of the public the Australian tards at CA want to attract to the game. Michael Clarke is the pretty boy, Steven Smith is the 'young gun', Mitchell Beer is chosen because a beer company is the major sponsor of the team and thought this was some marketing genius.

  • jackiethepen on January 9, 2011, 10:07 GMT

    I was impressed with Clarke as captain. Given the poisoned chalice for the last Test when England were in front, I thought he kept his head. He might turn into a Strauss like captain if he is given the chance. By that I mean thoughtful, considerate to his players and a gentleman on the field. Despite what Aussies think, this can have a galvanising effect on players. Ponting lost it at Melbourne and his team suffered for it. Clarke was quick to support and defend Hughes against allegations of cheating and he refused to make a controversy over Bell saying that he believed he didn't feel anything on the bat. Such captains are always an asset because they end up being really respected.

  • AndrewFromOz on January 9, 2011, 4:02 GMT

    Nielson, Hilditch, Ponting et al will try to hold on to their high-paying gigs to the detriment of Australian cricket. CA will have to work hard to prise their greedy fingers off the steering wheel...

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