The Ashes 2013-14 November 1, 2013

Healy wants tough love for Ashes team


Australia's hopes of regaining the Ashes at home this summer will improve if the players are subjected to a more disciplined set-up, rigorous training and minimal leniency, according to Ian Healy. Referring to his own early days in a team finding its way under Allan Border and Bob Simpson, Healy wants team management to return to the days of old-fashioned hard grind to give the current crop the sense of reality that he feels pampered, modern-day sportsmen lack.

"We're treating them the same way we treated legends in their last few years," Healy said at the Mark Boucher tribute dinner in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening. "We've never gone back to the way things were 20 years ago. We used to work too hard and do too much training and we're letting these younger guys train the way legends used to."

Less rigid coaches, notably Gary Kirsten who followed the accountability style of leadership with both India and South Africa, allow the players to choose how many net sessions they need to have and how long they should be. Kirsten said that by treating cricketers like adults and allowing them to make their own decisions would invariably result in them opting for what is best for their own performance.

But Healy thinks that approach will only work once players are established enough on the international stage and not during a transition phase like one Australia are going through at the moment. Healy said he could see new coach Darren Lehmann starting to do away with some of those excessive freedoms but has advised him to become even more militant.

"We're treating our national side a bit like a club team too often," he said. Healy was particularly critical of allowing players time off during series or the luxury of missing certain fixtures to prepare for others. Australia have been careful to use their quick bowlers in rotation, especially to manage injury concerns and on Thursday announced Mitchell Johnson would return home from the India ODI series to prepare for the first Ashes Test.

If Healy had it his way, players would be available for the majority of games Australia play. "All this resting players and rotating players. In our day, if you wanted rest, you were told that was fine because there are heaps of people who want your job."

Those people are still out there and Healy believes despite the current challenges Australian cricket is healthy. "Our system is still good, we are not negligent in funding and we are producing enough cricketers," he said.

For that reason, he was bullish about Australia's chances in the upcoming Ashes series, although he knows they go in as underdogs. "We are capable of winning the Ashes but England will give themselves a big kick in the pants if they don't win," he said. At the very least Healy expects Australia will "play better than we have in the last two years," this summer.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 2, 2013, 7:32 GMT

    @Chad950 - "Wasnt it 'minimal leniency' that led to the homework saga?"

    Not really, IMO. Poor communication and mixed messages were the primary contributors = Clarke says he wants everyone to knuckle down and prepare 24/7, then coach says "everyone needs 2 days off to not think about cricket at all", THEN coach says "Oh, and do this work for me on your two days off"

    There was no suggestion that nobody wasn't up to the standards of PLAYING CRICKET or TRAINING, which you think would be most important. All their complaints were about not preparing powerpoint slides, not filling in your 'wellness app' (which sounded far less thorough than a conversation with the physio) and other meaningless rubbish. Basically the coaching team were upset the cricketers weren't doing their own job for them.

    Good riddance to the old guard and good to have a coach in who cares about how guys actually play rather than, literally, ticking the boxes.

  • Don on November 1, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    Of course Healy is right about the value of hard work, but I'm not sure that rotating and resting players equates with laziness. We mainly do this for fast bowlers who face the toughest physical demands and are the most susceptible to injury.

    I'm sure a test fast bowler who has been "rotated" for a match is not to be found on the beach sipping cocktails and tucking into cheesecake. He will be running, going to the gym, doing physio and practicing technical drills. At least one would hope so.

    When Warner wagged a club match recently it's not as if he spent the day at the casino; he was in the nets practising. He got in trouble for it and rightly so for letting his club down, but I don't think we can call him work-shy.

  • Jay on November 1, 2013, 18:33 GMT

    Mr. Ian Healy, it's all fair and good. But, do you even have quality players in Australia any more ? At least in test cricket that is. Man to man, England's players are a lot better than their Aussie counterparts. Strict discipline or not, it's all within. Nobody can teach you how to become a better batsman or bowler or fielder. It depends on the individual, the amount of hard work he is willing to put in, the amount of leisure he is willing to let go as a cricketer etc. That's how the players played decades ago. Those guys were paid peanuts compared to the cricketers nowadays. Yet, they had the dedication, pride, and sincerity in representing their countries and doing well when it mattered most. T20 cricket and IPL/BBL are here to stay. They are fantastic for the game including the revenue they bring. However, if test cricket is to survive, it's up to the individual players to work hard at their game and ensure fans come to watch every match. Right now, that isn't happening.

  • Christopher on November 1, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    Wasnt it 'minimal leniency' that led to the homework saga?

  • gurinder on November 1, 2013, 13:51 GMT

    aussie dominance over world cricket have long gone. now aus selectors are having hard times finding 7 batsmen who cud win them tests or atleast drew them. last i checked they are 7-0 in terms of wins in last 9 tests and more tough matches against resilient england are in store for them. english batsmen can draw matches if they cannot win them, the same cannot be said about aussie batsmen. if england win ashes or worse, whitewash aus in aus than i for once wud not be surprised.

  • Mashuq on November 1, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    Nice side-step Heals, speaking about "producing enough cricketers" and carefully avoiding speaking about batsmen!

  • xxxxx on November 1, 2013, 11:39 GMT

    As always with Healy, experience and common sense. Is he the last of the old, successful school in Aus cricket? If so, I hope he does not retire soon.

    It seems as if Aus cricket, from Sutherland down, has become enamoured with management-speak, life-coaching, media-coaching, anything but basic batting, bowling and fielding to the point where pampered cricketers cannot even go the toilet without coaches and special training.......... and this in a country made up predominantly of tough, self-reliant, talented migrants and descendants of migrants.

    Some tough love is required but also some of the Rod Marsh "if you work it out for yourself you wll not forget it" approach as well.

  • Michael on November 1, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    The values in society have changed significantly since Healy began. If he took a bit of notice of modern psychology he would understand the needs of Gen y and how to get the best out of them. The disciplinarian approach no longer works for most of the players coming through. The current gap in ready made talent is at least partially due to the lack of understanding in the past 10-15 years, that has turned young cricketers away from the game.

  • Brenton on November 1, 2013, 9:55 GMT

    I agree the squad needs a more disciplined training regime. One problem we are facing now that wasn't around 20 years ago was is t20. Young players can go and literally make a million so why would they put up with tough training?

    There are a few young blokes around who want to make a career playing test cricket, they should be given every opportunity but also a strict regime.