The Ashes 2013-14 November 13, 2013

Australia better prepared - Sutherland


On the day England faced an Invitational XI strengthened by Cricket Australia after the ECB's request to ensure better preparation for its players, the CA chief executive James Sutherland insisted Australia's mixed bag of ODIs in India, domestic limited-overs matches at home then three hurried rounds of the Sheffield Shield had provided a superior Ashes run-in for the forthcoming series.

Speaking at the Melbourne Press Club on Wednesday, following the launch of CA's $29 million national cricket centre in Brisbane the previous day, Sutherland maintained his defiant stance on numerous issues. These included a summer schedule that surrenders the prime months of the season to the Big Bash League while squeezing the Shield and limited-overs tournaments into summer's opening and closing weeks, and CA's insistence that domestic sides place their ambitions for silverware behind the need to develop international players.

Sutherland has clearly wearied of any criticism related to the schedule, which this year had Australia's ODI team in India until after England arrived to prepare for the Ashes while also turning the domestic limited-overs competition into a kind of pre-season carnival at Sydney club grounds. He stressed the BBL was intended not to raise greater commercial revenue for CA but to build a new audience that would ensure the game's continued survival.

"There weren't actually a lot of players who are playing in the Test team in Brisbane who were actually in India," Sutherland said of the schedule. "At the same time there were a lot of players who were back here playing, who have been able to play in the first couple of rounds of Shield cricket and had a really good preparation. We've had a lot more cricket than England have over the last couple of months, so don't tell me we haven't had a good preparation because England have hardly played."

England had originally been slated to face a NSW XI composed of players not needed in the concurrent Sheffield Shield round: to all intents and purposes, a Second XI. However pressure applied by the ECB chief executive David Collier resulted in a selection of cricketers being pulled from each Shield squad to create an invitational team, much to the dismay of numerous state officials, who wondered aloud at why CA had been so accommodating to their opponents. Pat Howard, the team performance manager, has stated that reciprocal treatment will be afforded Australia on the 2015 Ashes tour.

The match is being played on turf less green than it might have been in another season, as one of the other major CA changes for 2013-14 is a greater emphasis on ensuring domestic pitches reflect the conditions more likely to be seen at Test match level. The first two rounds of the competition have been characterised by the most amenable batting surfaces seen in some years, after Sutherland and Howard directed state associations and their curators to shave off the grassier extremes seen in recent seasons.

"The fundamental thing for us is Shield cricket is not about determining who the champion state team is, that is incidental," Sutherland said. "The real thing about Shield cricket is it needs to prepare cricketers for international cricket and particularly Test cricket and therefore the environment in which they're playing should be as much like Test cricket as possible. We don't want those pitches to be barren roads; we want the Gabba pitch to be like the first day pitch of a Gabba Test match.

"I'm not in any way downplaying the importance of creating a competitive environment, but we are investing perhaps $30 million a year in Sheffield Shield cricket and ultimately what we want is a competitive environment where we can drive cricketers to learn how to be successful.

"There was a temptation to chase the outright result to get six points to climb the Shield ladder and to some extent that is natural to want to be the winning team to qualify for the final. I stand by the comment that what we want is a really strong competitive Shield environment that delivers Test cricketers who can play winning cricket for Australia."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 15, 2013, 10:02 GMT

    I wonder how just beating the same team 3-0 in a five test series is worse preparation than losing an odi series in India? Madness..

  • Dummy4 on November 15, 2013, 2:16 GMT

    Here's an interesting stat on the upcoming Ashes: Based on current squads for each team...

    Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Root, Bairstow, Bresnan, Swann, Broad, Anderson, Tremlett, Finn... have all experienced WINNING the Ashes for England.

    Clarke.... is the only Ozzie with experience winning Ashes for Australia.

    Regardless of preparation and form, that sort of imbalance can affect results when a game is close.

  • Michael on November 15, 2013, 0:10 GMT

    ""There weren't actually a lot of players who are playing in the Test team in Brisbane who were actually in India," Sutherland said of the schedule" Let's see - Warner, dropped from ODI side, so no. Rogers, no. Watson, yes (and picked up an injury). Clarke, no, but only because he was injured. Smith, no (though it was hard to see why at the time). Bailey, yes. Haddin, yes. Johnson, yes. Harris, no. Siddle, no. Lyon, no. Faulkner, yes. 5 of the 12 selected is not a lot? Really? Unless Sutherland is suggesting Faulkner won't be playing (which is probably the case, by why advertise?), in which case it's 4 from 11. But if it weren't for ill-discipline and injury, it would have been 7 of 12. Don't try to tell me that was due to Cricket Australia's planning!

  • Bludging on November 14, 2013, 23:50 GMT

    Sutherland has been in this role for too long. The results of our national team are lousy and largely to do with the program of his stewardship of Cricket Australia. If we lose the Ashes and perform badly either Sutherland goes quietly or he is forcibly removed from office. Enough is enough!

  • Andrew on November 14, 2013, 19:26 GMT

    Sutherland MUST resign. He is only interested in the bottom line & gives lip service to actual on-field goals. Since he has been in charge - THREE TIMES Oz have played cricket in India in the 2 to3 mths prior to an Ashes in a ROW!!!! He is clueless. Oz should not play any cricket in India in the 6mths leading up to an Ashes series - home or away. It is the worst prep possible. The Ryobi comp was a hastily arranged format to take the focus of the fact that a squad was out of the country in the lead up to the most important event on the Oz cricket calendar. TWO times in a row now, we have surrendered home advantage to the Poms. Everybody else in Oz cricket has fallen on their sword or been knifed over the last decade EXCEPT Sutherland. The Board should sack him - like he did to Arthurs on the eve of the away Ashes (great thought process that)!

  • Neil on November 14, 2013, 14:46 GMT

    James Sutherland just does not get it, does he? Australian cricket is built upon the Sheffield Shield. To strive for success in the Sheffield Sheild is not "incidental". It is crucial in determining the success of Australian cricket. All the rest is just fluff. Domestic hit and giggle should not be the summer's main course.

  • Izmi on November 14, 2013, 14:15 GMT

    Sheffield Shield cricket should be our number one priority since that's where our cricketers make their initial appearance and showcase their talents before they make it to the test team. As such nothing should hinder it's progress as it is the main supply chain for aussie cricket and our future test cricketers. Atleast half of the cricket season starting from October to end of January should be strictly devoted to shield and test cricket and the rest to limited overs cricket including the BBL. If CA is really serious about improving our standards rather than making a fast buck it should reschedule the Ryobi Cup and the BBL untill the latter part of the cricket season.

  • Dummy4 on November 14, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    "The fundamental thing for us is Shield cricket is not about determining who the champion state team is, that is incidental,": & that perhaps summarises what can go wrong if one takes competitiveness out of the game, and places FC cricket beneath the commercial. Taking end December to early February out of the calendar is somewhat perverse. But there again I look for the Yorkshire score before the Test Score

  • Ragavendran on November 14, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    @landl47: I don't think age is a number to be obsessed over. The philosophy should be to pick the guys who have proven themselves and who are in form. There is no guarantee that a young team will keep improving. For example, look at Sehwag in test cricket. His average came down in the period when batsmen are supposed to be at their peak (i.e in the age 27-33). Or Harbhajan for that matter. The performance of a cricketer is not a straight line directly proportional to age.

  • James on November 14, 2013, 8:45 GMT

    @Landl47: Haddin and Rogers are stop gaps, guys to 'do a job' to give us time for other players to develop, it's not as if we are looking at them to be there in 5 years time (though rogers is a tough nut!).

    Injury doesn't last forever, the boys will be back. It's not as if i am saying we are on the rise, what i am getting at is the fact that while you guys have back ups, they simply won't be of the standard that their predecessors have left behind. So much so, that you will struggle.

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