Weak Sheffield Shield hurting Australia - Warne
Shane Warne believes fast-tracking young players into the Sheffield Shield rather than having them cut their teeth on Twenty20 is key to improving the strength of domestic cricket in Australia and ultimately the national team. In the preview of an exclusive eight-part video series, Words with Warnie, which will appear on ESPNcricinfo in the lead-up to the Ashes, Warne said the Sheffield Shield had slipped from its previous status as the best first-class breeding ground in the world.
The absence of young batsmen making mountains of domestic runs was especially obvious in the 2012-13 season, when the top three Shield run scorers were the 38-year-old Ricky Ponting, Mark Cosgrove, who has been playing for more than a decade, and Chris Rogers, 35. That dearth of batsmen knocking down the door left the national selectors few options but to recall Rogers for the upcoming Ashes series in England.
"I think we've got a lot of talent at the moment. I think if we pick the right players, we stick with them, we back them, and they have to then perform and repay that faith too," Warne said. "If they don't, well, sorry, [you're] out. And that's a fine balance between what's long enough and how long do you stick with someone for. But I think we have got the talent there.
"We've got to get the infrastructure right at domestic level. In any good business we need those foundations to be strong at the bottom and ... we've always prided ourselves on [the Sheffield Shield] being the best first-class cricket in the world. Now I'm not sure we still have got the best first-class cricket in the world.
"I think we have got a pretty good system, I think we have run a very tight ship. And I think we've got a lot of good young players. We just need to fast-track them and get them experience at domestic cricket and learn how to play the four-day game. I think if you can play the four-day game you will adapt to one-day and Twenty20, not the other way around, play one-day cricket and Twenty20s and try to adapt to four-day cricket - it's completely different."
The introduction of the Big Bash League with eight teams has meant that over the past couple of seasons there have been greater opportunities for young players to break into domestic cricket via Twenty20 rather than the Sheffield Shield. Warne said it would take time - and well beyond this year's back-to-back Ashes series - for Australia to get back on track and fight their way up from their current ICC rankings of fourth in Test cricket, third in ODIs and seventh in T20.
"I think we've got it there but I think it's going to take a good 12 or 18 months," Warne said. "We've got to get the structure right, we've got to get the process right, we've got to get selection right. We've got to get that mantra ... put the fans first. Be the best players we possibly can. Be entertaining. Play with passion.
"I think the players love playing cricket for Australia. They're passionate and they would do anything for it. I'm just not sure we're putting the fans first. I'm not sure we've got the structure right, I'm not sure we've got the process right, and I don't believe we're selecting the right players."