Australia news July 23, 2013

Australia revival 'will take time' - Howard


Australian cricket faces years of difficult times ahead until the nation's domestic competitions can again be relied upon to provide effective preparation for young batsmen and spin bowlers. This grim view was not shied away from by Cricket Australia's team performance manager, Pat Howard, as he sifted through the wreckage of the 347-run defeat at Lord's, which has left many wondering how such a result could be possible two years after the Argus review highlighted many of the problems on display.

In a frank discussion of what appears a dire medium-term forecast for the national team, Howard defended his decision to sack the former coach, Mickey Arthur, and replace him with Darren Lehmann a mere two weeks before the start of the Investec Ashes series. He also agreed with an emotional James Pattinson's assessment that the lack of rest afforded the bowlers by an inept first-innings batting display at Lord's had contributed to his back stress fracture.

But the major conclusion Howard was prepared to draw from Lord's was that problems in the Australian game will take years to remedy, requiring even stronger alignment between the states and CA to strengthen the club and Sheffield Shield competitions that have been left in disrepair while Twenty20 dollars have been chased with far more vigour than adequate grounding for Test match cricketers.

"When Australia and Australia A play over the same weekend and the highest scores were Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques getting 60s and 70s [in Zimbabwe], our ability to bat a long time needs to improve," Howard said. "We need to work with the states to enforce that message around batting for a long time and batting with patience. Making sure Sheffield Shield cricket goes into the fourth day so we start getting footmarks, we start getting spinners bowling more in the Shield so they get used to that as well.

"There's a big process there to get right, and it's going to take time. I definitely need to work with the states to get this to a point where the Shield prepares players for Tests even better. We would love lots more people scoring big hundreds at home. Only two people got three hundreds in Shield cricket last year, Ricky Ponting and Chris Rogers. One of them is here and one you know plenty about, so the system has got to help provide that."

A minor victory for CA's high-performance regime in their battle with the marketing and programming side of the governing body's Melbourne office is a change to the 2013-14 summer, which will see the domestic limited-overs competition played as a whole early in the season, before a run of six consecutive Shield matches leading up to the final two Tests of the summer. The Big Bash League then takes hold until mid-February.

"I am happy about the fact it is not going Shield, one-dayer, Shield, one-dayer - there are six games of red-ball cricket in a row at the start of the season," Howard said. "No interruptions, no trying to hit it over the top, people are going to have to be patient and spinners will get some time to get wickets. I am hoping we will reinforce over that period the discipline of red-ball cricket. It's an opportunity for the coaches to drill in those messages."

On the matter of Arthur, Howard said he did not retreat for one moment from the call to install Lehmann, on a basis the South African has described as "totally unfair".

"When you sit there and look and have conversations, and there were plenty of articles written about what was right and what was wrong, you knew there was something that needed to be dealt with," Howard said. "It was dealt with and you make decisions not just for one week or two weeks but you make them for a period and who's going to best galvanise the side. I don't want to go into that particularly, but who was going to get the best out of this group, that was a simple decision.

"Obviously there is a legal issue going. I can't comment on that. But it's never nice when you get moved on. It's happened to lots of people. It's never nice. On the ground it's not affecting the players. They've moved on, gone on and feel galvanised with this group. Even though there are two Tests we lost, was one close, the other we didn't play well enough, clearly … I don't move away. It was the right decision."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Who Cares About IPL on July 26, 2013, 9:05 GMT

    Much as I understand what kitten (250713, 14:54) has to say the idea that it is the amount of play that causes pace bowlers to fail is surely erroneous. Bowlers of the Fred Trueman era and earlier would often bowl many more deliveries - for example he played 603 first class matches and bowled nearly 100000 deliveries. However this does not take into account the balance of matches, 20/20, 50 over and first class. Fred played only 18 List A matches - whereas Glenn McGrath by contrast played more than 500 hundred. First class matches require long, sustained spells - "bowling to keep fit" and that seems to be the problem for the current generation.

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    I am sorry that the trend is with CA and some other countries that they are crowding their staff with 'academics" and this does not go well when we over analyse everything a player does, feels and says. There is too much excreta swimming around in their heads. Like JL said the danger is being over coached and I am afraid that is the road we are on. Batting is concentration and a straight bat, bowling is line and length. Simple it has worked for McGrath, Hughes (K) Chappells, etc., Get back to basics and become good at the simple things - the flash things will look after themselves. And please, please above all get rid of the 20/20 stuff it is not good for Test players. At least pick a team other than Test players to play this quick fix game and leave the Tests to us purists who can appreciate the subtleties and skills associated with these games and pay the Tests stars to compensate for loss of 20/20 income. Reduce their game time - it helps with injuries

  • mukesh on July 26, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    This is a good sign , at least someone from CA is finally realizing the size of the crisis they are currently in , you can give all the homework , tough talk, change the coach or shuffle the batting order but the FACT remains that other than clarke there is no single test class batsmen in that lineup , usman khawaja and philip hughes might prosper given enough time but at the moment they are way below to being world class , sad thing is they used to be a team where even michael hussey had to wait until his 30s to get into the team ! howard has identified the problem , now if he can find the answers Aussies will be back to the top in next 6 or 7 years , but their short term does not look too good

  • Richard on July 26, 2013, 5:00 GMT

    It's hard not to feel the crowded cricketing calendar, which sees to best players play little part in the Shield, has led to a dilution of that contest. Hardly anyone ever goes to Shield games any more. Personally I've been turned of from going to the WACA by the overbearing security staff that are omnipresent now. I'm not a particularly belligerent fan, but these security guards seem to be able to find any reason to take the fun out of being at the game. The Sheffield Shield is now a far softer contest than it used to be which can't be to the benefit of up and coming players.

  • Dummy4 on July 26, 2013, 3:25 GMT

    What I don't understand is why the coach was 'moved on', but the "High Performance Manager" is apparently unscathed and is possibly exerting even more influence. If losing 6 Tests does not bely "High Performance" I'm not sure what does.

    The 'run of 6 consecutive Shield matches' will, if I understand correctly, overlap with the first 3 Tests (to finish before the final 2 Tests). The upshot, surely, is that there will be limited, if any, domestic long-form preparation in the lead-up to the Ashes. Our Australian team stars will not have that benefit, and fringe players may not be seriously considered until Test 4, when the outcome of the series may already be determined.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 19:42 GMT

    The problem has been ignored since before the 2010 Ashes Series .... substandard batting performances and batsmen who have awful batting technique.

    Since Pakistan 2010 and after removing Clarke's anomalous 200+ Innings, average partnerships for the top 5-wickets are 40.5, 25.0, 29.9, 39.9, 30.6. Meaning that on most occasions you can expect the w/keeper to walk out at 5/165 and, using Percentile Stats, 75% of the time Australia can expect to be 3/40.

  • anil on July 25, 2013, 15:57 GMT

    ACB had this gut feeling that after AB's period nothing can go wrong. They were wrong. Strategy had failed, administration rigged, players not properly payed, making them leave for other leagues during off times and last but by all the means first, players ill treated. Look at how Bhajji was treated in 2001 and how he came back? You've had a flair to groom spoilt brats by giving them more responsibility. What happened then? Why did you ill treat Symonds? Watto? Warner? The rott can stop if someone among the team raise their game and induce some spirit in those guys. Right now that can be either Watto or Warner.

  • vic tor on July 25, 2013, 14:54 GMT

    As much as I love Test cricket, and as much as I would like to see it progress and get stronger, I feel with the fast pace that this world moves, people do not have the time to watch cricket over five days. All other sport with the exception of Golf ends in a day, win or lose. People want entertainment for the whole family, and a result at the end of it. So in short, the ODI(50/50) and the 20/20 are here to stay, and players earn more money playing these than the Test matches, and ofcourse their careers will last longer. Pace bowlers today are falling like flies with the amount of cricket they play, and something has got to give. If Test Cricket is to be preserved, then other forms of cricket should be curtailed, or else we will see a lot of cricketers opting out of Test cricket to concentrate on the shorter versions of the game.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    if shield matches end in 3 days how can u expect batsman to concentrate for long periods of time, also mentioned by mike hussey, brad hodge etc. Secondly fast bowlers are also making the transition from '3-day' bowling to '5-day' bowling, which explains their fragility. Yes greentops will improve their ability to play quality swing (which is nullified by 'stand and deliver' nature of long tournaments like BBL and IPL) - but what about spin. What about getting bowlers used to bowling for 5 days compared to 3 days. Australian pitches used to be the best in the world, and internationally they still are. But the shield pitches need to have the same character.