Former England Test batsman Graeme Hick has been appointed as Australia's batting coach for the next four seasons. Hick joins head coach Darren Lehmann, fielding coach Greg Blewett and new bowling coach David Saker in the Australia set-up, and will begin his contract at the start of the home Test series against South Africa in November.
However, his first significant challenge will be to help Australia's batsmen improve their output on the subcontinent, with a four-Test tour of India in February-March. Australia have lost their past nine Tests in Asia and were recently humiliated 3-0 by Sri Lanka in a series that was notable for Australia's consistent batting failures against spin.
When he was appointed Cricket Australia's high performance coach based at the Centre of Excellence in 2013, Hick stressed the need for patience from Australia's young batsmen, instead of expecting that they could score at limited-overs speed in first-class cricket. He believes a similar mental approach will be necessary for Australia's batsmen to succeed in India.
"At times maybe the Australian way is to really dominate," Hick told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday. "In Test cricket the daily run-rate has increased a lot. Maybe India is a place where you need a little bit more patience. The teams that have been successful there recently have been guys who have got big runs up front.
"If one of our top order get in, batting a couple of sessions maybe is not enough. You've got to look to post a big first-innings score and take that responsibility if you get in. That may require a little bit more patience than maybe some of the players would normally play at."
Hick would appear well qualified to discuss patience, as a man who scored 41,112 first-class runs, 15th on the all-time tally, and as one of only eight men in history to have scored a quadruple-century in first-class cricket. Hick also played 65 Tests for England from 1991 to 2001, and his lengthy contract appears partially designed to ensure he will be around for the 2019 Ashes in England.
"I played there for 25 years, I think there was maybe a bit of that in the planning and the appointment," Hick said. "If I feel like I can add to that and contribute to us doing well … there's plenty to happen before that, but I'm sure there was a bit of that foresight to my appointment."
The swinging ball has been almost as much of a challenge for Australia's batsmen as the turning ball in recent years, from 88 all-out against Pakistan at Headingley in 2010, to 47 all-out against South Africa in Cape Town, to last year's Ashes humiliation of 60 all-out at Trent Bridge, where Stuart Broad proved to be almost unplayable in collecting 8 for 15.
"At the end of the day, the players are out there themselves," Hick said. "All the players will be able to reflect on that [Trent Bridge] experience and think they could have played it differently. That goes back to the mental side of it and the mental approach. I played in a game for England where we were bowled out for 46 in the Caribbean. It was just one of those occasions where before you can get prepared and everything, the innings is over.
"People didn't necessarily have time there to sit and plan and take stock of what was happening, it all happened so quickly. That's all part of the challenge. Without doubt, you go to India and you're going to get their subcontinent wickets, you go to England now, certainly Trent Bridge and Headingley will be seaming and swinging around, Edgbaston maybe as well. That's the challenge."
Hick takes on the role as batting coach after it was vacated by Michael di Venuto in February, when he was named as Surrey's new head coach. Blewett had filled in as batting coach since di Venuto's departure but will now return to his original position as fielding coach.
"Graeme worked with us during the recent ODI tour in the West Indies and we were really impressed with what he brought to the group," Lehmann said. "He is a very experienced player in all conditions and will bring a wealth of knowledge with him. With an ICC Champions Trophy, an Ashes Series and an ICC World Cup all to be played in England in the near future, his knowledge of those conditions will also be invaluable."