Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, has called upon Cricket Australia to use English Dukes balls in Sheffield Shield matches as a way of helping young batsmen to cope better with the swinging, seaming ball than they could manage in a humiliating Ashes defeat to England.
At Cardiff, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, Australia's batsmen were repeatedly undone by the moving ball, which messed with their Antipodean techniques and then their minds. The only success in the series occurred at Lord's on a surface that did not offer too much seam movement, while swing was also less prevalent than at the other grounds.
Based on his own recent experiences of domestic cricket but also the scenes he witnessed in this series, Ponting believes that the Dukes ball needs to be used down under, for it permits greater swing than the Kookaburra, which has for years been the ball of choice for CA. He told ESPNcricinfo that batsmen needed to be faced with questions relevant to the international experience.
"One thing I am going to recommend as soon as I get home is that we actually change the balls we use in Australia," Ponting said. "I think we should be using Dukes balls in Australia now. I think it's been highlighted enough times that we struggle when the ball swings and seams. You go back two, three years ago when I was playing Shield cricket, Hobart got heavily criticised for doing too much but I batted there, but you could still make runs.
"Ed Cowan's making runs almost every time he batted on that wicket. You just have to change your game and work out how you're going to get runs in those conditions. The Gabba's been the same for as long as I can remember in Shield cricket and that's why Matthew Hayden [in the past] and Usman Khawaja now, who's opening the batting up there, someone like Joe Burns bats up there as well as a top-order batsman.
"Their techniques will stand up in these conditions because they're used to playing in these conditions but we have to look at these conditions I think because it just looks like this generation of Australian players just haven't got the technique to survive the best quality bowling in difficult conditions."
Domestic pitches have been a matter for conjecture for some time. Result-oriented pitches were thought to have stopped batsmen from having the chance to build their innings, leaving CA to encourage drier surfaces. However, Ponting said batsmen needed to experience the sorts of surfaces that would test their techniques, and wanted to see a greater contrast in the sorts of pitches prepared for the Sheffield Shield.
"There's got to be a fine balance there obviously," he said. "We went one way completely with the greener wickets and because of the greener wickets as well, there were more results in those venues which wasn't good for the competition. But it might have been good for the players that were playing in that competition. It might have been Hobart and Brisbane only, you might have had only the two wickets for that year that you had to find ways to score runs and then you go to Adelaide where it was flat and Melbourne was pretty flat.
"It's been one of the great things I think in Australian cricket history the differing conditions we have all around the country. I think just changing the ball will be a good start because even when the wicket hasn't seamed here the ball's still swung and it's been swing I think as much as anything that's got our players out. So if we can find a ball in Australia that's going to swing for longer, then surely that's going to help the batsmen and it'll teach the bowlers how to bowl with it as well."
Among emerging batsmen in Australia, Ponting nominated Khawaja, Cameron Bancroft, Travis Head and Peter Handscomb among those who should be granted an opportunity at international level over the next 12 months. "I'd start with Usman Khawaja," he said of the Australia A captain on the concurrent tour of India. "I think he'll get an opportunity somewhere at the top of the order for Australia and pretty soon, I think.
"He started last Sheffield Shield season in probably career-best form. He had a bad injury that put an end to his season last year. He's in India at the moment as captain of the Australia A team and is scoring runs over there so I think he's someone they'll definitely look at. There are a few other younger guys, Cameron Bancroft in WA made a big impression last year I know on Shield cricket. Justin Langer speaks really highly of him and Justin doesn't give too much praise unless it's needed.
"Guys like Travis Head and Peter Handscomb, young guys like that I think. You know I think the time might just be right to take a punt on a couple of these young guys and give them a chance and thinking that the next Ashes is a couple of years away it'd be nice to get some experience into these younger guys and see if we can just start to regenerate things a little bit."