Many of the post-mortems of Australia's Ashes loss focused on team selection. Granted, the selectors may have got things slightly wrong when they swapped one Marsh brother for another, or left Peter Siddle on the sidelines for too long, but in terms of the actual squad they selected to tour England, it is hard to quibble with their logic. Even before the tour started, I believed Ed Cowan would have been better value than Shaun Marsh on seaming English pitches when some old-fashioned grit may have been required, but after consecutive hundreds by Marsh in the warm-up games, I began to doubt myself. Hindsight may have vindicated me but it was anything but a convincing argument.

Kumar Sangakkara insinuated as much when the curtain drew on his magnificent career, suggesting that weaker first-class competitions were not Australia's problems alone. Personally, I can only speak for the Australian and English scenes, albeit from a distance. I was never good enough to crack first-class cricket in Australia, and the few times I played at this level for Oxford University, Combined Universities and MCC could hardly be described as "a promising career cut short".

What strikes me now is the vast difference in the way batsmen especially approach the long-form game. Shot selection (or not playing a shot) hints at a mindset and coaching philosophy that lends weight to my suspicions that first-class cricket standards have dropped significantly, albeit balanced by a significant improvement in the short-form skills. The fielding is vastly improved, the bowlers have more variety but less patience, and the batsmen who grind it out are being filtered out as they progress through club cricket.

Pakistan still produces phenomenally talented cricketers, but I suspect that is despite the system rather than because of it

Australia, circa 1985 through to about 2010, arguably had the toughest first-class competition in the world. When players of the calibre of Stuart Law, Tom Moody, Jamie Siddons, Martin Love, Joe Dawes, Adam Dale and Jamie Cox played, though with just a few Tests between them, it speaks volumes for the inherent depth of that era.

South Africans tend to wax lyrical about their Currie Cup strength during their period of isolation. Where are the Jimmy Cook, Graeme Pollock, Peter Kirsten, Garth Le Roux and Clive Rice equivalents today? Perhaps a few of our South African friends can write in and tell us if that depth is still around in provincial cricket.

County cricket in England was never stronger than in the 1970s and '80s when most teams had overseas pros like Gordon Greenidge, Zaheer Abbas, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, Mike Proctor, Viv Richards and Allan Border, to name a few. You could select a few World XIs of that era, but such was England's own pedigree that they would not have been disgraced with the likes of David Gower, Derek Underwood, Bob Willis, Ian Botham, Alan Knott et al.

It's harder to tell what the situation is like in India and Sri Lanka because we don't get much coverage here in Australia. I suspect India's Ranji Trophy was a formidable tournament when the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath and Bishan Bedi were in their pomp. Ironically, is the national team stronger now but the domestic competition weaker?

Sri Lanka, like Bangladesh, must surely have a more robust competition now than before they achieved Test status but even that is being questioned by the likes of Sangakkara.

Without intimate local knowledge, I'm assuming that Pakistan's first-class competition was far stronger before their recent isolation from foreign tours began to bite. They still produce phenomenally talented cricketers, but I suspect that is despite the system rather than because of it.

With West Indies and Zimbabwe, there is no question that their domestic structures are now a shadow of what they used to be. New Zealand may be the opposite - is their current competitiveness down to more self-belief and exposure or a much improved domestic system? With such a small population, they punch above their weight in almost every sporting contest.

Back to the Ashes and Australia then; my contention is that the way the system is now set up, it is inevitable that domestic cricket is now seen as a flight simulator for all three international forms of the game. The Sheffield Shield season is suspended for almost six weeks in the middle of the summer in order to accommodate the Big Bash League. This cannot possibly strengthen the competition. Even grade cricket, long venerated for producing tough cricketers who are ready for the big stage, now incorporates a host of T20 and one-day games. Is it any surprise that we're unlikely to produce future Test cricketers who are prepared to bat longer, let balls go through to the keeper, and bowl long, dry spells? The Trent Bridge collapse owed as much to a mindset that refused to "bat time". Only nine of the 116 balls would have hit the stumps but they still kept playing shots until the end came in over 19, before lunch on the opening day.

It's like comparing Jane Austen to James Bond. Mills & Boon versus Tinder - in cricket terms, it's wham, bang, thank you ma'am. In the eyes of many, the actual quality of cricket (as distinct from entertainment) in this Ashes series (by both teams) was technically poor. Almost second-class cricket.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane