Sunday, November 13, 2016

Time for Australian Cricket to Return to the 1980's

In the 1980’s, when Australian cricket was perhaps at its lowest point, the selection panel led by the incomparable Lawrie Sawle, realised they had to find the cricketers in the country who not only had the talent, but the strength mentally to be a part of the team, work to the situation of the game, and eventually become great players, even if their records at the time didn’t necessarily warrant selection. From those years, led by a strong selection panel, a coach (a SINGLE coach) in Bob Simpson who was absolutely committed to the basics of batting and bowling, but incredibly strong in the area of fielding and catching, and a captain in Allan Border who was not only one of the greatest ever produced in Australia, but the hardest, gutsiest and most determined batsman I’ve seen, Australia rose to become the best in the world.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand and do this again.

I’m not sure we have the selection panel currently good enough to do this and stick with this. I think the coach is good enough, but given he has already put 2019 as his expiration date, we need his replacement to be in the system now (yes that should be Justin Langer). And while the captain may not be as savvy on the field as other recent captains, there is no doubting his passion or his determination in a fight.
Following the debacle that was the Test tour of Sri Lanka, and the one day of dominance in Perth, followed by five days of decimation, these performances have given selectors, players, coaches and fans alike plenty of time to dissect what is happening in Australian cricket, and what should be done to start to build the team once again.
Is it really that difficult? Is it really such a tough task to pick players who are tough enough mentally and good enough technically to play their part in the side, as well as being of a standard in the field that they aren’t embarrassing?
With the Australian season set out as it is, the remaining four Tests are all played out in the next eight weeks, after which the ODI’s are played before the Test team tours India in late February through March. In essence, no matter what is to happen through the course of the remaining three days of the Test in Hobart, the selectors have to accept that five consecutive losses (should that occur) is unacceptable, and that the right players with the right constitution need to be found.
I’m not a selector. I am a fan, and I’m a tragic. I love this game, and I like to think I have some worthwhile thoughts on it. I think Shaun Marsh has had his chances and is too injury prone. I don’t think Joe Burns has the defence to be an opening batsman, and may have thus burned his chances of a middle order spot. As much as I admire Usman Khawaja I think his technique of no foot movement as well as his fielding are a liability. I think Adam Voges has had a great run, and copped a pearler yesterday, but it is time to look elsewhere. I think Mitch Marsh has a future, but only if he can prove he can score runs at first class level. I think Nathan Lyon is a liability, even though he gets all the donkey work on the most unresponsive wickets.

If we are going to lose, then let’s at least get some kids into the team and give them the chance to develop in the way they were in the late 1980’s. The following is a list of those players I would be pushing. None of them average over 40 with the bat, or under 30 with the ball. But they all have qualities that demand investigating and encouraging.

Cameron Bancroft. Age 24. An opening batsman identified two seasons ago as our next opening bat, who has been kept on ice ever since. His technique and temperament appear to be exactly what Australia needs at the top of the order.

Peter Handscomb. Age 25. Top order batsman with good technique and equally at home against pace and spin. An excellent fieldsman and with leadership qualities as well as a back up keeper he looks a good prospect.

Kurtis Patterson. Age 23. A century on debut at 18 years of age, and now beginning to show the consistency that opens eyes. Much better defensively and temperamentally than his NSW contemporary Nic Maddinson. Looks a likely number five.

Ashton Agar. Age 23. Shone on debut with 98 at age 20, injury has curtailed his development. Has shown excellent progress with his batting, but it is his left arm orthodox that is what is most required. Ten wicket haul in Sydney last week should have him firmly in selectors sights this summer.

Chadd Sayers. Age 29. Almost a veteran, but his constant and consistent wicket taking must have him securing a chance sometime soon. Why not with the pink ball in Adelaide and Brisbane, where his best qualities as a seamer will work best?

Marcus Stoinis. Age 27. Outside of Mitch Marsh and Moises Henriques, Stoinis appears the best bet in the allrounder category. Has opening the batting and bowling in first class cricket, and while he also is not a genuine all rounder, his batting appears a strong point that could develop while maintaining a handy presence with the ball.

Pat Cummins. Age 23. Everyone has been awaiting the return of Cummins, and if he remains uninjured during this season, and gets the overs under his belt that he needs, then it may be time to unleash him finally in the five day format.

Adam Zampa. Age 24. With Fawad Ahmed, somewhat unbelievably, having been discarded from the selectors notebooks, and Cameron Boyce becoming a short form specialist, Adam Zampa is currently the best equipped leg spinner in the country to be pushed as a Test bowler. Averages 55 with the ball in first class cricket, but Shane Warne’s average wasn’t flash when he was fast tracked to the national set up.

These aren’t out and out solutions, but it is plainly obvious changes need to be made to find players with better mindsets for Test cricket.

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