In lieu of offering anything more interesting to say about Usman Khawaja’s latest failure, we’ve decided to put together a three point plan of how we would fix Australian cricket. If someone were to offer us a remuneration package commensurate with Pat Howard’s, we might be inclined to spruce it up a bit with graphs and dot points and cool stuff like that. We could even turn it into a PowerPoint presentation. Some of us know how to get some pretty fancy animation effects going between slides. They make star wipes look positively archaic.
But until such time, this’ll have to do. In its defence, it’s probably still better edited than any of the Warnifestos were.
As of now, Steven Peter Devereux Smith has played eleven Test matches. Aside from two against Pakistan the rest have been against either England or India. Usman Khawaja has played nine Tests. Aside from one against Sri Lanka, and two against New Zealand, the rest have been against England and South Africa. If both stay in the side they can look forward to more Tests against England and South Africa in the near future. Hands up anyone who can spot a trend developing here. If they’re lucky they might get some easier opposition down the line, but since the future of Australian Test cricket at the moment is a seemingly never-ending schedule of series against England, India or South Africa, they probably shouldn’t hold their breath. And when the easier opposition comes along they’ll probably just be dropped for Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes anyway.
A schedule like that makes sense if you’re trying make money, since seemingly nobody could be arsed paying to watch Australia play Test cricket against anyone else, but not if you are trying to build a Test team. It’s all a bit reminiscent of the mid 80s, where each year Australia would try and rebuild their Test team, only for each summer the West Indies to turn up and murder them. Steve Waugh wasn’t involved in a winning team till his 14th Test after all. Sure it all worked out okay in the end, but building a decent Test team really doesn’t have to be that hard of a slog.
The best thing Cricket Australia could do right now, especially with Channel Nine’s money burning a hole in their pocket, is schedule a nice long home Test series, of at least four Tests, against more appropriate opposition. Like the Kiwis. A series that will allow players like Devereux to bed themselves into the team. And if players can’t make runs at home against the Kiwis, there can be no more arguments as to whether they should be persevered with or not. And just to keep the fans (and broadcaster) happy, one of those Tests ought to be set aside for a day-night fixture. Win/win really.
Actually to make everyone happy all they really have to do is not schedule one of the Tests in Tasmania. Now that Ponting has retired we safely can all stop pretending it’s part of the country.
Cricket Australia actually gets far more criticism these days than is warranted. The Big Bash has, so far at least, been a success. At least in the sense that it is attracting new followers to the sport (although whether they migrate across to Test cricket remains to be seen). Women’s cricket goes from strength to strength, and even their selection policies aren’t as bad as they are often made out to be. The discovery of James Pattinson, Peter Siddle’s renaissance, and the manner in which Ryan Harris has been handled; these are all positive developments that have occurred because of their at times bewildering selection policies, not despite them. Then there is the recall of Devereux to the Test and ODI fold. A stroke of pure genius, as we’re sure you all agree.
But there is one thing Cricket Australia can be fairly accused of, and that is that they are far more reactive than proactive these days. Investigation of the state of Shield pitches was only announced after the humiliation of the Lord’s Test. Changes to the rules surrounding dual passport holders were announced only after Sam Robson became eligible to be selected for England. The Big Bash was launched as a belated imitation of the IPL. Even Pakistan is proving more proactive in pursuing the introduction of day-night Tests. The only area in which Cricket Australia could be said to have been genuinely innovative is the introduction of flashing stumps to the Big Bash. Although, to be fair, that is a development that adequately covers all manner of sins.
Once upon a time, Cricket Australia led the way and was the standard everyone else emulated. Now they are following slavishly behind, seemingly unable to come up with an original idea or even recognize a trend until it has been brutally hammered home. It’s almost as if they have decided to model their organisation on the Channel Nine commentary team.
Someone needs a good booting.
Michael Di Venuto is the current Australian batting coach. However in the past six months Australian batsmen have received further instruction from Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting, with Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann also getting involved. Next summer Graeme Hick will also be added to the mix somewhere. Allister de Winter is the bowling coach, but Peter Siddle, among others, is also coached by Craig McDermott in-between tours. There isn’t a specialist spin bowling coach: the fielding coach Steve Rixon handles that, along with anyone else who inadvertently wanders into the dressing room and feels like giving Nathan Lyon some pointers.
Someone better read than us would probably offer a comment now about how too many cooks spoil the broth or something. All we can say is that it sounds like a bloody shambles, and it’s not surprising none of the batsmen look like they know what they should be doing, considering they’ve probably been told five different things by five different people. It’s probably why they keep getting out to straight balls: they’re trying to play five different shots at once.
The usual Australian reaction to a series defeat is to try and find the one missing key that will make everything right. After the 2005 Ashes it was Troy Cooley. After these Ashes it wouldn’t surprise us if they try and nab David Saker. All of which sounds suspiciously like the reactive tendencies we were bitching about in the point above. But adding one more coach to the mix won’t fix anything. Not unless they sack all of the other bastards at the same time.