The fall from grace has been as swift as has it has been ugly, gone are the days of the 2000s where we were blessed with generational talents like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Ricky Ponting dominating summers on end and making Australian test cricket must watch viewing.
Fast forward to today and I’d honestly barely muster up the effort to cross the street to watch this Australian team let alone make the trip to Melbourne or anywhere else to see what appears on the surface to be a disorganised group of batsman who struggle with the moving ball and are unable to consistently produce big scores. How can things be fixed?
Well here’s how I’d do it, and it’s not as simple as just picking a different group of players, the damage runs much deeper than that, merely replacing the current line up is akin to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, I’m sure it would look nice but the end result won’t change much….
Domestic Cricket Scheduling
Problems – Playing the One Day competition in bulk at the start of October over 4 weeks gives it a preseason practice match feel, the spectators don’t really care and a week after its done nobody remembers much about it – can you remember who won the final and the standout performances along the way without using google? The packed schedule limits the opportunity for injured players or players on National duty to represent their states in one day cricket, without some of the big name players, its hard to get excited about it. Lack of tv exposure hurts the chance to learn about future stars and see their development.
The big bash competition is too long – currently 6 weeks
Not enough Shield games before Test Series starts – only 1 this season
The gap between Shield Cricket over Christmas is too long – December 9th to February 1st
Solutions – Sheffield Shield starts October 4th, games would be scheduled so that they run for 4 days Tuesday to Friday, players get a rest day and then play a One Day game against the same team on the Sunday, televise the best game of the round and pump it up. Nobody cares about the AFL preseason competition, but when you put on a big game in the middle of the season, everybody takes notice.
3 Shield and One day games played before the First test of the Summer in first week of November, let’s find out who is and isn’t in form before we get 2 Tests into a series and wonder what is going on?
6 Shield and one day games played before December 18, this gives 13 weeks to play the games and allowing the Big Bash window to open.
Big Bash for as successful at generating money as it is, I feel it takes up too much time on the calendar and by the time the final comes around it feels like the tournament is dragging a bit. Sometimes less is more and I feel by shortening the competition that it would create even more interest in it, bigger crowds and TV audience due to the “watch now or miss out” factor, much the same as the NFL in America – 32 teams only play 16 games in a season and the fans can’t get enough.
Shield games recommence by mid January with 4 rounds to play with the Finals to be played for both the One Day Competition and Sheffield Shield to be completed in early March.
This gives plenty of games before the test series, a look at the one day specialists at regular intervals before the Big Bash and One Day Internationals commence and a chance for any injured or international players to play in all 3 formats if good enough.
2nd XI Cricket
Problem – Currently there are age restrictions in 2nd xi state cricket, only 6 players per team are allowed to be over the age of 24 – some of the best cricketers are being lost to the game too early, thus handing out games to undeserving players.
Solution – No age restriction on players, pick the best team that is available form the players left over from the state team, if a young kid misses an opportunity… well bad luck, make more runs and take more wickets, reward performance, not a birth certificate.
Games Against Touring Nations
Problem – The bulk of practice games played against touring nations are against state second XI’s or against a squad called “Cricket Australia XI” this is a squad of junior players who have potential but haven’t been good enough to be picked in the current round of state games…. what message does this send? You’re not good enough to play for your state yet, but how about you go see if you can stand up against South Africa and show us what you can do?
Solution – Touring countries play against Australia A or full strength State teams, not Cricket Australia XI or a mix of state second and third XI’s- this also gives us more of an indication of which players can stand up at international level without having to use a test match as a guessing game. This would also help the public get exposure to see who are the next group of International players are and help create more interest in the game, playing for Australia A would be something to strive for and a reward for strong performance, as opposed to some 19 year old being given a Cricket Australia game because he has potential to play for his state in the next few years.
By giving this added incentive to players I believe it would help in development but also showing cricketers that by performing you will be rewarded and given a platform to represent your country it would lead to better results.
Earlier today I mentioned the squad I would pick for the next test and I’d keep this squad barring injury or until someone from Shield cricket was performing to the level where they demanded a spot and one was available due to injury or poor form. Here it is again:
- D.Warner – Automatic selection
- U.Khawaja – Automatic selection
- S.Smith (C) – Automatic selection
- K.Patterson – 222 runs @ 55.5 this summer, good temperament and at 23 has already played 32 first class games, not smashing the door down but worth the gamble in my eyes
- J.Lehmann – 18 first class games 1322 runs @48.96 including previous winter playing county cricket, 24 years old and has impressed me with ability to build an innings and score to all parts of the ground, and scores 100’s ( 5 already)
- T.Head – almost went with Nic Maddinson here, but i feel he plays a bit too loose currently for test cricket, Head reminds me of Steve Waugh, took a long time to reach potential, but was worth the investment, Head is the current SA captain and has shown flashes of brilliance, i’d take the chance that he will become more consistent as the competition gets hotter
- P.Handscombe (wk) – has kept well for Victoria when required and is arguably the most deserving batsman outside of the automatic selections 258 runs @ 86 in Shield, I’d bat him at 7 to add depth to the batting bat also allow him enough rest from keeping – arguably good enough to bat at 4
- M.Starc – Automatic selection
- P.Siddle – You know what you get from Siddle, does the hard yards and creates pressure for others to capitalize on, would love to have Pat Cummins here but his body hasn’t shown it’s strong enought o stay injury free for any length of time
- J.Hazlewood – Automatic selection
- N.Lyon – Currently out of form but has enough credits to continue and there is no other spinner consistently producing big performances, on notice though
12th A.Agar – If he continues to produce results like his last match with a 10 wicket haul, Agar could be a very valuable addition to the line up, currently bats at 5 for WA, it’s his bowling that will win him a place in the line up and would allow Handscombe to bat at 6 and play an extra pace bowler. He is missing the current round of Shiled cricket due to a calf injury and has had injury problems in his young career
Happy to discuss your thoughts and opinions, i’m sure we all want the same thing to see Australian cricket return to it’s previous glories, what would you do? Do you agree, disagree? Let me know!