The Grade A future for Australian cricket
In everything that has been highlighted as being wrong with Australian cricket at the moment, one thing has to been seen as being done right – the A Team.
Australia and England are two countries that have made full use of the A team system (England refer to their A team as the England Lions), and one has to think this is what has propelled England to its current high in the world of Test cricket.
Unfortunately, Australia has missed out on the opportunity with some poor selections in recent times. But it doesn’t change the fact that the right framework is in place.
Both countries have used these teams to identify and nurture future stars, or as part of a form and injury rehabilitation for established players.
With plenty of talk around cricketing circles about the future of Test cricket, the current state of the West Indies and Bangladesh teams, as well as increasing the opportunities for Associates, the A team program is something that the ICC should be proactive in driving, alongside the relevant boards.
An A team program could be created along similar lines to the Future Tours Programme.
To make it easy, the programme could match the FTP – for example, whenever the Ashes take place, the England and Australia A teams could be playing each other in a concurrent series.
This will allow the next generation and next level of player to develop and get used to conditions around the world.
These matches could be played at venues in regional centres or venues on the cusp of hosting international matches. In Australia, this could be venues like Allan Border Field, Blacktown Olympic Park, and Junction Oval, and regional centres such as Cairns, Newcastle and Albury.
The current concerns being aired over the future of Test cricket could be solved with the implementation of this program.
Countries like West Indies and Bangladesh, who are currently struggling at Test level, could benefit from this greatly as they would have a pool of players to choose from, who would be more prepared for what would be expected of them at the top level.
Zimbabwe has done this well just recently with their matches against the South African and Australian A teams as they prepare themselves for a return to Test Cricket after an absence of nearly six years.
The A teams could also be an ideal avenue for the Associate members to develop their first-class game against Full Member nations.
Think of the valuable experience teams like Ireland and Netherlands could have, experiencing the various pitches in Australia, South Africa and the sub-continent.
This could then lead to more Associates becoming Full Members and the creation of a tiered-Test competition that has been spoken about for some time.
Let’s see our young stars given a chance to shine on the big stage and show the world they are ready to play with the big boys.