Attitude not aptitude the problem with Australian cricket

Michael Filosi Roar Guru

By Michael Filosi,

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    The reaction to the poor performance of the Australian cricket side in the first Test against South Africa has been swift and excessive.

    Many are calling for significant changes to the side, but altering the make up of the team will achieve little without addressing the misguided approach of the players which underpinned their poor performance in Cape Town.

    The batting collapse in the second innings should mark a critical juncture for the Australian cricket side, and with it herald a shift in mentality from this point forwards. The days of playing aggressive, attacking cricket irrespective of the circumstances of the match are over.

    For fifteen years Australia dominated the cricketing world. The period of dominance was such that a generation of cricket fans, and its current crop of players, grew up believing that the Australian side was almost unbeatable. Any loss within this period of sustained dominance was viewed as an anomaly.

    The approach of the players was characterised by a resolute and unwavering belief in the team’s superiority over all others. Nothing was beyond the Australian cricket side, no position too dire, no goal unachievable.

    While the side was filled with players of the ilk of Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist, this may well have been the case, but those days are over, and this piece is not going to be another nostalgic trundle through the golden age of Australian cricket.

    Playing aggressive and attacking cricket when you are a front-runner and the best team in the world by some distance is a fine strategy, but this approach no longer befits a middling team.

    A change in playing stock over the past several years has not been accompanied by the required change in attitude from the national side.

    Three times in the past twelve months the Australian side has been bowled out for less than 100, compared with one sub-100 innings in the 25 years before that. This statistic says considerably more about the batting approach of the players than the skills they possess.

    The idea that Australia can club its way out of trouble is a flawed one, and needs to be addressed. In its second innings of the most recent Test match against South Africa, no Australian player appeared willing or able to grit his teeth, take guard, and grind out an innings when one was so desperately needed.

    For so long the Australian side had enough genuine stars that rash shots which lead to dismissals were forgiven or forgotten because someone down the order would always steady the ship with a whirlwind half century, but not any more. As the make up of the side has changed, the players’ approach to batting has not.

    Maybe Alan Border needs to have a quiet chat with a few of the current players, and explain that not so long ago during the 1980’s there were occasions when just surviving at the crease was seen as an achievement against sustained good quality bowling.

    The current players need to realise that they can no longer simply hammer teams into submission through relentless attacking play. They need to let the circumstances of the match dictate their approach.

    Scoring at two runs or less per over for periods of a Test match may not be the most exciting prospect, but players need to recognise when to put their foot down, and when to simply hold up an end and wait for the opposition bowlers to tire.

    Sure, there will be times to bring out the old bag of tricks and take the long handle to a poor bowling attack, but this should no longer be the main game for the Australian side. A significant measure of circumspection and caution desperately needs to be added as players learn that over the course of a match the momentum will ebb and flow, and likewise their approach must change with it.

    Australian cricketers can no longer afford to play with the unbridled self-belief and attacking mentality of decades past.

    It is time someone made the players aware of this uncomfortable truth.

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    The Crowd Says (54)

    • November 14th 2011 @ 7:04am
      Lolly said | November 14th 2011 @ 7:04am | ! Report

      Well, I wouldn’t expect the skipper to back up anything that you are saying, or the selectors for that matter. They want to pick attacking players and the skipper wants players to play their ‘natural game’. Shane Watson said recently ‘my mindset is to attack’ and Punter still thinks he is 25 so don’t expect him to think about occupation of the crease either. And I can’t be bothered even considering what goes on inside Brad Haddin’s mind, or what there is of it.

      Strangely, Shaun Marsh actually said in Sri Lanka ‘I just want to bat for as long as I can’. Couldn’t believe what I was hearing except that he’s obviously been schooled by his Dad and not the death or glory boys.

      • November 14th 2011 @ 9:22am
        chaos said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Marsh is injured. Shame.

        When do new selectors take over?

        • Columnist

          November 14th 2011 @ 9:44am
          Brett McKay said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:44am | ! Report

          after the South African tour, Chaos. All will be in place by the First Test v New Zealand..

      • November 14th 2011 @ 9:27am
        Matt F said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        The irony is that the main criticism of Marsh in the Shield was that he didn’t have the concentration to bat long periods of time, especially early in his career. Now he’s the only one who does!

        • November 14th 2011 @ 8:15pm
          Lolly said | November 14th 2011 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

          Brad Haddin is saying he’s going to keep playing attacking cricket. And Michael Clarke as usual is backing him up. I think the problem IS the aptitude. But that’s what they want, attacking batsmen to play ‘the Australian way’. it’s clinging on to the old template but without the manpower to fulfill that.

          • Roar Guru

            November 15th 2011 @ 1:31pm
            Michael Filosi said | November 15th 2011 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

            You hit on an interesting point, that playing attacking cricket is “the Australian way.” It might be true for the past fifteen to twenty years when we’ve had an ace side, but I think that comes out of the fact that we had a side that was capable of playing that way, rather than attacking flair being distinctly “Australian”.

    • November 14th 2011 @ 7:39am
      AdamS said | November 14th 2011 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      They should retire the Baggy Green until such time as the team is worhty of it.

    • November 14th 2011 @ 8:51am
      Chris said | November 14th 2011 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      There are simply too many players in the team playing on reputation rather than performance. Ponting, Hussey (mostly) and Johnson have not performed at a high enough level for far too long now. Watson continues to be picked as an opener, a role he is clearly not made for. Haddin is too one dimensional as a batsman and cannot adapt to circurmstance.

      Here’s my pick:

      Katich
      Hughes
      Khawaja
      Marsh
      Clarke
      Watson
      Wade/Paine
      Harris
      Copeland
      Pattinson
      Lyon

      • November 14th 2011 @ 9:22am
        Paul said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Why Hughes? He is a many times proven failure and not up to this standard. Clarke is not even a good let alone a great captain either. If we are going to rebuild, then we must accept an occasional thrashing, but with a team made up from cricketers who are all younger than 25.

        • November 14th 2011 @ 10:47am
          jameswm said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:47am | ! Report

          Sorry Paul – do that and lose for 3 years, and that isn’t in anyone’s best interests. You have to balance winning tests now with planning for the future. Kallis and Tendulkar are, at 38, the best 2 batsmen in the world. That means we do no need to dump Ponting and Hussey (or discared katich) just because of their age.

          Apart from the last test, Hussey has been by far our no.1 bat for about the last 80-10 tests. we need him there for now. Phase him out when his results dwindle and someone else demands selection.

          Ponting on the other hand – I don’t know that I cold keep him.

          And whilst bringing Kat back could be seen as a retro step, he’s still the best opener in the country, one of the best spinners and the toughest hombre with the smartest cricket mind. Hughes is still wetting his nappy compared to Kat.

          • November 14th 2011 @ 11:33am
            Brian said | November 14th 2011 @ 11:33am | ! Report

            I agree forget ages, Watson , Harris and sometimes Hussey are the only ones performing. Ponting, Haddin & Johnson should go not because they are old but because they’ve been proven not up to standrad over a 15 month period

            • November 14th 2011 @ 1:27pm
              jameswm said | November 14th 2011 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

              and Hughes, Brian.

    • November 14th 2011 @ 9:25am
      Matt F said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      There seems to be almost an arrogance in the Aussie team at the moment. They seem to believe that they are better then what they actually are. The fact that most players seem to be given as long as they want to find form, no matter how bad the form slump or how badly the teams results are, doesn’t help the cause. If you keep an underperforming player whilst the team is losing, it sends the message that the player is more important then the team, which is a policy destined for failiure. Dropping Khawaja (and Katich) ahead of Ponting and Copeland instead of Johnson are examples of this.

      Drop the underforming players to the Shield and tell them to find some extended good form before they come back and bring in some of the in form Shield players. It may be that we don’t have the players capable of getting us back to, or near, the top, but if we don’t give them a chance, we’ll never find out. It’s clear that this team isn’t good enough so what do we have to lose?

      • November 14th 2011 @ 9:45am
        Fisher Price said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        There’s a hierarchy at play, that’s for sure. Quite inappropriate when the team keeps losing.

        • November 14th 2011 @ 9:51am
          Matt F said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          It’s a strategy that came in when we were the dominant team in the world. The key difference is that we were that good then that we were able to carry 1,2 even 3 or 4 out of form players and still win. Now we lose.

          Obviously this doesn’t mean that we drop players after 1 bad test but when a players going on 2 years of poor form that has to be far too long.

      • Columnist

        November 14th 2011 @ 9:53am
        Brett McKay said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        Matt, part of the issue currently though is just who exactly fits the “bring in some of the in form Shield players” equation. Plenty of guys are making some runs, but no-one seems to be stringing scores together. Warner is on his way to Jo’burg as cover for Marsh, and it’s probably a struck match between he and Khawaja on form at the moment. Warner has at least been batting in games, Khawaja has been suffering for the Andy Bichel syndrome of late..

        • November 14th 2011 @ 10:10am
          Matt F said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Whilst there aren’t too many players excelling in the Shield I think there are enough to fill some of the holes in the national side. As you said Warner is making stacks of runs. Khawaja is clearly the next in line though he hasn’t played too many matches. Wade is in great form for Victoria with both bat and gloves and his keeping has improved dramatically since he first started. To me, he was never too far behind Paine anyway so I would have no issues with him making the NZ series, even if it is until Paine gets some matches under his belt.

          On the bowling front, Copeland should never have been dropped in the first place and must surely come in for either Johnson or Siddle? Actually he probably won’t knowing the selectors but he should. James Pattinson has bags of talent and is taking wickets in the Shield as well. 8 in his last 3 innings and a few more against WA today should see him come into contention as well. His Shield average is 27, which I think is the same as Siddles but Pattinson is doing it as a 21 y/o.

          There are some candidates for potentially Hughes, Ponting, Haddin, Siddle and Johnson. The spinners job is still an issue (when isn’t it!) but I’m happy to give Lyon an extended go until Hauritz is fit. I don’t think Lyon is the answer but he didn’t get a real chance in the 1st test and there’s nobody else putting their hand up there (O’Keefe hasn’t taken too many wickets this season though was superb last summer.)

          • Columnist

            November 14th 2011 @ 10:19am
            Brett McKay said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:19am | ! Report

            OK, fair points there, I thought you were talking about making sweeping changes, but that’s evidently not the case. Certainly the changes you’ve mentioned are in line with what most actual and armchair experts are suggesting.

            And you’re probably right about Wade not being far behind Paine; that was one of the reasons he left Tasmania in the first place. .

            • November 14th 2011 @ 10:37am
              Fisher Price said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:37am | ! Report

              No-one’s really calling for sweeping changes, despite what staunch defenders of continuity are saying. As you say, most people can see where change is called for. Shame those who matter can’t/refuse to.

            • November 14th 2011 @ 10:52am
              Matt F said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:52am | ! Report

              It’s a sad day for cricket when 5/11 changes isn’t considered sweeping 🙂

              I’ve never understood why Paine is the next anointed one. I’m not saying he isn’t deserving of a call up but he’s not that far ahead of Wade at all. Wade is two years younger and has a significantly better batting average, has surprisingly played one more first class game, and has taken quite a few more dismissals then Paine (though there could be many factors for that one.) Certainly Paine is very good with the gloves but, from all reports, Wade has improved that side of his game dramatically. Micky Arthur sung his praises over the weekend, claiming he was ready for test selection. There’s an article in the SMH website today that shows Wades batting average is better then Gilchrists was when he made his test debut. No pressure there!

              • November 14th 2011 @ 10:53am
                Matt F said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:53am | ! Report

              • November 14th 2011 @ 11:21am
                Fisher Price said | November 14th 2011 @ 11:21am | ! Report

                Paine’s certainly not justified the hype that’s surrounded him since he got into the Tassie side. I think because he’s spent a lot of time opening, people have been fooled into the notion that he’s somehow prolific with the bat.

              • November 14th 2011 @ 10:17pm
                Roy said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:17pm | ! Report

                Of Paine and Wade … surely the better gloveman gets the job. Both players have proven themselves to be capable batsmen, but the primary job of a keeper is to keep wicket.

                I haven’t seen enough of either keeping to have a view on this, but I would hope the new selectors do.

    • November 14th 2011 @ 9:39am
      Robert said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      Why would they get paid for losing? It would do wonders for their motivation to get paid on results.

    • November 14th 2011 @ 9:43am
      Fisher Price said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      I see Justin Langer’s come out with predictable support of Ponting’s importance to the side. One question – how on earth has Langer retained his position as batting coach?

      • November 14th 2011 @ 9:52am
        Matt F said | November 14th 2011 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        There’s talk that he’s now the favourite for the head coaching job! Scary thought…..

        • November 14th 2011 @ 10:03am
          Big Steve said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          Justin Langer as batting coach had overseen some of the worst batting by Australian Teams for as long as I have watched cricket. What does he actually do?

          • November 14th 2011 @ 10:16am
            Fisher Price said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:16am | ! Report

            Cheer-leads?

        • November 14th 2011 @ 10:15am
          Fisher Price said | November 14th 2011 @ 10:15am | ! Report

          Very frightening!

        • November 14th 2011 @ 1:36pm
          Lolly said | November 14th 2011 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

          He just can’t be, I don’t believe that. The batting has been at a very low ebb since he’s been coach.

        • November 14th 2011 @ 1:58pm
          Matt F said | November 14th 2011 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

          http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/sport/langer-backs-his-former-captain/story-e6frg7rx-1226193976640

          Some more words of wisdom from the great JL………

          Summary of the article: There’s nobody better then Ponting (apparently nobody else has made a test century in the past two years) and nobody would be talking about moving Watson down the order if he was scoring runs! Glad he cleared that up……

          I don’t know why they hired a coach who used to be teammates with some of the players, especially with Ponting being his old captain.

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