Who to blame for Australia’s failure? It’s not them, it’s us

Josh Mitchell Roar Rookie

By Josh Mitchell, Josh Mitchell is a Roar Rookie

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    It’s not them, it’s us. Another summer of cricket has arrived. It’s time to put away the studs, shorts, and guernseys from football season, and pull out the spikes and whites.

    After taking home a cool million bucks as the number one Test team earlier this year, Australia’s fall from grace has been noteworthy, going onto a 3-0 whitewash against seventh place Sri Lanka immediately after taking hold of the mace.

    Once again, Australia’s weaknesses away from home were on display.

    Since 2010, Australia has played 34 games at home, and another 40 on foreign soil, and in that time, the home ground advantage is obvious. In 34 outings at home, Australia have a record of 22 wins, seven draws, and just five losses. However, in the 40 matches overseas, the record is 15 wins, five draws, and 20 losses.

    To further break down this record away from home, only a single win is in the subcontinent region against Sri Lanka back in 2011 (a series which also accounted for two of our five overseas draws, too).

    Besides that, we have four away wins each against New Zealand and West Indies, three in South Africa, two in England and a win against Pakistan that was played at Lord’s.

    Most teams have a clear advantage on their home grounds, that’s to be expected. However, is it time to ask the question of whether Australia’s home ground advantage is translating into a significant away disadvantage?

    There’s been plenty of commentary over the past few summers around the ‘roads’ that have been dished up by Australian curators. Flat, bland pitches that don’t provide a great deal in the way of ball movement – which makes it harder for bowlers to create much in the way of variety in their deliveries, and makes life a lot easier for the batsmen.

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    Yes, batting has evolved over the past 15 years with regards to bigger sizes, and more aggressive attitudes coming into the game. However, Australians are not being helped by the fact that our pitches, too, are being served up to benefit the batsman and to make things as hard as possible for the bowler.

    It’s not just an issue at the top level, but it leaves serious problems with the development of our talent, too.

    Swing is almost a forgotten art in the modern Australian bowler. I still remember watching Simon Jones and Freddy Flintoff giving clinics on swing bowling as England decimated Australia in the 2005 Ashes series. Over ten years later, we see Kagiso Rabada providing a demonstration on reverse swing in Perth, and yet for some reason, our bowlers just have been unable to master this skill to that same level. Instead, we’ve fallen into a routine of repeating the same technique.

    For years we had Glenn McGrath, who could capably tie down one end with beautifully consistent, stump-to-stump straight bowling, and a serious aggressor at the other end in Jason Gillespie, then Brett Lee. Exit McGrath and Lee, switch in Ryan Harris and Mitch Johnson. This summer, it’s Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc, but the message is pretty much the same for opposition batsmen, “You’ll have one guy bowling very straight, not giving you much room at one end. At the other, you’ll have a firebrand who’s aiming at the top of off stump hoping to catch an edge or mishit to get you out caught.

    Even Craig McDermott commented in 2014 that our young bowlers were lacking the ability to swing the ball properly.

    So we have up-and-coming bowlers who are almost exclusively developing their talent on pitches that encourage this uncreative style of bowling. Meanwhile, we have our up-and-coming batsmen who are plying their craft on the same pitches.

    Take our players out of this setting, though, and you start to get an idea why we’re struggling as a nation so much once we leave our own country. Our bowlers aren’t equipped to take advantage of the more “characterful” pitches overseas, and our batsmen aren’t equipped to handle the way the ball comes on in those places either.

    I don’t have expertise in curating a pitch, so I don’t know whether it’s the way the modern drop-in pitches are made, or if it’s just the way they’re keeping the grounds these days. However, one key to Australia returning to the level of global dominance in international cricket that we’ve seen in past golden ages is returning some character and flair into the pitches around the country.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • November 8th 2016 @ 11:12am
      Dan said | November 8th 2016 @ 11:12am | ! Report

      This article is spot on. Well Written Josh.

      It even filters back to Sydney grade cricket where teams score 400 on a weekly basis because the pitches are so flat and the bowlers are just up and down. This offers no benefit to bats or bowlers.

      I do some coaching at junior level and I can’t believe the amount of talented kids who are taught to “bang it in short of a length”.They need to be taught the skills necessary to swing the ball to deceive a batsman, not just become athletic ball machines. Get it up there and give it a chance to move!

    • November 8th 2016 @ 11:32am
      harambe said | November 8th 2016 @ 11:32am | ! Report

      I’ve been discussing this for a long time with friends and agree with everything you’ve outlined. Our test team has suffered greatly from shield cricket becoming the unloved child locked in a dark room and the identical wickets served up around the country. Couple that with our ‘top line’ test players getting what, maybe 2 at most shield games a year?

      You don’t get to go and watch a shield game nowadays and see our topline test players turning out for their state team regularly, and by not having that the current first graders don’t get to compete with our ‘international quality test’ players.

      Then there is the shear ridiculous amount of cricket that is played all year round – obviously our winter is summer in a number of other test playing nations, but that shouldn’t mean out test teams ‘season’ is actually the entire calendar year.

      The other problem with our bowling is that I don’t think anyone since warne/mcgrath, and harris more recently, has had enough smarts about them to adapt their plan or to actually have a good plan to best the batsmen. Then there is the captain who seems unable to help the bowlers change (see make) a plan…. They just keep doing the same thing expecting a different result (a wicket) once the batsmen is set and worked them out…and if we looked up Einstein’s definition of insanity….

      • November 8th 2016 @ 5:02pm
        Albo said | November 8th 2016 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

        Spot on !
        Too much hit & giggle limited overs stuff for the advertising dollars and baseball crowds ! Which means all the pitches have to be roads, all the batsmen need to be tonkers, all the bowlers need to be frugal with runs conceded rather than wicket takers, and when these players step to Test cricket under a new condition eg a spinning wicket or a swinging conditions , we fall in a big heap every time ! Our test team just can’t bat more than a day ( 3 sessions) . That’s cause that’s all they know ! So if Tonker Warner gets his eye in we get over 300 , if he doesn’t we get under 300, but either way, their innings is all over in a day ! They then rely on the opposition’s batsmen to be afflicted the same way ! If a pair like Elgar & Duminy put their head down and grind out a partnership., its game over !!!

    • Roar Guru

      November 8th 2016 @ 3:12pm
      Cadfael said | November 8th 2016 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

      The us in this instance is CA and their schedule. BBL takes pride of place regardless of what they may say. The domestic one day series pushed into a 2 week slot in October. This year followed by one Shield game then into the first test.. Then if there are injuries or poor form after the mid of December, we have to rely on T20 form for test selection.

      • November 8th 2016 @ 3:39pm
        Andy said | November 8th 2016 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

        We can blame BBL and T20 all we want but in 2005 T20 was barely thought of and yet Australia is still unable to bowl or play against reverse swing.

        • Roar Guru

          November 8th 2016 @ 4:59pm
          Cadfael said | November 8th 2016 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

          That still doesn’t answer the question about the season’s schedule and how that is affecting our test side. What good is it to have a fast bowler come into the side who has only been able to bowl two overs maximum at a time for a total of four in a game. Batsmen who are out to do the tonk in T20 having to revert back to first class mode.

    • November 8th 2016 @ 4:44pm
      DavSA said | November 8th 2016 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

      There is little doubt in my mind that the preparation of flat bed wickets have severely impacted on test cricket. Playing quality bowling on pitches with movement requires a solid technique. A batsmen simply cannot apply the same strategy to this scenario as he would playing T20 cricket. When New Zealand recently played SA at Centurian the wicket was very lively. All New Zealand batsmen struggled to make double figures barring Kane Williamson . He in fact looked so comfortable he was surely heading for a century but ran out of partners. At the WACA we had a similar situation. David Warner looked like he could bat all day but most of the rest looked at sixes and sevens. These flat wickets have been in vogue for many years now and it is apparent the technique is just not there to play any differently . Youngsters growing up in this era see batsmen as the true heroes of cricket . The bowlers merely as cannon fodder….Hypothetically remove the helmet and you will soon see batsmen getting into line again.

    • November 8th 2016 @ 5:18pm
      Fui2014 said | November 8th 2016 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

      I remember reading an article years ago where Waqar Younis had offered his services of swing bowling to the Australian team as a freelance coach. Needless to say the offer fell on deaf ears.

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