The Roar
The Roar

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For the sake of cricket, they must reinvigorate the Shield

Roar Guru
31st January, 2011
65
2782 Reads

Captaincy of the Australian cricket team is bestowed. It is not something that you audition for. I find it disrespectful that journalists put leading questions in the mouth of babes. What I find even more disrespectful is the immaturity of someone like Watson who can go along with this line of questioning.

There has been no embalming of the corpse.

For goodness sake, Ponting has only damaged a pinky. And why the furore over the loss of the Ashes? It is not Ponting’s fault. The fault lines lie in the structure of cricket in this country.

A structural engineer would recommend a strengthening of the support beams. He would definitely order that the termites be fumigated. This points directly to the Sheffield Shield and the coaching practices around the country.

The fact that Clarke and Hughes attended a charity function on the eve of the Boxing Day test had nothing to do with Australia’s capitulation. And for Sutherland to admonish the two is disingenuous.

Hilditch as chairman has not exactly distinguished himself.

However, to shaft all the blame on the selection panel only diverts questions from the overall administration.

Everything relates to context and contests. This column has long championed the restoration of the Shield to its eminence. Where young pups learn from the gnarled predators. A tigress does not let its cubs into the jungle till she has taught them how to fend for themselves.

To throw young cubs like Ferguson, George or Khawaja into the teeth of seasoned professionals is a dereliction of care and duty.

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It is madness that the under-12’s in Canberra are being asked to play more Twenty20’s. This was posted in a comment by a Roarer. I know that the Victorian district clubs were forced to schedule more Twenty20 games this season.

I am not against Twenty20, as I see this as a legitimate form of entertainment and vital for revenue.

There has to be a balance and unfortunately, Cricket Australia is blind to this. They have been utterly seduced by the riches on offer in the IPL and the Champions League.

A reminder to the besotted officials in charge of the future direction of cricket in this country: The players commanding the biggest pay cheques in the IPL remain players of established pedigree. Tendulkar, Kallis, Sehwag, Watson, David Hussey and Jayawardene. These are all established Test players.

There will always be exceptions like a Warner or a Pollard. Without proper technique, these kinds of players will be like Don Quixote and forever tilting at windmills.

The talent has not suddenly dissipated.

Players are being given rewards for potential and not for performance. Scholarships are proffered to young people not yet rid of their pimples in an effort to stop them going to another sport. Entitlement is being ingrained into the psyche of young minds not yet ready to distinguish between process and outcome.

Any 12 or 15 year old attempting a reverse sweep should be summarily chastised by the coach. Custodianship of cricket entails the proper nurturing of impressionable children.

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Talent is good but hard work is better.

It is time to go back to basics. Learning cricket is like reading, writing and arithmetic. Learning to string together ten overs is like learning the proper use of grammar. Building an innings is adding up the numbers yourself. Not relying on a calculator.

Knowledge does not come from Google.

Curators must be given the licence to restore pitches to a level where the batsman is challenged. Scheduling matches that are friendly to time-poor families. Less policing of harmless fun and more policing of hooligans.

And the price of admission is prohibitive. The food is overpriced and the drinks under-strength. Where, oh! where is the balance. Sipping chardonnay in corporate boxes and feasting on Canadian salmon dilutes the perspective somewhat.

Australian cricket has become soft. I wrote earlier it is a failed business. It is not yet a banana republic and strong decisions need to be taken. These decisions have to involve the grassroots. The volunteers that underpin cricket in this country. The Presidents of grade clubs that do not get paid.

All the unpaid life-coaches that do it for the love of the game.

The reliance on market surveys conducted by consultants with self-interest and broadcasters with ratings on their mind has to be discounted and maybe,even,discontinued.

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I will say it again: Ponting for all his perceived failings knows the direction Australian cricket must take. He is a fierce proponent of the Shield. Cricket Australia must ensure that October and November are hitherto off limits for international scheduling. The Sheffield Shield was acknowledged as the best domestic competition in the world.

That eminence has to be restored if Australia is to be a force again.

And it must start next summer. No tour to Sri Lanka and all players to be back for the start of the Shield. The Champions Trophy should never again be allowed to stifle the preparation of a Bollinger or a Hussey.

I have nothing against cricketers being rich. I just don’t want them to be slum-dog millionaires.