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We need Rod Marsh and the Cricket Academy back

Cricket legends Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh. AAP Image/Julian Smith
Roar Pro
7th August, 2013
11

The Rodney Marsh lead Australian Cricket Academy was the X-Factor that produced those great Australian teams of the 90s and the Noughties.

This is the one missing ingredient that seems to be amiss in all of the conversations around the nation about the state of the current Green Baggy group.

One has to just compare the extraordinary cricketers schooled in Bacchus’ philosophy, during a 14-year Academy service, with the quality of its graduates since he left its directorship in 2001.

The Adelaide-based Academy fashioned the likes of Glen McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, Justin Langer, Andrew Symonds, and many more.

From when it moved from the serenity of Henley Beach to Brisbane after Marsh’s departure, to be rebadged as the Centre of Excellence, its production line of champion cricketers seems to have somewhat dried up.

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is an adage well known to the corporate world.

Management consultants will tell you that extraordinary organisations such as the Henley Beach based establishment are successful because of factors such as environment, systems and culture. Even more importantly they will highlight the importance of the communication, leadership and vision of its people.

But what did the cricketing powers do?

They tampered with a winning formula to where Australian cricket is now, with the cupboard bare and a struggling Test team, over a decade later.

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Worse still, the ACB allowed a man regarded by many as “one of the finest cricket minds in the world” the opportunity to school the Old Enemy. This was when when he was appointed Director of its English equivalent in 2001.

He moulded it to be an improved version of the Adelaide Academy’s successful prescription.

England went from being a mediocre team to challenging Australia as the best team in Test cricket, to regaining the Ashes after a 16 year hiatus. Many of the current formidable English Ashes group have come through the ECB system initiated by Marsh.

In the early 90s I was captivated by a address he made at a business breakfast. He extolled a refreshing philosophy of how he prepared in his young charges to be technically, physically and mentally ready for the rigours of international cricket.

What was especially important to him was that he impressed on them the need to play entertaining cricket, especially in the longer form of the game.

His influence was later evident in Steve Waugh’s Champion Test teams, which played attacking and entertaining cricket, and which introduced 300 runs-in-a- day targets, that are the norm today.

While one breathed a sigh of relief when Marsh was again involved in a national leadership role as a Test selector, his influence is now at the wrong end of the creative process.

It can be compared to getting quality checks done for the first time at the end of a production line and not automatically build them into the design and end-to-end manufacturing process of a product.

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The likes of such visionaries should be shaping future Green Baggy heroes when they are young and impressionable, and not left with the task of evaluating these poorer quality prospects when it is really too late to change their attitudes and technique.

While this is not the only factor to be considered in an ever changing cricketing environment, the assistance of architects and creative thinkers such as “Iron Gloves” should not be ignored if Australian cricket is to rebuild a legacy comparable to the one just past.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.