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.


    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 @ 7:30am
      matthew_gently said | November 8th 2016 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      Lehmann certainly didn’t help the culture by saying that only bowlers capable of >140 kph would be considered for the national team.

      • November 8th 2016 @ 3:14pm
        OJP said | November 8th 2016 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

        yep, it was an odd statement at the time and remains odd; surely its about the ability to take wickets as a bowler, however they come ? Anyway, Lehmann appears to have changed his view given Siddle was sending them down at 128 kms in the last test, right around Mike Hussey pace from memory

    • November 8th 2016 @ 7:45am
      AJ said | November 8th 2016 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Would this be the answer to why our batsmen have no clue against swing bowling as well?

      • Roar Rookie

        November 8th 2016 @ 8:32am
        Josh Mitchell said | November 8th 2016 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        I do think that it’s a part of the problem, yes. I probably didn’t make that clear enough in the article itself.

    • Roar Pro

      November 8th 2016 @ 7:49am
      Anthony Condon said | November 8th 2016 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      I wonder if, being the home of sports science, we’ve become so scientific with our pitch curation that there’s a tendency to now build perfect, unblemished pitches.

    • November 8th 2016 @ 8:59am
      I hate pies said | November 8th 2016 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      No doubt it’s an issue, and no doubt the curators are being instructed to prepare pitches that will last 5 days so that we have tests that will last 5 days.
      Our batsmen are too used to playing on roads, and they go too hard at the ball. They don’t seem to teach them to have soft hands anymore.

    • Roar Guru

      November 8th 2016 @ 9:02am
      Hoy said | November 8th 2016 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Only ourselves to blame indeed.

      There are hardly any differences in pitches anymore… WACA is not what it used to be. Brisbane used to turn, but now no one turns up to see whether it does or not… AFL on these grounds probably doesn’t help, but really, our pitches used to have diversity, which we were used to, and our opposition were not… We now have pretty bland pitches really…

      That’s 1.

      2? Our team is promoting short form form into long term team… does that make sense? When we were at the pinnacle, it would take a player years of good figures in Sheffield Shield before they came into contention for the national team. Now, with our current lack of delayed gratification, we see someone make one good score in a 20/20, and people talk them into the national test team. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of an exaggeration.

      3? Our bowlers have been coddled to the point of breaking down after doing some hard yards. For years the Australian Cricket team seems to be doing this crazy rotation system, which allows for the above to happen, because they rest someone, allowing someone else to get a go… never mind they aren’t really up to it.

      4? There is too much cricket. They have killed the golden goose, well and truly. There used to be a season of cricket. Does anyone remember that? Can anyone remember the last time they were excited about the “summer of cricket” here? I can’t remember, and I used to love going to test 1 at the Gabba. That was the start of the cricket SEASON. Now, it is all just part of the cricket SATURATION.

      5? Despite spending a small fortune on every kind of support staff imaginable, Cricket Australia is too tight to pay for a good, long term fast bowling coach. Remember when Lillee wanted to do it? They snubbed him something terrible. Honestly, how many fast bowling coaches have we had lately? I can recall about 5 over the last 10 years maybe? As soon as we get good results, that coach seems to be dropped because they might actually become too expensive or something. It’s crazy.

      For Australia to be in the position we are now, it is akin to the Windies really. A once all conquering nation, now an also ran. I can’t see an easy fix, but I don’t think the right questions are being asked by Cricket Australia really.

      Rant over for now, but I might be back…

      • Roar Rookie

        November 8th 2016 @ 9:38am
        Josh Mitchell said | November 8th 2016 @ 9:38am | ! Report

        Agree with you pretty much completely. The saturation is too much – and the style of play is far too different to translate from T20 to Test, even with ODIs there in the middle. Warner managed it, yes, but with a lot of growing up required in the meantime. For him, though, how many players are sitting out in the cold because their T20 value doesn’t scale up the same way?

    • Roar Guru

      November 8th 2016 @ 9:10am
      Ryan H said | November 8th 2016 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      Good call…Chadd Sayers certainly won’t even nudge Lehmann’s 140kp/h barrier (I’m not even sure if this obsession still exists or not), but he is a pure swing merchant, and this includes being able to hoop the ball both ways. I think right now he would be a very smart inclusion; and is in top form having just picked up 11 wickets for the match against Tasmania.

      His best bet might be the Adelaide test, because there won’t be such changes for Hobart; the only adjustments will be with the batting you’d think.

      Sayers might only range from speeds between 125-135 kp/h but quite honestly this is hardly much slower than Siddle who is in decline as a bowler, despite how much heart he continues to give. Australia could do a lot worse than select Sayers, who’s swing would be a weapon, and as the article correctly points out, Australia currently lacks bowlers with such craft.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 8th 2016 @ 9:33am
        Josh Mitchell said | November 8th 2016 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        I’d rather a 125-135k swing master than a 4-pronged straight pace attack like we have now. Any day of the week I’d take that.

        • November 8th 2016 @ 2:06pm
          bigbaz said | November 8th 2016 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

          Would Terry Alderman get a run with this mob?

          • November 8th 2016 @ 4:53pm
            Albo said | November 8th 2016 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

            Not under todays regime !

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