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Killing me softly: Why the short form is strangling the game we love

22nd November, 2016

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22nd November, 2016
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Every thing that is old should be new again, when it comes to the rescuing of the first-class cricket scene in Australia.

Firstly, let us establish that first class cricket, ODIs and T20s are only related by a vague de facto relationship. More accurately by proximity. That’s about all.

The embarrassing performances of the Australian Test team, particularly in relation to the batting, can very simply be explained away – poor technique and temperament.

Forget the ODI and T20 performances, that isn’t Test cricket, where occupation of the crease is everything. There is no technique or stability at the top of the top of the order!

One can only but dream of the Simpson-Lawry or Langer-Hayden times.

The contrast between the Aussies and the South Africans is as wide as the Nullabor Plain. The South Africans have far better technique and fighting qualities. They are playing Australia on our own turf and conditions and showing us how to do it.

The fundamental concept of batting is either playing forward or back, not from the popping crease as many of the Australian batters are doing. This results in them being caught in “no man’s land” and in big trouble and that is where many of the Aussies are to be found.

Hashim Amla is a wonderful example of excellent foot work and openers, Alastair Cook and Dean Elgar show all the fighting qualities required for Test cricket.

Twice in consecutive innings Australia has collapsed badly. The true worth of an opening batsman is not recognised until they fail. David Warner has only got past 50 twice in his last 11 Test innings.

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Shaun Marsh, Joe Burns they come and they go. There is no stability at the top of the order.

The solution to the problem should be in the younger up-and-coming players, with technique. But where are they? Gone missing.

Ever since the selection of a mature Michael Hussey, the selectors have lost foresight and filled holes with Chris Rogers, Adam Voges and now Callum Ferguson.

Short term solutions, to long term problems. Was Ian Chappell and Shane Warne’s selections, at an early age, a gamble, sure they were, but did they pay-off? Big time I would suggest.

The standard of Sheffield Shield cricket has slipped, as the majority of the Test squad play very little Shield cricket due to rest and other commitments.

The changing of the points-scoring system in the Shield competition, with no points being awarded for a first innings lead, has virtually turned the Shield competition into a slogfest in searching for an outright decision, in four days.

A century scored from 120 balls faced may be a great way to achieve a Shield result, but is certainly not good preparation for the combativeness of Test cricket.

Runs have to be earned in a five day Test match, not slogged. The South Africans are patient, methodical and have a detailed plan of attack. They admit to this.

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The same can be said for their bowling. Patience, accuracy, they are prepared to work with the concept of it being a war of attrition. They are happy to wear the batsmen down.

Sheffield Shield cricket is no longer a good preparation for Test cricket, and certainly isn’t a good predictor of success at Test level.

The influence of ODI and T20 is having a huge influence on Australia’s Test performances.

The money making success of ODIs and T20 cricket may be a lucrative carrot for both players and administrators alike, but it may well be in the process of killing off the real game.