Australia needs a specialist T20I coach

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    After three consecutive Twenty20 wins. Australia suddenly look better than they have for a long time in the shortest format.

    But it can’t be forgotten this is against a vastly under-strength England side playing out of season.

    Australia are missing only Mitchell Starc and perhaps Steve Smith from what would be their first-choice Twenty20 line-up. By comparison, England are without their two best T20 players – Ben Stokes and Joe Root – as well as another three cricketers who would be in their strongest XI in spin all-rounder Moeen Ali along with quicks Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes.

    Just as big a hindrance to England’s performance in this current tri-series is the timing of this contest.

    While many of the Australians are primed by a long stint in the just-completed Big Bash League, the Englishmen mostly have come in cold in regards to T20 cricket with their own domestic competition having finished five months ago.

    I make these points not to rob the Australians of credit for their trio of dominant wins over England and New Zealand. Rather, the intention is to put these victories into context.

    The circumstances have been stacked so heavily in Australia’s favour in this series that they should be expected to produce such results.

    D'Arcy Short

    (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

    Were Australia’s Twenty20 team to land in Britain in September missing half their best XI and with most of their players not having played T20s in five months, they’d find it very tough to beat an England team filled with players coming off their domestic T20 tournament.

    Australia’s commanding efforts this month should not distract from the fact they entered this series as the world’s seventh-ranked Twenty20 team, having won only two of their past seven series in the format.

    Why have they underperformed for so long here? It’s not due to a lack of talent, as Australia has consistently produced high-quality T20 cricketers.

    Instead, it has been the result of the shoddy management of Australia’s Twenty20 team. Cricket Australia have never seemed to take T20Is seriously, despite using the BBL as their domestic cash cow.

    Too often Australia has used the Twenty20 team for experimentation, blooding cricketers who they saw as potential ODI or Test players, but whose credentials in the shortest format were badly lacking.

    Just as poor has been the sometimes ridiculous scheduling of Twenty20 series, wedged into the calendar as apparent after-thoughts.

    In recent years, Australia’s home Twenty20 series regularly have had clashes with matches in other formats. The most galling example was two years ago when Australia hosted India for a three-match Twenty20 series.

    That series against an elite Twenty20 opponent should have been the perfect warm-up for Australia ahead of the World T20, which kicked off just one month after that series ended.

    Instead, it was a shambles. India scored a 3-0 series win over Australia, who fielded an ordinary side due to an insane scheduling clash which saw most of the Australian ODI squad fly to New Zealand on the day of the final Twenty20 against India.

    Not surprisingly, Australia flopped at the World T20, knocked out at the group stage after losing to India and New Zealand.

    The scheduling of the current tri-series is not ideal given the final will overlap with Australia’s Test tour of South Africa. At least, however, there is a sense Cricket Australia have taken it more seriously by picking a strong team based on current form.

    There are no project players in Australia’s Twenty20 squad, and every cricketer has earned their spot. Could this be the influence of stand-in Twenty20 coach Ricky Ponting, a man who knows and values the format more highly than the majority of senior figures in the Australian cricketing community?

    Ricky Ponting has a new coaching appointment

    (Photo by Ryan Pierse – CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)

    Ponting has coached Mumbai in the IPL, will mentor Delhi this IPL season and has showcased his deep understanding of the game as a regular TV commentator on the BBL.

    The batting legend is reportedly keen to become Australia’s Twenty20 coach and believes that the format requires a specialist coach.

    Ponting clearly believes Australia need to professionalise their approach to T20Is. He told media this past week he would like to see Australia playing more T20Is, having their leading bowlers available to play the format more often and for Australia to establish a core group of Twenty20 players, rather than chopping and changing.

    I agree with Ponting that T20 now requires a specialist coach. The format has gradually become more and more unique – with every match, it moves further away from Test cricket in terms of technique and tactics.

    Australia surely would benefit from having a coach whose sole focus was on developing and honing the players and strategies required to become an elite Twenty20 team.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • February 12th 2018 @ 7:18am
      Andrew said | February 12th 2018 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      The biggest difference this time round Ronan is that the team was picked specifically for t20. Previous teams were just the odi team with one or two changes, this time was also better balanced.

      • Roar Guru

        February 12th 2018 @ 1:21pm
        Matt H said | February 12th 2018 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

        Agreed

    • February 12th 2018 @ 8:50am
      spruce moose said | February 12th 2018 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      Yes, a specialist coach is the right idea.

      I’ve been encouraged by the better commitment to professionalism shown by CA during the T20I’s this year.

      Interesting analysis on the seasonal readiness as well re: England.

    • February 12th 2018 @ 9:17am
      AGordon said | February 12th 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

      The idea of a specialist coach makes sense only if they have the support of CA. Ronan has correctly pointed out how badly CA has treated this form of the game which parallels how it treated ODI cricket when that first started – it wasn’t taken seriously at all. If they don’t schedule T20 games properly, select the right players or release the players to play, then it doesn’t matter who coaches the side, they are bound to fail.

      The point about England playing out of season is also a bit of a furphy. How many of this side played in the BBL or played in the recent ODI series? Completely agree they don’t have their best side by a long streak, but they do have players who have recently had a few games.

    • February 12th 2018 @ 11:25am
      BurgyGreen said | February 12th 2018 @ 11:25am | ! Report

      I’d be happy to see shorter ODI series of 3 matches to allow more T20Is and also give the schedule a little more breathing room.

      I agree that Ponting has probably been a huge part of our success in this tournament. He actually understands the tactics of the game in a way that our support staff over the years never have.

      The T20 side needs to be run entirely separately of the other formats (or you could possibly group the white ball formats) with a specialist coach, selectors (even though they’ve done a great job with this squad) and, in my opinion, captain.

    • February 12th 2018 @ 12:50pm
      Rissole said | February 12th 2018 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

      Where do we discuss the Shield round?

      • Columnist

        February 12th 2018 @ 1:34pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | February 12th 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

        Right here Rissole, fire away!

        Shield highlights:

        – Handscomb emerges from form slump with a blazing 114no in a tricky chase of 252 against a strong SA pace attack.

        – Mitch Marsh back in form with the ball taking 4 wickets and back to bowling good pace after sending down very gentle mediums in the Ashes.

        – Renshaw makes 56 and 32

        – Tim Neilsen’s 22yo son Harry makes ton on Shield debut as a ‘keeper.

        – Tassie 21yo Jake Doran continues breakout season with game-high 95 in very low-scoring game vs QLD

        • February 12th 2018 @ 3:29pm
          Rissole said | February 12th 2018 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

          Thanks Ronan. It was a very good round of Shield cricket with even contests between bat and ball for all three games. It’s hard to believe that there is only 10 points between top and bottom with four rounds to go.

          Good to see the fringe batsmen (Handscomb, Cartwright & Renshaw) among the runs.

          Doran has been superb after struggling for his first few seasons.

          Two final questions. Is there an umpires’ coach? And if so, did Ashton Turner break up with his daughter?

        • February 12th 2018 @ 4:20pm
          jamesb said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

          That is interesting about Harry Neilsen. Had a great debut with a century. Apart from being the son of Tim Nielsen, do you know much about him Ronan?

        • Roar Guru

          February 13th 2018 @ 9:43am
          Ryan H said | February 13th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          High achieving round of Shield for young players! Doran looks the goods and has continued to improve vastly as this season has progressed.

      • Roar Guru

        February 12th 2018 @ 2:01pm
        Rellum said | February 12th 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        To talk about the actual games not just individual performaces

        QLD dominate Tassie to get top spot on the table in a great win for the state. Great all round team performance, Luke Feldman was easily man of the match for his bowling of course but he saved our bacon in the first innings as well.

        Bring on Victoria.

      • February 12th 2018 @ 2:19pm
        BurgyGreen said | February 12th 2018 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

        On top of a crushing loss Tassie have lost the excellent young swing bowler Gabe Bell to injury. With Bird also gone either with the Test squad or with injury our bowling has been hit badly. Such a shame, we’d built a really solid pace attack.

        • Columnist

          February 12th 2018 @ 3:28pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | February 12th 2018 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

          Bell’s been hugely impressive hasn’t he?

          Only 22 years old too.

          • February 12th 2018 @ 3:30pm
            Rissole said | February 12th 2018 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

            It might be hard for Tassie to maintain that pre-Big Bash form now. That would be a shame.

            • Columnist

              February 12th 2018 @ 4:12pm
              Ronan O'Connell said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

              Interesting note on Doran – he has faced the most balls (997) of any batsman in the Shield this season highlighting what a high value he puts on his wicket

              Highest average balls faced per innings in the Shield this season (min. 5 matches)

              Doran ……… 100
              Maxwell ……. 93
              Burns ……….. 88
              Ferguson ….. 86

        • February 12th 2018 @ 4:38pm
          Brissie Boy said | February 12th 2018 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

          Not to worry Burgy, after his efforts with the ball on the weekend, I’m sure Wade will be able to cover the loss of both Bird and Bell simultaneously. 😉

          On a more serious note, is Cameron Boyce likely to get a look-in with the injuries to the quicks? Was at the game this weekend and was intrigued by the fact that Webster’s part-time offies seemed to be Tassie’s only option in terms of spin.

          • February 12th 2018 @ 10:06pm
            BurgyGreen said | February 12th 2018 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

            I suspect they’ll give Riley Meredith another game. The sad truth is that Tassie just doesn’t have a spinner of Shield quality – Boyce included.

            • February 13th 2018 @ 1:31am
              Doctor Rotcod said | February 13th 2018 @ 1:31am | ! Report

              The WA-Tas clash should be good.WA loses Bancroft, M.Marsh,S.Marsh,Voges and Richardson.Agar and Tye are with the T20 squad,so I don’t know who their spinner -maybe Bosisto- or who their top four will be.Wells ,Whiteman,Short?,Turner and Stoinis? But they have Mackin,Kelly,Bevilaqua and Green as fast bowlers.David,who played in the BBL hit a handy 121n.o.over the weekend in grade cricket
              Shame about Bell.Rainbird,Fekete and Rogers have done alright.Bailey keeps on being George
              Are they using the Duke again?

    • February 12th 2018 @ 1:00pm
      Ouch said | February 12th 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

      Yes, someone who understands the game like Ponting.

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