Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Passing on messages

So, assuming a man hears what he wants to hear, what messages should be being passed on?

Let's start with something simple. Cut it back to basics. After all, when you look at it international cricket isn't exactly rocket science, at least it isn't on the surface.

There are depths lurking under there, of course, and often the basic principles get lost when you start fiddling with the fine details.

And given the fact that no one in the five man selection panel except Michael Clarke (and maybe the coach, when appointed, but you'd expect another appointment from outside the old inner circle) has a link to the old selectorial regime, maybe it's a case of building from the ground up.

So, start by bringing it back to very basics.

How do you win Test matchee? Simple. You score more runs than the opposition and you get them out twice.

How do you win limited overs matches? You score as many runs as you can and  restrict the opposition as much as you can.

It'll be a while before we're looking at the limited overs stuff, so let's concentrate on the Test matches for a while.

So, you score more runs than the opposition. That means you want a batting lineup that's capable of scoring at least five hundred in around five two-hour sessions.

Assuming you win the toss and elect to bat, that means you're either declaring or all out around tea time on Day Two, giving you most of the last session for a crack at them with fresh bowlers, a fairly fresh start on Day Three and a follow on target around the 300 mark.

If you're batting second, five hundred should go close to giving you a lead to bowl at in the second dig. If it doesn't you're probably not going to get a result anyway. With fifteen sessions in the game, and scoring around a hundred per session, two first innings scores over that 500 mark will have used up all of the first three days, probably going into Day Four, and leaves you with six sessions max to take twenty wickets. That's not what you'd label a result scenario.

But the key part there is the twenty wickets. A failure to take twenty wickets has been a consistent issue back through last year's Ashes series and beyond.

It's obvious that the current bowling group doesn't contain the right mix to take twenty wickets in most conditions, so there's an obvious need to go beyond talking about horses for courses and actually walking the walk after you've talked the talk.

In other words, you should be looking at the likely conditions and picking a balanced attack that'll work in those conditions on that wicket rather than maintaining the same basic group and expecting them to adjust.

Of course, if you're dealing with someone like Glenn McGrath you'd expect him to fire in most conditions and then adjust the rest of the attack around that factor.

But we don't have a McGrath at the moment. We may have one on the horizon, maybe we've already got one in the squad, but if we do he's not anywhere near that status yet.

And if he's there already, his surname isn't Johnson, who seems to have a deep-down belief that he's not the once in a lifetime bowler Dennis Lillee described. I suspect a lot of that mental fragility stems from the fact that he came to cricket relatively late, got a dream run through and has been very carefully cultivated on the way through because of what he might be rather than what he actually was at the various stages of an emerging career.

In that regard I suspect Brett Lee got a dream run, based on the fact that his big brother who played for Australia had this kid brother who bowled really quick. News of this fifteen or sixteen year-old tearaway had certainly reached my ears here in Bowen well before he made his first class debut.

Building an attack that'll take twenty wicket in a variety of conditions isn't going to happen overnight, and almost certainly won't come down to a key group of four or five bowlers. Sure, you'd base the attack around a couple of players, and in the absence of people who more or less pick themselves (a Warne or McGrath, for example) I'd be inclined to identify a couple of workhorses who are going to be bowling a lot of overs, and given the locations of the next three Tests (the Gabba, Bellerive and the MCG) I'd pencil in three different quicks for three venues before we start the mix and match bit.

Harris in Brisbane, Hilfenhaus in Hobart and Siddle in Melbourne.

That's enough for the moment. Back tomorrow for a closer look at assembling a side for the two tests against New Zealand while casting an eye towards the Boxing Day Test...

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