Cricket in Australia: Mickey Arthur opens up

Mickey Arthur has been quoted thusly in the press in Australia today when speaking about the young players that came into the team during his tenure:

They’re good players, they’re not great players. They’re earning obscene amounts of money and they’ve got big egos, but they don’t know the best way to go about it … we had no leaders there.”

If you were wondering: these were the players that debuted, in test match cricket, during Mickey Arthur’s era in control of the Australia team (the span being from November 2011 through to June 2013):

James Pattinson
Mitchell Starc
David Warner
Ed Cowan
Matthew Wade
Rob Quiney
Jon Hastings
Jackson Bird
Moses Henriques
Glenn Maxwell

It is trite to say but this comment from Arthur, if a true reflection on the state of things, is a pretty sad indictment on these players coming into the test match set up and, indeed, the cricket program in Australia more broadly. I know I have written about this before and, frankly, I feel like I am whipping the metaphorical dead horse but is it not striking that the bulk of these players have had extremely limited first class careers of note before their selection in Australia test team?

Here the statistics in this regard:

James Pattinson: 8 games (all games are first class for the purposes of this exercise)
Mitchell Starc: 16 games
David Warner: 10 games
Ed Cowan: 52 games
Matthew Wade: 41 games
Rob Quiney: 49 games
Jon Hastings: 26 games
Jackson Bird: 17 games
Moses Henriques: 39 games
Glenn Maxwell: 15 games

I know Australia does not appear to be spoilt for choice for players to select at the moment but it could hardly be suggested that, Cowan, Wade and Quiney aside, this list of players have had anything resembling the first class apprenticeship that players of the past received. That being the case is it all surprising that they are not fully rounded players who “know the best way to go about it” when they enter the team? By extension it must be asked if it is really the coach of the test match team’s job to complete the education of Australia’s top players?

It seems to me that something has gone horribly amiss in the way in which cricket (as a sport) and Cricket Australia (as the ultimate governing body of said sport) is developing the young players for the next step into the test match team. It would be simple to say that said players are not playing enough first class cricket and are not getting an opportunity early enough to prove themselves.

That said, it has often been said that the simplest answer is often the right one and I suspect it is the case here. One only needs to look at the England set up to see that they are getting there pathway to the test team correct where Australia is failing. For this purpose consider these recent debutants in test match cricket for England and the number of first class games they have played:

Jonny Bairstow: 47 games
James Taylor: 76 games
Nick Compton: 99 games
Joe Root: 36 games

England’s young cricketers, even on the foregoing evidence, are getting more first class cricket and, therefore, more of an apprenticeship before they reach the big time of test cricket.

Again I concede that this may be a simplistic analysis but surely one of things that cricket in Australia must be looking at to ensure that the games of our future test players are complete, or as near as they can be to being complete, is giving them more first class cricket?

That does not appear to be the case though in the current climate in Australia given the enhanced and elongated focus on short form cricket and the fact that our best young players are being pushed into the international short form of the game ever faster than they have been before.

Final comment: I will leave you with a question … how can we expect our young players to succeed when we don’t give them the tools to even compete? At the moment the structure in Australia promotes the fast tracking of players through the short form of the game but that approach has been about as successful as it would be for a law firm to send a 1st year lawyer to the High Court to argue an appeal. We need to get back to basics and give the players the building blocks to develop their games. The “on the job” training method is not working and is only serving to inflate egos which can only be a bad thing for cricket in Australia in the long term.

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