Infotainment Factory: How we began giving away baggy greens

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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

How we began giving away baggy greens


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Ricky Ponting has cast fresh doubt on the health of the Sheffield Shield competition, saying it is not producing Test-standard players.

“I’m not sure Shield matches are doing that well, to be honest,” Ponting told SEN.

“We don’t seem to be producing the level of players that we produced for the past 30-40 years.

“You look at some of the stats of what our Shield players are doing and it’s probably nowhere near where they need to be to have success at Test level.

“You have to question whether the grassroots system is actually working in Australia or not.”

He’s right. Compared with the past two decades, the Sheffield Shield is currently producing substandard batsmen, who are earning Test honours with inadequate records simply because there are no alternatives.

The lists below paint a sad picture.

They contain Test debutants over the past three decades – specialist batsmen, all-rounders and wicketkeeper-batsmen – and their career first-class averages.

We have already churned through far more players in the current decade and it is now common for specialist batsmen to earn a baggy green when they are only capable of a first-class batting average in the thirties – almost unthinkable in generations past.

1990-1999 (15 players)

Mark Waugh 52.04 (career first-class average)

Wayne Phillips 38.59

Damien Martyn 49.25

Justin Langer 50.23

Michael Slater 40.85

Matthew Hayden 52.57

Michael Bevan 57.32

Phil Emery 26.12

Greg Blewett 44.49

Stuart Law 50.52

Ricky Ponting 55.90

Matthew Elliott 47.00

Shaun Young 37.95

Darren Lehmann 57.83

Adam Gilchrist 44.16

2000-2009 (14)

Simon Katich 52.84

Martin Love 49.85

Andrew Symonds 42.20

Michael Clarke 47.02

Shane Watson 42.57

Michael Hussey 52.13

Brad Hodge 48.81

Phil Jaques 48.29

Chris Rogers 49.55

Brad Haddin 38.05

Cameron White 40.14

Andrew McDonald 39.54

Phillip Hughes 46.51

Marcus North 40.72

2010-present (25)

Tim Paine 30.02

Steve Smith 57.27

Usman Khawaja 44.32

Shaun Marsh 40.62

David Warner 48.63

Ed Cowan 41.89

Matthew Wade 39.21

Rob Quiney 36.84

Moises Henriques 33.50

Glenn Maxwell 41.07

George Bailey 39.04

Alex Doolan 33.89

Mitchell Marsh 32.50

Joe Burns 40.25

Adam Voges 46.42

Peter Nevill 37.94

Callum Ferguson 38.49

Peter Handscomb 39.19

Nic Maddinson 34.75

Matthew Renshaw 39.58

Hilton Cartwright 37.64

Cameron Bancroft 38.35

Aaron Finch 36.58

Travis Head 36.78

Marnus Labuschagne 32.66

The last 10 players all average sub-40. Looking at that current crop, you have to feel sorry for these past players:

BATSMEN WHO NEVER PLAYED A TEST

David Hussey 52.50

Michael Di Venuto 45.90

Jamie Siddons 44.91

Jamie Cox 42.69

Dene Hills 40.07

Australia could certainly use that sort of output right now.

From recent times, Michael Clarke is the aspirational tale.

The former Australian captain was largely picked on potential when he made his Test debut, averaging sub-40 at the time (2004) across nearly 50 first-class matches; though he'd made 11 centuries. He hit 151 on debut in India and with the lone blip of being dropped in 2005, he amassed a magnificent career of 115 Tests for 8643 runs at 49.10.

Picked at 23, Clarke was a rarity in an era where Australia could pick players with extensive first-class experience. Now, the Sheffield Shield is overrun with young players thanks to Cricket Australia’s policy of trying to ‘discover’ the next Clarke, rather than using the old-school method of letting the cream rise to the surface through sheer weight of runs.

A gripe of older players is that it seems possible in current times to force yourself into Test contention with one or two eye-catching centuries. Mike Hussey had scored 15,313 first-class runs by the time he made his Test debut at 31 – and he retired with a Test average of 51.52 off the back of his glittering domestic cricket record.

“There’s not five or six guys peeling off 1000, 1500 runs that are a bit older – there are just a lot of young guys running around in Shield cricket,” former Test paceman Stuart Clark told Bill and Boz of the current domestic scene.

“You know what the sad part is? The guys playing, they’re the guys. There’s no one else. These are the guys.”

It seems that none of the recent selections are unlikely to dramatically transform our fortunes. Test legend Rod Marsh, a former chief selector and head of the national academy, this week predicted that of the current crop, only Steve Smith and David Warner (both currently suspended) were capable of playing 100 Tests.

“We’ve had this problem with Australian batting for a decade and a half,” Marsh told Fairfax media.

“We haven’t produced any great players that are going to play 100 Tests as batsmen.

“Guys are coming in and out of the team a hell of a lot. Smith and Warner are the only two capable of playing 100 Tests, ability-wise. That didn’t used to be the case.”

We’ve seen flashes of hope this Sheffield Shield season, especially in the form of NSW’s teenage century-makers Jason Sangha and Jack Edwards.

Sangha, 19, should be fast-tracked into Test cricket, according to former Australian spinner Kerry O’Keeffe.

"Jason Sangha. If he was a thoroughbred, his breeding would be Joe Root out of Virat Kohli,” O’Keeffe told Fox Sports’ The Back Page Live.

"This is the guy who can save the Centre of Excellence, who can save the development programs. This is a player of the ages. He is the best, technically, we’ve had since (Ricky) Ponting."

Whether that happens remains to be seen.

Another player recently proclaimed as a future superstar, Tasmania’s Jake Doran (21), remains a batsman to watch but he’s had a lean start to this Shield season.

Victoria’s Will Pucovski (20) had an extraordinary start to the season, making 243 in his only innings, but is now taking a break from the game for mental health reasons.

The top three on this season’s Sheffield Shield run-scoring charts, just three rounds in, are Marcus Harris (26), Tom Cooper (31) and Jake Lehmann (26). The younger may yet play for Australia, while Cooper’s career first-class average is stuck at 34.67.

With Smith and Warner missing and a number of other Test batting spots in a state of flux, opportunities have arisen for batsmen to stake their claim in the Australian team. But right now, it seems we simply lack world-class players.

And think: these Shield batsmen are faring modestly in their home conditions and rarely face Australian Test bowlers due to their international commitments. How much could you really expect from them against world-class attacks on swinging, seaming decks in England, or on a raging turner in India?

Ricky Ponting has cast fresh doubt on the health of the Sheffield Shield competition, saying it is not producing Test-standard players.

“I’m not sure Shield matches are doing that well, to be honest,” Ponting told SEN.

“We don’t seem to be producing the level of players that we produced for the past 30-40 years.

“You look at some of the stats of what our Shield players are doing and it’s probably nowhere near where they need to be to have success at Test level.

“You have to question whether the grassroots system is actually working in Australia or not.”

He’s right. Compared with the past two decades, the Sheffield Shield is currently producing substandard batsmen, who are earning Test honours with inadequate records simply because there are no alternatives.

The lists below paint a sad picture.

They contain Test debutants over the past three decades – specialist batsmen, all-rounders and wicketkeeper-batsmen – and their career first-class averages.

We have already churned through far more players in the current decade and it is now common for specialist batsmen to earn a baggy green when they are only capable of a first-class batting average in the thirties – almost unthinkable in generations past.

1990-1999 (15 players)

Mark Waugh 52.04 (career first-class average)

Wayne Phillips 38.59

Damien Martyn 49.25

Justin Langer 50.23

Michael Slater 40.85

Matthew Hayden 52.57

Michael Bevan 57.32

Phil Emery 26.12

Greg Blewett 44.49

Stuart Law 50.52

Ricky Ponting 55.90

Matthew Elliott 47.00

Shaun Young 37.95

Darren Lehmann 57.83

Adam Gilchrist 44.16

2000-2009 (14)

Simon Katich 52.84

Martin Love 49.85

Andrew Symonds 42.20

Michael Clarke 47.02

Shane Watson 42.57

Michael Hussey 52.13

Brad Hodge 48.81

Phil Jaques 48.29

Chris Rogers 49.55

Brad Haddin 38.05

Cameron White 40.14

Andrew McDonald 39.54

Phillip Hughes 46.51

Marcus North 40.72

2010-present (25)

Tim Paine 30.02

Steve Smith 57.27

Usman Khawaja 44.32

Shaun Marsh 40.62

David Warner 48.63

Ed Cowan 41.89

Matthew Wade 39.21

Rob Quiney 36.84

Moises Henriques 33.50

Glenn Maxwell 41.07

George Bailey 39.04

Alex Doolan 33.89

Mitchell Marsh 32.50

Joe Burns 40.25

Adam Voges 46.42

Peter Nevill 37.94

Callum Ferguson 38.49

Peter Handscomb 39.19

Nic Maddinson 34.75

Matthew Renshaw 39.58

Hilton Cartwright 37.64

Cameron Bancroft 38.35

Aaron Finch 36.58

Travis Head 36.78

Marnus Labuschagne 32.66

The last 10 players all average sub-40. Looking at that current crop, you have to feel sorry for these past players:

BATSMEN WHO NEVER PLAYED A TEST

David Hussey 52.50

Michael Di Venuto 45.90

Jamie Siddons 44.91

Jamie Cox 42.69

Dene Hills 40.07

Australia could certainly use that sort of output right now.

From recent times, Michael Clarke is the aspirational tale.

The former Australian captain was largely picked on potential when he made his Test debut, averaging sub-40 at the time (2004) across nearly 50 first-class matches; though he'd made 11 centuries. He hit 151 on debut in India and with the lone blip of being dropped in 2005, he amassed a magnificent career of 115 Tests for 8643 runs at 49.10.

Picked at 23, Clarke was a rarity in an era where Australia could pick players with extensive first-class experience. Now, the Sheffield Shield is overrun with young players thanks to Cricket Australia’s policy of trying to ‘discover’ the next Clarke, rather than using the old-school method of letting the cream rise to the surface through sheer weight of runs.

A gripe of older players is that it seems possible in current times to force yourself into Test contention with one or two eye-catching centuries. Mike Hussey had scored 15,313 first-class runs by the time he made his Test debut at 31 – and he retired with a Test average of 51.52 off the back of his glittering domestic cricket record.

“There’s not five or six guys peeling off 1000, 1500 runs that are a bit older – there are just a lot of young guys running around in Shield cricket,” former Test paceman Stuart Clark told Bill and Boz of the current domestic scene.

“You know what the sad part is? The guys playing, they’re the guys. There’s no one else. These are the guys.”

It seems that none of the recent selections are unlikely to dramatically transform our fortunes. Test legend Rod Marsh, a former chief selector and head of the national academy, this week predicted that of the current crop, only Steve Smith and David Warner (both currently suspended) were capable of playing 100 Tests.

“We’ve had this problem with Australian batting for a decade and a half,” Marsh told Fairfax media.

“We haven’t produced any great players that are going to play 100 Tests as batsmen.

“Guys are coming in and out of the team a hell of a lot. Smith and Warner are the only two capable of playing 100 Tests, ability-wise. That didn’t used to be the case.”

We’ve seen flashes of hope this Sheffield Shield season, especially in the form of NSW’s teenage century-makers Jason Sangha and Jack Edwards.

Sangha, 19, should be fast-tracked into Test cricket, according to former Australian spinner Kerry O’Keeffe.

"Jason Sangha. If he was a thoroughbred, his breeding would be Joe Root out of Virat Kohli,” O’Keeffe told Fox Sports’ The Back Page Live.

"This is the guy who can save the Centre of Excellence, who can save the development programs. This is a player of the ages. He is the best, technically, we’ve had since (Ricky) Ponting."

Whether that happens remains to be seen.

Another player recently proclaimed as a future superstar, Tasmania’s Jake Doran (21), remains a batsman to watch but he’s had a lean start to this Shield season.

Victoria’s Will Pucovski (20) had an extraordinary start to the season, making 243 in his only innings, but is now taking a break from the game for mental health reasons.

The top three on this season’s Sheffield Shield run-scoring charts, just three rounds in, are Marcus Harris (26), Tom Cooper (31) and Jake Lehmann (26). The younger may yet play for Australia, while Cooper’s career first-class average is stuck at 34.67.

With Smith and Warner missing and a number of other Test batting spots in a state of flux, opportunities have arisen for batsmen to stake their claim in the Australian team. But right now, it seems we simply lack world-class players.

And think: these Shield batsmen are faring modestly in their home conditions and rarely face Australian Test bowlers due to their international commitments. How much could you really expect from them against world-class attacks on swinging, seaming decks in England, or on a raging turner in India?

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