Coaching methods — cricket needs another revolution

Greg Chappell Column

Back in 1977 news broke that Kerry Packer was financing a breakaway cricket series featuring more than 50 of the world's best cricketer's of the day.

The cricket world was shocked and the various cricket boards around the world went into protect mode. Most of the players were immediately banned from further international cricket and Packer's World Series Cricket was prevented from playing on the traditional Test grounds in Australia during its first series.

Twenty-seven years on, the game is bigger, brighter and richer than it has ever been. In that period the West Indies and Australia have dominated the game for long spells inside the fence while India has grown to become the dominant player off the field.

For years it appeared as though the game was going through a golden age as the one-day format took over from Test match cricket as the desired format for fans and administrators alike. Even players from many countries preferred the take away version of the game to the traditional five-day feast.

Legislation enacted

Because of the dominance of the West Indies with its four-pronged pace attack and slow over rates the administrators leapt in to protect the game. Legislation was enacted that reduced the number of short-pitched balls per over and increased the minimum of overs required per day to 90.

Helmets had become standard headwear and batsmen began to dominate in high scoring games. Bowlers were reduced to second-class citizens by the legislators and the standardisation of pitch preparations around the world.

Batsmen got on the front foot and drove through the line with impunity knowing that the bowlers could not retaliate. Bowlers resorted to the one-day line and length and waited for batsmen to get themselves out.

Sleight of hand

Only Australia had responded to the challenge set by the West Indies as they proceeded to raise the bar by taking tough decisions to improve the talent identification and development processes. Everyone saw the establishment of the Australian Cricket Academy as the key to this change. It was actually a brilliant piece of sleight of hand.

As Australia flourished, and most others went backwards, many of the worlds cricket administrators rushed to Adelaide to have a look at the Academy. When they got to Delmonte, an old beachside guesthouse that was the accommodation for the Academy students, they must have thought they were being prevented from viewing the modern, hi-tech Australian facility that was turning out all these superstars of the game.

Little did they realise that they were missing the point, but it did not deter most of them from rushing back home in a bid to get their own academy up and running so that they could compete with the Australians.

What they had missed was that it was the structure of club cricket and first-class cricket in Australia that was responsible for filling the finishing school in Adelaide. It was the wily fox Rod Marsh who used his experience of having played nearly 100 Test matches and a similar number of one-day Internationals to put the finishing touches to their development.

Most of the current Australian players went through the Academy programme while Marsh was the head-coach. In those days it was all about gaining as much experience as possible at playing the game against good opposition while Marsh dispensed homilies on how to think, plan and prepare better.

A proprietary system

In the past decade the scientists and academics have hijacked the game as they have dissected the mechanics of the game in an attempt to put together a proprietary system that has been dispensed to all corners of the globe. This one-size fit all method has replaced the old methods of player development that worked extremely well for more than 100 years without ever establishing what it was that worked in the old system.

Cricket needs another revolution. This time it needs to be in coaching methods because these new theories are not working and batting standards in most parts of the world are going backwards at an alarming rate because of them.

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