Statements beyond belief

While there is much talk about the depth of Australian cricket, the reality is that there are very few youngsters good enough to take over at present.


John Buchanan, the Australian coach, has to be realistic and not present incorrect theories. -- Pic. K. GOPINATHAN-

ONE of the most compelling signs you can see when estimating a decline in a great sporting team is to believe your own publicity or anticipate visions of grandeur. In statements recently Australian coach John Buchanan has displayed both. His suggestion that the ICC may impose changes to the laws of cricket to inhibit Australia's domination of world cricket is beyond belief. He has mentioned two other periods in cricket to emphasise and illustrate his extraordinary claim.

The first was Bodyline and the other the West Indies juggernaut of the seventies and eighties.

In suggesting the controlling bodies of cricket deliberately changed laws to stop England winning through Bodyline and the West Indies through short pitched bowling and intimidation is in my view missing the point.

On both occasions, rule changes were implemented because the tactics used were not in the interest of the game nor in the spirit of cricket to stop the winning ways of England and the West Indies.

In the Bodyline period the only change to the law affecting the tactics of England was to restrict the team to two fieldsmen behind square leg.

Hardly earth shattering and in reality, had little to do with the dealing of Bodyline bowlers. It was universally accepted at the time that Bodyline was not an acceptable bowling tactic and the restriction was universally approved.

Even England the creator of Bodyline agreed it was against the spirit of cricket, once it had been used in county cricket, and backed the rule changes.

The West Indies tactics of slow over rates and consistent short pitched bowling was also generally agreed to be not in the best interests of the camp.

The only changes made to the law to inhibit such tactics was to stipulate that a minimum number of overs must be bowled per day and bouncers were limited to no more than two per over.

A bouncer is described as any delivery which after pitching passes or would have passed over the head of the striker standing upright at the crease which is deemed dangerous and unfair and should be considered as part of the repetition sequence.

Michael Clark - the only player from New South Wales to represent Australia in the last decade. -- Pic. TONY McDONOUGH/ GETTY IMAGES-

Hardly totally restrictive, for fast bowlers could still bowl the most dangerous of all deliveries, those directed between the top of the head and chest.

For Buchanan to suggest this rule was designed to hinder and perhaps stop the success of the West Indies just does not make sense.

The simple reason for the decline of the West Indies bowlers was that they simply got older and retired and the replacements weren't as good as the pastmasters.

John Buchanan has always has a tendency to come from left field and right now he should be looking in a realistic way at his team and learning from the past.

Age is always the major contributor to the decline of teams.

Right now, the average age of the Australian team is around 32 and the Australia `A' is 31.

While there is much talk about the depth of Australian cricket, the reality is that there are very few youngsters good enough to take over at present.

New South Wales is a case in point. Generally the provider of the most players to the Australian team, NSW has only produced one batsman, Michael Clark in the last decade good enough to represent Australia.

A similar situation is evident in most Australian states.

Somehow Australia is missing the big picture at present and is trying to be too funky and innovative.

A concentration on the basic fundamentals is being neglected in favour of unproved and mostly incorrect theories.

This is manifesting itself in the current injury worries.

Australia has been touted as the fittest of the fittest, yet it has an appalling number of injuries, particularly amongst the bowlers.

For years it has been suggested that its bowlers had to be rested more to avoid injury.

Now with, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Stuart MacGill all out for the next Test, John Buchanan is suggesting the programme hasn't allowed the bowlers enough pre-Test bowling.

Australia has the biggest support group of any team in world cricket, but still the injuries are on the increase.

Is this due to too much bowling or too little, my money is on too little.

Prior to the first Test against Zimbabwe, all the 26 contracted players assembled in Perth for a four-day camp.

My sources tell me it was more a talkathon than a training camp. After that camp John Buchanan was stated as saying, "we spent much time formulating plans for the 2007 and 2011 World Cups".

All very well planning ahead, but with Australia's international team approaching the cross-roads, I feel it should be more concerned with now and the near future, rather than die in the sky projections.