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VOL.28 :: NO.37 :: Sep. 10 - 16, 2005

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CRICKET CORNER / COLUMN BY BOB SIMPSON

Winning is all about using common sense

AP

Matthew Hayden has been going through a lean patch, unable to control his ego and shots.

AUSTRALIA'S loss at Nottingham reinforces the need to carefully look at the structure of its team, coaching and management. No Australian side has ever had such a large support staff. Yet certain problems have either been ignored or not attended to.

Two obvious ones which contributed to the loss were too many no balls and the inability to handle swing bowling, which have been evident for a long time.

John Buchanan's admission that he had left it to the bowlers to sort out amongst themselves the no ball epidemic is a clear sign that attention to detail about technical problems have had a low priority.

I have been writing for some time about the inability of the Australian and world batsmen to handle swing, but nothing has been done.

In fact, over the last three years I have been recommending to coaches and new ball bowlers that the easiest way to reach higher honours is to learn to swing the ball, for it is a dying art and batsmen haven't got a clue how to handle this form of bowling as they so seldom see it.

After the pulsating drawn Test at Manchester all the talk was about reverse swing and Australia's inability to handle this form of bowling.

I had a quiet chuckle about this for it wasn't just reverse swing that worried Australian batsmen, but swing in general.

In an era where almost all the world's fast bowlers bang the ball in, batsmen seem to have lost the ability to judge the length of the ball and end up straddling the crease, neither forward nor back. This is why they were ripe for swing bowlers to create havoc. Batsmen playing across the crease are suckers for any ball that moves in the air. It took a long time for bowlers to realise this and to learn to bowl a fuller length. It is worth recording here that fast bowlers in the last 15 years or so have bowled at least one to two yards shorter than what was once considered a good length.

Any bowler who bowls to this length finds it impossible to swing the ball for he is not giving the ball enough time to move.

Amazingly, it took bowlers to introduce a new concept of swing, or reverse swing as it is called, to make the ball swing again and create problems for the batsmen.

How did they do it? Quite simply without going right into the technical aspect was to bowl fuller and give the ball time to divert.

As in orthodox or old fashion swing the position of the wrist holds the key to which way the ball will swing either when trying to bowl orthodox or reverse swing.

This makes it hard for me to understand why batsmen cannot pick the direction of the swing out of the bowler's hand.

Perhaps they are just not watching the hand, a quite common problem with batsmen.

The Australian coaching staff should have attended to this weakness against swing some years ago when India's Ajit Agarkar exposed this chink on the last Australian tour.

Nothing was done and the once dominant Australian batting line up has been made to look very ordinary. Perhaps the weak oppositions which allowed the Australian batsmen to plunder at will, masked the problems, or did John Buchanan also expect the batsmen to sort out their dilemma. Whatever the reason, it is unacceptable.

When I was at the CCI Academy prior to India's visit to Australia, John Wright, then India's coach asked me how India could beat Australia.

My answer was simple, Agarkar must be first picked and any other bowler who can swing the ball and keep a good length must also go. That was three years ago, and the batting worries were acute then and worse now.

Australia alone does not have this problem as the moving ball will worry any team in the world. Why then haven't we got more swing bowlers?

In my view you can blame it on the great West Indian pace attack of the eighties and nineties, Lillee and Thomson and the obsession the world has had ever since that sheer pace was all that mattered and the only way to use the new ball was to bowl fast.

This has led to most cricketing nations on a frantic drive to turn all new ball bowlers into quicks, irrespective of whether they had the strength, physique or stamina to do so.

In this mad drive to manufacture that very rare species, a truly lightning bowler, potential Test quality medium pacers have been ignored. Australia has spent a fortune in trying to find another Lillee or Thomson. But it has been disappointing.

Now, as often happens, after a certain style of bowling has been successful you can guarantee Cricket Associations throughout the world will try and manufacture clones of these players.

Why can't coaches of today, identify the natural attributes of their charges and work on improving these rather than trying to clone the popular theory of the time.

While I am bemoaning the lack of leadership in Australia's management and coaching staff you cannot get away from the fact that England has outplayed the Aussies in this series. There has not been anything magical in the tactics, just good old common sense.

The English bowlers have looked at Australia's helter-skelter approach to batting and come up with a simple plan to counter this. They have rightly concluded that the helter-skelter plan can only work if the bowling is poor, but if you put enough balls in the right spot you will produce errors in the batsmen's technique.

How successful this has been, was clearly demonstrated by how many Australian batsmen were dismissed as England had planned Test after Test.

I always felt personally disgusted if I got out in this manner and made sure it didn't happen too often. Almost all the Australians have a history of getting out time after time in the same way.

Justin Langer has been out caught at short leg off bat and pad due to his right leg going to point, thus causing him to play in front of his bat due to the fact he hasn't pushed his knee and foot in the direction he wants to hit the ball, thus allowing his bat a clear passage to the ball.

Mat Hayden's "ego" hasn't allowed him to drop back a notch and by going too hard at the ball is offering catching practice to the slips cordon. Damien Martyn has always been prone to good length balls outside the off stump and his lack of decisive footwork has also seen him lbw straddling the crease. However, it takes good bowling to expose plans and the English attack has done a magnificent job. Bowlers win matches and the English attack has outbowled the Aussies.



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