Chappell: Sheffield Shield allowed to decay


India, July 28 -- Before departing for this disastrous tour of England, the current Australian side was compared to the 1972 and 1989 teams.

Let's get it straight, the only thing the three teams have in common is they were all lambasted by the English media as "The worst to leave Australia."

The current side's inconsistencies are often excused on the basis of inexperience. The 1972 Australian side that triumphed at Lord's boasted two debutants and seven of the 11 had between them played only 18 Tests.

The 1972 Australian team then went on to become the best side around as the core of the touring party were complemented by a number of other good young players who had performed well at Sheffield Shield level. In 1989, Allan Border's team sprung a surprise on a struggling England side and won the series 4-0. The core of this team carried all before them, once again with the addition of other talented players who had succeeded at Shield level.

In the 1960's Garry Sobers described the Shield as; "The toughest cricket I've played outside Test matches."

When Australia was beating everyone in the late 90s and early 2000 people told me it was the coaches and the academies that made the team strong. "Bollocks, was my response," it's the same as when Don Bradman's 1948 Invincibles were so good. It's the system that produces the outstanding players."

That system was a far cry from the current Shield competition, which is virtually bereft of Test players and runs a distant second in importance to the glitzy BBL. There are complaints about the current Test batsmen not showing patience and being wayward in their shot selection.

Patience and shot selection result from a player being sure of his technique. When he's comfortable, a player can ride out a storm of good bowling for an hour or so and then cash in later in the innings. Batsmen who aren't certain of their survival instincts tend to panic and play indisciplined shots.

Far too many members of Clarke's team are batting mainly for survival. Any batsman who isn't looking to score at every opportunity will stunt his footwork and limit the chances of success. Clarke is saddled with the flawed products of a once great system that has been allowed to decay.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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