“This Sri Lankan tour [of OZ] was not required at all”

Dean Jones, courtesy of the Sunday Times, 7 November 2010

This article appeared initially in The Age on 6th Nov. 2010 under a more appropriate title for that context. The AGe serves Melbourne in particualr and one must read Jones as a Victorian pushing a vicotrian barrow . Michael Roberts

IT’S time for the Australian cricket team to have two separate coaches – one for the Test team and one coach for the one-day and Twenty20 teams. The team needs some inspiration and adrenalin and a new coach will provide it.

The workload on Australian coach Tim Nielsen is enormous and if Cricket Australia wants to keep him in the job then they must split the role in two and lighten the load.

AFL coaches prepare for 24 to 26 matches a year, including practice matches. It’s a long season and they prepare like few other sports in the world. Cricket, by comparison, is so far behind in its preparations. Why would CA put on only two-Test series against India with a few one-dayers thrown in when its players are trying to prepare for the biggest Ashes series in their lives?

Why would CA then throw in a Twenty20 match and a three-game one-day series against Sri Lanka on the eve of the Ashes Tests? I know that CA has to find a way to pay its players but this is poor preparation for Australia’s biggest Test series. Playing irrelevant matches is not helping anyone.

This Australian team needed a three-Test series against India and some four-day Sheffield Shield cricket before this Ashes series. This Sri Lankan tour was not required at all. If CA says we have to play them because of the Future Tours Program, then that’s rubbish.

The Australian players are certainly earning their money today. In 2009, Australia played 114 days of international cricket and this year they will play 99 days. That doesn’t include IPL and touring matches. Throw in the constant travel and hotel rooms it can be hard work. So planning each player’s calendar and workload is becoming increasingly demanding. A player simply cannot be on top of his game for 365 days a year. Each player must pick the times when he needs to peak and work around them accordingly.

The workload imposed on this Australian team makes it almost impossible for Neilsen to prepare his squad properly for each series. Personally, I prided my preparation on every season and tour.

I don’t know how they do it now with all the cricket they play now. I loved playing club cricket for Melbourne and Carlton. Sadly, no player can do that now. Tom Moody said to me recently that in his three years as coach of Western Australia he never had Michael Hussey or Mitchell Johnson play one game! Now that is sad.

Neilsen has to work on his players’ form and then worry about the opposition and their strategies and tactics. The coach needs to collate everything from the opposition bowlers’ techniques to where the opposition batsmen hit it. Neilsen also has to travel around the country visiting cricket academies and state squads and identifying talent along the way. It is a massive job.

Throw in the time away from the family and this job seems to have a short life or career span for anyone.

Sadly for Neilsen, he cannot do any decent remedial work on any players technique due to the fact there is a match or travel on the next day. If a player is struggling, all he can do is basically apply Band-Aids to his technique and hope the player finds form. If a player such as young Phil Hughes needs work to fix a problem, it can’t be done while on tour, he has to be sent back to his state team. Time will tell whether that has worked for Hughes.

The issue has been further exposed in the performances of Australia’s bowler. They just don’t take enough wickets. But who is working on their technical problems now that bowling coach Troy Cooley has been employed at the centre of excellent and is no longer with the national team? Who’s trying to fix Johnson’s inconsistency?

All things considered, I think Neilsen has done an awesome job, but quite clearly he needs help. It was so tough on him in 2009 that he and his family needed a break and he took a holiday during the Ashes tour in England so he could re-generate his batteries. If Neilsen is tired and flat, the team will reflect his mood and energy.

It’s time Australia specialised by appointing coaches in two separate areas. My selection for the one-day/Twenty20 coach would be Victoria’s coach Greg Shipperd. Shipperd is the best Twenty20 coach in the world. His ideas and strategies are equalled by no one and he is well up on the trends on how the one-day and Twenty20 games are played.

Having Shipperd join Neilsen would ease the workloads of all concerned and they would provide the necessary attitude and direction this Australian team needs. That need was pretty evident at the MCG on Wednesday night.

It is always great to see players making their debuts because it is a reality check for seasoned players that they could be the next to go.

Having a fresh coach come in to lift everyone after losing a Test series surely would be a plus for everyone.

From a player’s point of view, it can be challenging having a lot of coaches around you. There is more staff than players in the rooms these days. If I started my career today I would do things differently to others. As a player you get only one go at this and you must surround yourself with the right people. So I would do something against the grain and employ my own specialist coach.

My coach when I was a kid was Keith Stackpole. He was just awesome.

In my opinion, Stacky is still the best technical coach in Victoria and why Cricket Victoria doesn’t employ his services is just plain silly. He simply made players such as Jamie Siddons, Matthew Elliott, Ian Harvey, Brad Hodge and a host of others and I can’t endorse him enough.

I was sad to hear that Merv Hughes was replaced by Greg Chappell as a selector. No problem from me with Chappell at the helm but leaving Jamie Cox as a selector has caught my attention. Imagine if you have played 50 Tests or more and Cox came up to you to say you’ve missed out and you’re dropped. Here is a selector who has never played for Australia and is telling you that you are not good enough.

Talking about selectors, do any of them know how to play Twenty20 cricket?

I was told at an early age that you don’t send bricklayers to finance meetings. So do the selectors, who played before Twenty20 began, honestly know what that form of the game is about?

Personally, I still haven’t got a handle on Twenty20 cricket yet and I have watched it more than most. The only guys who do know what Twenty20 cricket is about are the ones who have played it and those who have coached it at the highest level. Think Ricky Ponting, Hodge, Andrew Symonds and Stuart Clark. Now that would be an interesting selection committee.

Would you think they would select Michael Clarke as captain? You see, the answer always lies with the guys who have played the sport. I think most of you know the answer there.

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