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Inverarity believes Twenty20 cricket is to blame for Australia’s batting woes
Australia national selector John Inverarity has been racking his brains to try and figure out a solution to the national team’s continuing batting woes ahead of the back-to-back Ashes series, which gets underway on July 10 at Trent Bridge.
Since the retirement of former captain Ricky Ponting and veteran batsman Michael Hussey, Australia’s batting order seem to have started a downward spiral and there seems to be no end in sight.
But what is to blame for this downward spiral? Inverarity attributes it to the growing number of Twenty20 matches the Australian batsmen are involved in nowadays.
With the Ashes right around the corner, Australia should be worried that out of their top six batsmen, only skipper Michael Clarke averages higher than 40 after having a stellar 2012.
“I don’t think anyone has got the exact answer as to why we haven’t got players coming through who bat for long periods,” Inverarity told ESPNcricinfo. “But one thing I am sure about is young players need to work it out for themselves … Society is different now, there’s fast food and immediate gratification and those things, so whether we’ll see it in the abundance that we’ve seen it over the years before I don’t know.
“I think an intelligent young player with some talent, and looking to make his way in cricket, I would think high on his agenda would be developing an appetite and the wherewithal to bat for long periods and make big scores. A young player, if he wanted to play Test cricket, then applying himself in that regard is what we’re on the lookout for.”
With more and more Australian talents being discovered through the annual Big Bash League (BBL), Inverarity believes the tournament does serve its purpose, but on the other hand, it also has a negative impact on the Sheffield Shield as players snub the four-day competition in order bask in the Twenty20 limelight.
“The cricket scene now is more fragmented than it was, with T20,” Inverarity said. “If you’d said 10 years ago that there wouldn’t be any domestic first-class cricket in Australia in December and January you would’ve thought that was not possible.
“The Big Bash League has been a great attraction and in spreading the word of cricket it’s been a great success. But in terms of players developing momentum it has made it rather difficult. A very good example is Alex Doolan, who has been a very promising player for some time and built up some real momentum in October/November, and then of course the next time he played a Shield match was in February. So that was difficult for him.”
Inverarity also continued to defend Cricket Australia’s highly controversial rotation policy, stating that cricketers, like everyone else, need to be given days off in order to get some rest and relaxation and not fall victim to injuries, which has been the growing trend amongst the country’s pace bowlers.
“I think that’s exaggerated,” Inverarity said of the criticism directed at the rotation policy. “It does not stand up to scrutiny.
“Missing a game or two for an elite professional cricketer, who plays all three formats and for numerous teams, should not be an issue at all. Players regularly come back from a prolonged layoff for injury and bat brilliantly. Playing in all forms, players can tend to become jaded. I think Michael Clarke at the moment is benefiting greatly from having a break. Over a period of five years, my view is you’ll get more out of a player if he has appropriate breaks. And of course that creates opportunity for others. Jackson Bird playing for Starc in the Boxing Day Test was a great benefit to Australian cricket.”
The national selector also took some time to explain why New South Wales spin bowler Steve O’Keefe has continued to be snubbed by the selection committee, despite posting up brilliant performance after brilliant performance.
“Steve O’Keefe is a very good cricketer,” Inverarity said. “He’s taken wickets, and he’s a steady batsman.
“Whenever we’ve been at the selection table, we’ve marginally preferred other players to him. But he’s still regarded as a good cricketer. We’re very aware of his figures and we do look deeper than that. But there’s a panel of five of us and there’s a consistency of view when we select the spinners.”