Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/greg-chappell/2012/12/13/hughes-the-next-aussie-stalwart

Greg Chappell

Chappell: Hughes the next Aussie stalwart?

13 December 2012 1

If one believed everything that has been written about Phillip Hughes over the past few seasons, one would think that he was the only person ever to have found Test cricket a bit challenging and been dropped from the team.

On the contrary, nearly every significant Australian batsman from Bradman to Ponting has suffered a similar fate only to rise again and succeed at the highest level. It is all part of the natural cycle for most Test batsmen.

My own experience was that I burst on to the scene only to be dropped from the team five Test matches later.

It was during the period out of the team that I decided that I wanted to get back in again and what it was that I had to do if I wanted to stay there.

It had more to do with working on my mind than on my technique.

What I realised during this period out of the team was that the bowlers at Test level were not any better than many that I had faced before.

Just that there were more of them in any given team so the pressure could be maintained for longer.

If I wanted to succeed, then I had to be more patient, more selective in my shot choices and often, I had to be prepared to battle my way through some tough spells of bowling to get to some that I score from.

Very few batsmen have every shot in the book. Most have two or three main scoring areas.

The trick is to spend enough time in the middle to get enough balls in your strong areas so that you can make some runs.

Reading the comments about Phillip Hughes style, one would think that it was more suited to slashing bananas from a tree than defying Test bowling for hours, but his record in his short, much-maligned Test career is not all that bad.

Over 1000 Test runs at an average similar to Shane Watson, with three Test centuries, which is one more than Watson.

This includes being the youngest to score two centuries in the same Test which he did against South Africa in Durban in his second Test.

It has been a roller-coaster ride for him since he made his debut for NSW as an eighteen year old.

He soon impressed key people with his derring-do style and he confirmed his early promise by becoming the youngest player to score a century in a Shield Final as a nineteen year old.

One thing Hughes has done at every level, including Test cricket, is to make centuries and to get his runs at a good clip.

He puts the bad ball away as well as anyone. More than half of his Test runs so far have been scored in boundaries.

The challenge for him from this point is to find a way to survive the better balls and the good spells of bowling.

No doubt the time spent with his long-term coach Neil Da Costa will have been time well spent working on his stance that sometimes closed him off from the right arm over the wicket bowler.

Equally, the time spent on English wickets with Worcester last northern summer will have given him the chance to work on his mental skills as a way to make his method more reliable in the heat of the battle.

The trick for Phillip from here is to discipline himself to understand what is possible on any given day depending on the conditions and the state of the game.

That doesn’t mean that he stops looking for the scoring opportunities.

It just means that he has to be able to get better at working out which ones he has to let go, or stop, in certain conditions and situations.

It appears that Phillip will bat number three in this team.

That is likely to slow his scoring down as it is possible that he will come in with the field spread wider than it might have been had he opened.

This will also force him to be more selective and to have to work harder than if he was to open the innings for the boundaries might be harder to come by.

So far, Phillip has shown a greater ability to score runs on the off-side than the leg. Bowlers and opposition captains will be aware of this and will try to restrict his off-side scoring opportunities by bowling straighter to him.

This is where the work he did with Neil Da Costa will stand him in good stead as it will allow him to ease the pressure by being able to score runs on the leg-side.

If he can keep the strike turning over early in his innings, it is more likely that bowlers will be forced to attack his off-stump more, which should open up the boundary opportunities on the off-side.

If he can make this happen, I believe he can become one of the stalwarts of the next great Australian team.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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