Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/justin-langer/2013/7/24/lessons-of-yesteryear

Justin Langer

Lessons of yesteryear

24 July 2013 36

There are no easy answers to what happened at Lord’s in the second Test match.

Two weeks ago Darren Lehmann's appointment brought with it a renewed sense of hope and energy.

A week later the boys fell 14 runs short at Trent Bridge and cricket was on everyone's lips here in Australia.  Ashton Agar was the new messiah, Brad Haddin was back, Peter Siddle was at his spirited best and the two youngsters, Steve Smith and Phil Hughes, were saviours in the middle order. 

Although we lost the first Test, seemingly, we were going in the right direction.

They say a week is a long time in politics, and as I sit here at my keyboard, it would be fair to say the same theory applies to professional sport. 

All the good of last week seems to have been torn apart by our performance at Lord’s.

The headlines of today remind me of how England were described for most of my playing career.  So dominant were Australia in that time, that anything to do with English cricket was deemed pathetic, mediocre, soft, and a basket case.

Now it is our turn to cop the same flack. 

It is funny how things change.

If we can learn lessons from England of yesteryear, to Australia of today, it might be these. 

When England were struggling the common theme was that they chopped and changed their teams from game to game, series to series.  There never seemed much continuity in their selection process and it was a if players became selfish and scared for their positions in the team.  Because of this they played scared cricket and the results consistently told the story.

Incredibly talented players like Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash were dropped so many times that they were constantly looking over their shoulders and worrying about their position, rather than how many runs they could score and how many records they could break in Test cricket. 

Over the last period in Australian cricket it seems we are treading a similar path.  Although we got so close in the first Test we still made two changes to the team, before altering the batting line-up that affected nine of the players.

A very wise selector once told me that it is often best to hold your nerve when the team loses and make no changes, rather than panic and make a change.

While one train of thought might be that players just need to harden up and perform wherever they are placed in the batting order, or whoever is in the team; another is that continuity in your position, and the team mates you play alongside, is important individually and collectively. 

While I have no influence on selection I would like to see Australia's best player and captain Michael Clarke decide one way or another where he is going to bat.  His move up and down the order is a little indicative of where the entire team is at the moment.

My personal view is that the batting order in the first Test was a very good one.  Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Ed Cowan and Michael Clarke are the most experienced players in the team and I liked seeing them at the top of the order, allowing youngsters Steve Smith and Phil Hughes to bat between the captain and the vice-captain at seven.

Michael Clarke moving back to number 5, and the dropping of Ed Cowan, meant the inexperienced, but talented Usman Khawaja had to bat in the pivotal number three position, while Phil Hughes dropped from six to four and Steve Smith from five to six.

On the surface these moves might seem inconsequential, but I am not sure about that.

There is no doubt the skipper has earned the right to choose where he wants to bat, but I would like to see him settle in one position.  For the good of himself and the team this is an important part of putting the puzzle back together.

In the great Australian sides of the past I have always believed that the camaraderie within the group was like the glue that kept things together, particularly when the team was under pressure. This camaraderie was based on respect rather than out and out friendship. 

While some of my past team mates will be lifelong friends, even best mates, there isn't one that I wouldn't call a mate based on the experiences we went through together on and off the cricket field. 

This respect based camaraderie was a fundamental ingredient to our winning ways and I am certain Darren Lehmann will weave his magic in this area.  If he can't, then I have no doubt some of the players who can't make this work will soon be back in their State caps fighting to regain that lost respect. 

A warning to those players though; it is very difficult to win back respect and trust if you have let it slip in the past.  If I was one of the current squad members I would be working on earning and retaining respect in my every move, because it is a lot harder regaining that trust from outside the group than it is while you have the privilege of being within the inner sanctum. 

England teams of the past were talked of as individualistic and cliquey, and therefore, when they needed to band together, they usually fell apart under pressure.  Sadly, a similar perception exists within this current group of players. 

Australians are great at pulling together when things go wrong and it is in times of crisis that opportunities to earn respect present themselves. 

It is going to take thoughtful strategy and leadership to turn things around but lessons of the past and strong direction for the future should prove that it doesn't rain forever. It never does.

From Perth


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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