Ricky Ponting

Batting legends call for intent

Australian cricket’s batting royalty gathered in Sydney on Thursday to hash out ways to improve the countries recent batting troubles.

National selector Rod Marsh facilitated the three-hour forum at Allianz Stadium, governing the discussion that ranged from grass roots cricket right the way through to Test level.

The group included batting greats Ricky Ponting, Greg Chappell, Ian Chappell, Dean Jones, and Justin Langer, along with the six state coaches and new High Performance batting coach Graeme Hick.

Australia men’s coach Darren Lehmann spoke first, outlining his basic principles on batting, saying, "I don't profess to know everything about batting.”

“These guys have played a lot more Test cricket than I have so why wouldn't we ask about where we’re going?" 

Centre of Excellence senior manager Belinda Clark presented the numbers on Australia’s batting over the past 30-40 years.

It was no surprise to anyone that Australia has come back to the pack after its dominance in the 2000s.  

Australia’s top-six hundred conversation rate has dropped by almost half this decade compared to last, averaging a Test ton every two matches as opposed to one a game.

The significance of first innings centurions is stark, as the chance of success greatly improves with each player who reaches triple figures. 

Since 1970 one hundred in the top-six dramatically improves the chances of victory, with Australia winning 54% compared to just 34% when no one raises the bat.

When Australia scores three hundreds in the first innings of a Test its never lost, winning 64% matches played.

The lack of century makers wasn’t missed by the forum, highlighting the need to bat for long periods early on in a batsman’s development.

The belief is that juniors are taught to attack first and defend later, limiting the need to block in the shorter formats of the game.

Positive intent, in both offence and defence, would be one way to ensure young batters are making the right decisions and with the right mindset.

At a higher level, the idea of a mentor program was well received amongst the group.

A former Test or state cricketer would accompany each state squad to every Bupa Sheffield Shield match throughout the season, offering their experience and the chance to talk cricket with Australia’s new guard.

The Sheffield Shield scoring system and quality of pitches were also discussed as to whether they are a factor in how teams play four-day cricket.

The County Championship in England employs a bonus point system, rewarding teams for surpassing specific batting milestones and bowling teams out.

A similar system was used in Australia throughout the ‘70s and also currently in South Africa.

Six points are awarded for an outright win the Sheffield Shield, and two points for a first-innings lead.

Changes to the system were suggested, including more points for an outright win to encourage attacking cricket, but for the time being the current scoring rate will remain.

The disappearing disparity in state wickets also concerned the group, with wickets around the country losing their traditional characteristics.

This matter has been addressed in recent times by Cricket Australia, despite the trend of slow, low wickets gripping the world stage.

But it was one simple rule that was emphasised throughout the afternoon, a fundamental learned from the first day a child first picks up a cricket bat: watch the ball.

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