Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Chappell proposes radical overhaul of Aussie summer
Rejigged Sheffield Shield schedule, beefed-up Australia A program and draft system among ex-Test captain's proposals to help Australia catch up to India and England
12 May 2021, 05:12 PM AEST
Greg Chappell has proposed a radical overhaul of the Australian men's domestic cricket program, warning the country faces slipping further behind both India and England unless major structural changes are considered.
Chappell, the former Test captain who retired as Cricket Australia's national talent manager in 2019, wants the Sheffield Shield to start as early as August or September each year to fit in a full 10-match season before the KFC BBL gets underway.
The post-BBL period would then be reserved for a beefed-up Australia A schedule to provide another, perhaps even stronger, level of first-class cricket beyond the Sheffield Shield.
The Marsh One-Day Cup could be played in February-March or between Shield matches before Christmas.
Chappell also believes an Australian Football League-style draft system, as well the introduction of another team or two, could stop more populous states from "warehousing" the best young talent.
"Historically we've been one of the best at developing young players and keeping them in the system, but I think that's changed in the last couple of years," the 72-year-old told cricket.com.au ahead of the Chappell Foundation's fourth annual dinner in Sydney on Wednesday.
"I'm seeing a bunch of young players with great potential who are in limbo.
"That's unacceptable. We cannot afford to lose one player.
"India have got their act together and that's largely because (India's academy chief and former Test captain) Rahul Dravid has picked our brains, seen what we're doing and replicated it in India and with their much larger (population) base.
"I think we've already lost our position as the best at identifying talent and bringing it though. I think England are doing it better than us now and India are doing it better than us."
Chappell believes that if Australia's cricket system was being designed from scratch today, it would not resemble its current form.
He recognises the BBL is essentially the crown jewel of the men’s domestic calendar and understands it must occupy the prime spot at the height of summer in December and January, though he laments that India are able to hold their equivalent T20 league, the IPL, after their domestic season concludes.
His solution is for Shield to begin around August-September in the Northern Territory or Queensland, where the climates are conducive to pitch preparation at that time of year, before climaxing in November-December, with games to be held at the major Test venues once they become available following the end of the AFL season.
He believes the focus on first-class cricket will be particularly beneficial for emerging batters, a group of players Chappell worries is having its development stunted by the current schedule.
"We've got full-time cricketers, so why do we have to be constrained by the regular timing of our cricket season?" he said. "We've got access to these guys for basically 10 months of the year.
"One of the things I believe would make a big difference would be trying to play a full block of Sheffield Shield cricket so that guys get a run at red-ball cricket.
"Playing five Shield games and then 50-over cricket and then BBL and then finishing the end of the Shield season just breaks up that opportunity to develop long-form batting, which is a good foundation for the other formats anyway.
"It's harder for a young batsman to develop the basics of long form cricket than ever before.
"We've got to accept we're not going to be on traditional Test grounds for the whole season, but we're not doing that anyway in the back-end of the season.
"The back-half of the season I would use for Australia A games. I'd have an Australian Under-23 team either touring or having other teams visiting Australia, just to get another level and a higher standard between Shield cricket and Test cricket."
Chappell believes Australia’s Test series defeat last summer, their second in three home seasons despite India suffering an enormous injury toll on their most recent visit, highlighted the world No.1 Test side's superior player development system.
Many suggested the experience of playing against the world's best in the Indian Premier League had helped a startlingly inexperienced visiting team beat Australia in the Gabba series decider in January, but Chappell insisted there were other factors.
India's emerging crop has benefited greatly, he believes, from an enhanced amount of competitive 'A' series in recent years.
Since Australia last beat India in a Test series in 2014-15, India A have played 32 first-class matches as part of dedicated 'A' series, close to three times as many as Australia A (12 matches).
The fact paceman Mohammad Siraj, who has taken 70 wickets at 21.88 in 16 first-class games for India A in South Africa, England, New Zealand, the Caribbean as well as at home, and batter Shubman Gill, who has 870 runs at 88.18 including two unbeaten double-centuries (both abroad) for India A, had extensive international experience before their Test debuts in Australia last summer meant their immediately strong showings should have come as no surprise.
Australia's recent debutants Will Pucovski and Cameron Green on the other hand have had limited experience playing abroad; Pucovski has been on one Under-19 tour and one Australia A tour, both to the UK, while Green has featured only in a handful of matches in India while on tour with Australia's National Performance Squad in 2018.
While the 27-year-old Siraj has had the benefit of time to develop his skills compared to the 23-year-old Pucovski and the 21-year-old Green, the two Australian youngsters are both older than Gill (21).
"When you look at the Indian team that played in the Brisbane Test that had three or four fresh players, and everyone said, 'This is India's second XI' – those guys had played (extensively) for India A," said Chappell.
"And in all sorts of different conditions, not just in India. So when they get picked, they're not tyros at all, they're quite hardened international cricketers.
"We picked Will Pucovski out of Shield cricket. Will has hardly had a game outside Australia. That's the difference."
Green and Pucovski are the cream of the crop in terms of Australia's young Test-ready talent, but Chappell is concerned younger players yet to reach that same level are not being adequately served by the state system.
He pointed to players like Josh Philippe, Jason Sangha and Jack Edwards not being able to get a game for their Shield teams at times in recent years.
He nominated a draft system as one way of ensuring young players, the majority of whom Chappell says are coming from the most populous states, are getting regular games.
"We can't afford for the bigger states to warehouse kids just because they might need them at some stage. I think that's dangerous," said Chappell.
"If we were designing a structure from scratch now, we wouldn't design it the way we have got it. I think New South Wales could possibly have a second team.
"We need to disperse the talent a little bit more evenly, rather than having good talent sitting on the sidelines in Victoria and New South Wales when they could be playing really well."