Friday 29 October 2010

University of life, school of hard knocks...

Growing up at the remove of a hemisphere, Australian grade cricket was a semi-mythical thing, the Yorkshire and Lancashire Leagues of the 1950s and '60s updated and transplanted Down Under. The myth grew as the Border-Taylor-Waugh juggernaut fired up and tales filtered down of Test players bred there playing a couple of Shield games and then wearing the Baggy Green.

They'd go back to their club sides on odd weekends and sometimes get worked over. One innings every two weeks produced the kind of flint-eyed determination and jaw-dropping balls that could repel Curtly Ambrose mid-wicket at Port Of Spain, could have you hallucinating at the crease in Madras rather than get out. English players would go down there and get chewed up, dropped to the seconds - too callow, too soft for grade cricket in their first season.

It was singular in its ferocity, a finishing school that money could neither replicate nor buy, populated by the kind of teams who would rout soft-ass county second XIs, filled with men who could nurture greatness by offering it no quarter. How England envied it, discussed it, wanted to replicate it.

Now it is changing, as Peter Roebuck writes in an insightful piece. There is a danger for Australia that they will go the English way, producing a generation of talented but cossetted players whose ability can be subjugated by sheer hardness. County cricket, especially in Div One, is tough now, with few meaningless matches, less dreamy, drifting summer days. England have got harder. Australia are, if not getting softer, in danger of losing something that has made their cricket unique and uniquely Australian.


Barry said...

Some very good points made about younger players being pushed early into the system which resulted in drop in standards. In CC too isn't it right to say that kolpaks should have been allowed to play? I see that Daren Stevens picked up wickets last season which doesn't look good. Anyway I have seen a few knowledgeable Australian cricket fans say that the Australian system being tough is a bit of myth.

Gordon who I believe knows a thing or two about Aus cricket,

"IMO the myth about the great Aus system was always a cunning bit of propaganda picked up an given wider exposure by the English media to highlight problems within the English game. Nearly all of the greats in S Waugh's team (including Waugh himself) struggled in their first initial outings in international cricket. There had to be a fair amount of learning on the job so to speak because the step up to the higher level is quite a big one from whichever FC cricketing structure you emerge from.

The more important thing (that Aus cricket got so right IMO for about 25 years - and is now failing badly at) is the management of young players coming into the team. I feel very strongly that the "issues" we might see with the games of Hughes, Smith and the like will not necessarily handicap them to the point that they cannot become great players of the future. To me these issues are not much different to nearly every player I have seen debut for Aus in the past 28 years. Its just a case of whether they are handled appropriately in the immediate years to come"

He has talked about OZ cricket in general but makes some interesting points.

Patricia said...

Trial run

Tony said...

Paul Collingwood played a season for Richmond in Victorian district cricket, and in fact won the award for the best player in (I think) 2000/01. It's not uncommon for Aussie cricket people to say "Well, of course he is tough; he is one of ours."

Ironically, Richmond's arch rival is Collingwood.

The Old Batsman said...

Greyblazer, yup you couldn't move for Kolpaks for a while - Northants were essentially some sort of South Africa B-team, but the era is drawing to a close with new regs.

But county cricket has always benefited hugely from the overseas players, not a culture that Oz have had, mainly because there's far less cricket of course.

I heard that colly had dome well in grade cricket - was that his first season of it? someone made the point somewhere that the English lads rarely did well in their first seasons, but now players like Sam Northeast are getting runs right away.

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