Test cricket preparation: Ashes encounter on the doorstep (or wherefore art thou, everybody?)

It’s now late October.

Luke Reynolds has kept me up-to-date on cricket better than anyone else since I happened by this knackers-yard. Yet, even so, I’ve been wondering just what in the wide world is happening in our Test match preparation…

In one month from now, we’ll have Day 1 of the 1st Test versus England.
Imagine for a moment that it’s your job to design the optimum lead-up and fixture for the summer. What sorts of things would you be looking to implement?
What would an AFL conditioning coach look for, from player welfare perspective?
A good lengthy period of strengthening and basic skills work through late August and September?
Several well-spaced and rigourous first class fixtures ahead of the First Test?
What would the AFL fixturing (milking) department exploit, from the building-excitement in a crowd perspective?
Six Test matches spaced over the summer to maximize the narrative of the series, to minimize the impact of injuries on the result and to build a sense of shared and building drama? Shield fixtures of prominence and usefulness in aiding higher selection? Provincial matches for the touring English, playing four-day games against invitational state XIs at regional centres? Perhaps themed Tests? Themed days within themed tests?
A few meaningless limited overs fixtures sprinkled around to keep the school holiday kids amused?

In the other reality, the one we’re all in, Day 1 at the ‘Gabba will be the first of (up to) 25 playing days, squeezed into 48 calendar days between 21 November and 7 January.
Then a forget-a-thon of limited-over/ T20 palava.

The Poms are presently heading off on a bonding camp in the Lake District. Possibly with binoculars.

But what have the Aussies been up to? It’s been difficult to understand which hemisphere everybody is in, let alone how form is shaping up.
It seems that the national Test squad is split in three camps:

  1. the limited-over types gallivanting around India
  2. the limited types, not good enough for the national limited over squad, bumbling around a suburb in Sydney called Ryobi.
  3. the rest.

What has our preparation* been like? Let’s look at each group, concentrating on the Ashes squad of last winter:

*preparation only in statistical terms. Not to be confused with mental application, failure to turn up at matches, or other behavioural anomalies**.

** anomalies only in some cases.

GROUP 1 (“The Glamourpusses”)
Shane Robert Watson
Most recent matches:
1/74 and 11 for Australia v India at Mohali, 19 October, international limited overs
59 and 0/47 for Australia v India at Jaipur, 16 October, international limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
176 and 26 for Australia v England at The Oval, 21 August

Bradley James Haddin
Most recent matches:
5c/0s, 24 for Australia v India at Mohali, 19 October, international limited overs
1*, 1c/0s for Australia v Inda at Jaipur, 16 October, international limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
30, 3c/0s, 0, 1c/0s for Australia v England at The Oval, 21 August

James Peter Faulkner
Most recent matches:
1/65, 64* for Australia v India at Mohali, 19 October, international limited overs
1/60 for Australia v India at Jaipur, 16 October, international limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
23, 4/51, 22, 2/47 for Australia v England at The Oval, 21 August

GROUP 2 (“The Bridesmaids”)
David Andrew Warner***
Most recent matches:
138 for NSW v Victoria at Sydney, domestic limited overs
139 for NSW v Queensland at Sydney, domestic limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
6 and 12 for Australia v England at The Oval, 21 August 2013

*** see ** above.

Steven Peter Devereux Smith****
Most recent matches:
0/13, 65* for NSW v Victoria at Sydney, 20 October 2013, domestic limited overs
4, 0/13 for NSW v Queensland at Sydney, 17 October 2013, domestic limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
138* and 7, 0/16 for Australia v England at The Oval, 21 August 2013

****bonus points for two middle names. Triple word score bonus points for such an outrageous and cracking third name

Peter Matthew Siddle
Most recent matches:
0, 1/48 for Victoria v NSW at Sydney, 20 October 2013, domestic limited overs
0, 0/49 for Victoria v Western Australia, 15 October 2013, domestic limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
23, 0/74, 0/16 v England at The Oval, 21 August 2013

Ryan James Harris
Most recent matches:
1/38 for Queensland v South Australia at Sydney, 19 October 2013, domestic limited overs
3, 3/61 for Queensland v Tasmania at Sydney, 15 October 2013, domestic limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
33, 2/64, 1, 2/21 for Australia v England at The Oval, 21 August 2013

Nathan Michael Lyon
Most recent matches:
0/71 for NSW v Victoria at Sydney, 20 October 2013, domestic limited overs
4*, 2/33 for NSW v Queensland at Sydney, 17 October 2013, domestic limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
0*, 1/59, 0/44 for Australia v England at The Oval, 21 August 2013

Usman Tariq Khawaja
Most recent matches:
31 for Queensland v South Australia at Sydney, 19 October 2013, domestic limited overs
63 for Queensland v NSW at Sydney, 17 October 2013, domestic limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
4 for Australians v English Lions at Northampton, 16 August 2013

Ashton Charles Agar
Recent matches:
10, 0/43 for Western Australia v NSW at Sydney, 13 October 2013, domestic limited overs
1/30, 2 for Western Australia v Queensland at Sydney, 11 October 2013, domestic limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
0/55 for Australians v English Lions at Northampton at Hove, 26 July 2013

GROUP 3 (“The Infirmary”)

Christopher John Llewellyn Rogers*****
Most recent matches:
8 and 65 for Middlesex v Yorkshire at Leeds, 17 September 2013
108 for Middlesex v Notts at Lord’s, 11 September 2013
55, 32 for Middlesex v Surrey at The Oval, 3 September 2013

***** see **** above.

Michael John Clarke
Most recent matches:
75 for Australia v England at Southampton, international limited overs
22 for Australia v England at Cardiff, international limited overs
Most recent First Class match:
7 and 28*, 0/4 v England at The Oval, 21 August 2013

Mitchell Aaron Starc
Most recent matches:
13, 3/92, 13*, 0/48 for Australia v England at The Oval, 21 August 2013
1/45 for Australians v English Lions at Northampton, 16 August 2013
66*, 3/76, 11, 0/6 for Australia v England at Manchester, 1 August 2013

Jackson Munro Bird
Most recent matches:
2/58, 0*, 0/67, 1* for Australia v England at Chester-le-Street, 9 August 2013
2/62 for Australia v Sussex at Hove, 26 July 2013
4/48, 0/53 for Australia v Worcestershire at Worcester, 2 July 2013

That’s no preparation for a gruelling run of Test matches. Players flung to all parts, playing tiddly-winks. With the exception of CJL Rogers, NO ONE has played a first class match since the 5th Test at The Oval, commencing 21 August. No one!

This makes the most important sporting occurrence in early November the commencement of the Sheffield Shield. (Notwithstanding the spectacle of horses being whipped and running around and around). Crammed in between 30 October and 16 November, Australia’s finest will have three Shield matches in which to hit top form. A maximum of six innings in which to shine and perhaps even snag a spot in the team for the First Test. Who will seize the day(s)?

Noteworthy on the calendar are that two of the matches will be played in Brisbane (Queensland hosting Tasmania and then NSW). And that the South Australians and Western Australians should get to know each other fairly well during this period.

All three factions of the Australian Test XI, however, will have to wait until the second (or perhaps third) round of matches to be reunited under one competitive banner. The 7th limited overs match against India is a Day/Nighter in Bangalore scheduled for Saturday 2nd November. No conflict of priorities visible from here.

30 October – 2 November
NSW v Tasmania
Victoria v Western Australia
South Australia v Queensland

6 – 9 November
Queensland v Tasmania
Victoria v NSW
Western Australia v South Australia

13 – 16 November
Queensland v NSW
Tasmania v Victoria
South Australia v Western Australia

And then it’s on: the Big Show. The 25 playing days in 48 calendar days show…
Australia v England  21-25 November, Brisbane
Australia v England  5-9 December, Adelaide
Australia v England  13-17 December, Perth
Australia v England  26-30 December, Melbourne
Australia v England  3-7 January, Sydney

Would Mick Malthouse be satisfied with this build up? Would the people of wider Jolimont be safe if Alistair Clarkson were in charge? What would A. Demetriou make of Cricket Australia?

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.

Comments

  1. I’m sure this is a wonderful article EiiR. If I cared enough about cricket to read it.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    What a terrible lead in to The Ashes, THE biggest and most important series in any form of cricket. The AFL preparation analogy is brilliant. Mick M wouldn’t be satisfied with this build up, but he is a hard man to please.

    “Six Test matches spread over the Summer to maximise the narrative of the series, to minimise the impact of injuries on the result and to build a sense of shared and building drama? Shield fixtures of prominence and usefulness in aiding higher selection”. Brilliantly put David, love it. Wish it would happen.

    Glad I don’t have a second middle name going on the efforts of SPD Smith and CJL Rogers’ parents choices.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Brilliantly put E Regnans , so angry that cricket has completely lost the plot and is only aim is the mighty $ . The influence of India , as that is where the majority of world cricket
    money comes from is a disgrace the incompetent administration of Aust , cricket is a embarrassment as you have put in your article re programming if the good of the game not the dollar came first that is exactly what it would have been .
    Great article , Thank you

  4. Not sure where Peter Matthew Siddle should fit in these categories, but his recent figures read more like being jilted, than being abridesmaid in waiting. Damn fine bowler, who has carried the attack the last few years. Looking forward to a big summer from him.

    Curious how Chrsitopher John Llewlyn Rogers is listed in the infirmary, but can’t see the broken down pace pairing of Pattinson, and Cummins.

    Glen!

  5. Amusing and damning in equal measure David. It is clear that Australian cricket is beyond help right now.

  6. Kath Presdee says

    Penrith Library has had a display of sporting memorabilia from three of the district’s young sports stars; Pat Cummins has the prime cabinet as you walk in the door. I was showing the display to Young Master 6 the other day, pointing out the 2011 Man of the Match on debut trophy etc and then I’m thinking, I don’t think he’s played more than one test (if that) since then.

    What the ??? are we doing to our young cricketers?

  7. Thanks all.
    PB – you seem to be at a pretty pass. I hope you find your way around it without incident.
    Luke – if you could make up a second middle name, what would you choose?
    Malcolm – good solid support from the middle order there.
    Glen – good call on CJL Rogers and the Infirmary. I placed him there due purely to (relatively!) old age. His preparation is probably the best of anyone’s. Pattinson and Cummins are on emergency beds in the corridors of the Infirmary. No room at the Inn.
    JD – perhaps PB isn’t the only one at a pretty pass.
    Kath – it’s an interesting question – how would you encourage a budding young cricketer? To what should they aspire? What has become of the well-worn path from Grade to Shield to Test teams? Not sure. The noise is swallowing the signal.

  8. Glen Potter says

    Brilliantly researched and written. I loved the suburb of Ryobi reference – hilarious.

    Furthermore, what’s killing our game at a local level, (and I see this first hand in our local comp) is the lack of free-to-air coverage of international cricket straight after the AFL season. The AFL saturate the media in-season and out. Ready exposure to popular sports draws earnest players – young and old – into the local fold, juniors and seniors. Our competition has been bleeding numbers in both areas for a decade. There’s a chasm between the AFL GF and the first test and this is where CA drops the ball; and where people lose interest.

  9. David,
    Well done on laying this all out in front of us.
    In my humble opinion, cricket’s biggest problem over the past few Australian summers has been FIXTURING !! But the decision to annoint the BBL as the centerpiece has only exacerbated the problem.
    However, despite all this, I believe Australia can be really competitive against the Poms.

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