Lack Of New World Class Cricketing Talent Is Worrisome
By Richard Browne
The current series is another opportunity for the flowering batting talents of the sub continent to stand up and be counted. Amidst the almost continuous swirl of cricket these days, the fact that no international batsmen has stamped themselves as world class since the arrival of Trott on the English scene in 2009 is a cause of concern and a perplexing conundrum.
The second half of the last decade saw heavyweight batsmen emerge and quickly stamp there calling card down, with big hundreds and successive big scoring series. Gambhir of India, Clarke and Hussey of Australia, de Villiers and Amla for South Africa, Bell, Cook and Petersen for England, all quickly established themselves and now make up the engine room of the international cricketing calendar.
The next batch the 2007 school leavers say simply haven’t converted potential into consistency, and consistency in to the kind of dominance that worries the opposition. Australia for so long seemed to have a procession line of batsmen who dominated first class cricket around the world but could not make the national side. Hussey himself had to wait an eternity to get his baggy green and content himself with near Bradmanesque feats of run scoring in domestic cricket. Maybe here lies some part of the answer.
Except for North, the recent batch of Aussie batting youngsters who have not done the business, Hughes, Marsh and Khawaja all spring to mind, all now floundering after initially impressive starts in the international game. Maybe with the increase of international cricket and the never ending opportunity Twenty/20 offers, domestic cricket is simply not strong enough to provide a breeding ground for the intensity of cricket at the highest level. The only Australian batsmen to really break through in the last four years has been Warner and he is something of a one off, a mercurial talent who combines the god given talents of perfect had eye coordination with natural timing and a black smith’s strength in the forearms. He has played very little first class cricket, making his name in the shorter formats. A bit of a freak really. For so long the envy of the world the Sheffield Shield is now simply not producing world class batsmen. They have the pitches and the facilities and back up and the coaches, it looks like they have lost the hunger though. Is to much money being filtered to quickly to those who have not really learnt their trade and hence have not earned the right to earn what the likes of Hussey does, after two decades of ceaseless hard work?
Of course the young guns work hard on their game; such is the modern game that they spend more time in the nets than any generation that preceded them. What they may be lacking a smidgen of is that real hunger of yesteryear in Aussie cricket where pay was minimal and lack of performance meant no selection and nothing in the bank from cricket and thus another job in the real world. It would be a draconian gesture to suggest that aspiring young cricketers should work down the coal pit when not at practice, but the point is they appear to have lost the real doggedness of the Border’s, Waughs and Taylors of this world and the mollycoddled set up of pampering exceptionally talented teenagers, within a purely cricketing framework is producing mentally weaker players. It appears to be a global problem. There is a huge chasm in Sri Lanka between young talent and producing international cricketers. Sri Lanka has never been blessed with the domestic structure of Australia, but in her short international history has always found ways round this. The trend just about continues, but surely in a country where so much emphasis is based on education the university cricket network needs to be looked at. No player has come through the system since Sanga and this is creating a vacuum.
In England both the university and first class scene is thriving, but this alongside tight and astute administration is driven by huge TV deals, an option not open to Sri Lanka. Giving top class Sri Lankan cricketers the chance to really thrive on the oval at university while still getting a degree of sorts, must be made a priority in Sri Lankan cricket. Too much talent is floundering in its late teens, lost to social cricket or the drudge of office life. University is about far more than a degree and a cricket mad country should be able to see this. There are two batsmen in the Galle Test, Mathews and Azhar Ali who have done the ground work and now should be taking the next step. Two more in Chandimal and Umar Akmal are on the bench. All are capable of becoming the next Mahela or Younus Khan, but none has given that emphatic statement yet that are ready. Big runs, consistent big runs, then more of the same is what is called for.