The Ashes are gone for England, and while there are still two Tests to come, the recriminations, the dissections will have begun in the halls of the ECB.

Selections, individual performances, behaviour, captaincy, coaching will all be part of the review.

We could spend this whole post on exploring all the numbers that lead to getting a result, or not in England’s case, on all the significant themes such as top order batting, top order partnerships, late order partnerships, scoring shots, bowling strike rates, opening bowling combinations, spin bowling, etc – Australia has England well and truly covered on almost every statistic.

One statistic that is not measured, or at least not quantitatively measured is leadership. In particular, leadership demonstrated by the captain.

Leadership can be discussed in terms of values such as integrity, discipline, taking the road less travelled and hard work.

Leadership can also be discussed by the translation of these values into daily actions and behaviours which show the team what are the standards that are expected of everyone.

In a contest such as the Ashes, there are few more inspiring acts for the team than the captain leading from the front. And conversely from the opposition dressing room, there is nothing more demoralising for the opposing captain to be ‘out-led’.

Steve Smith through his dominance on the field has inspired his teammates. He has given them the confidence that they can achieve something special in this Ashes series.

Joe Root on the other hand has demanded a ruthlessness approach from his batsmen and bowlers – yet, he has not delivered himself.

He has wanted his team to not just play well in periods of the game, but throughout the game – yet, he has not delivered himself.

Captaincy and leadership is hard to define and therefore hard to measure.

However, if we suggest that one aspect of being a good leader and captain of a cricket team is being able to ‘lead from the front’ or ‘lead by example’, then Krishna Tunga has looked at recent captains of England and Australia, and what the averages show once they were appointed captain, compared with when they were a player.

The table below shows averages and includes centuries as well –

 

England’s Captaincy(Bat Avg and centuries)
Captains Tests-Won Success rate All Tests as captain Won Lost
MP Vaughan 51-26 50.98% 36.02 (9) 38.19(4) 23.81(1)
A Flintoff(Bat) 11-2 18.18% 33.23(0) 37.66(0) 28.92(0)
A Flintoff(Bowl) 34.44 (bowl) (0) 20.00(0) (bowl) 35.68(0) (bowl)
AJ Strauss 50-24 48.00% 40.76(9) 51.14(4) 18.63(0)
AN Cook 59-24 40.68% 46.57(12) 57.63(7) 38.00(2)
JE Root 10-5 50.00% 50.27(2) 64.00(2) 39.30(0)
Australia’s Captaincy (Bat Avg and centuries)
Captains Tests-Won Success rate All Tests as captain Won Lost
SR Waugh 57-41 71.93 % 52.30(15) 55.34(11) 55.06(4)
RT Ponting 77-48 62.34% 51.51(15) 59.12(14) 29.06(1)
MJ Clarke 47-24 51.06% 51.92(14) 61.05(8) 26.21(2)
SPD Smith 29-16 55.17% 74.00(14) 87.68(8) 37.93(2)

 

 

As a Player
England Before Captaincy Post Captaincy As a player Total Career
MP Vaughan 50.98(9) None 50.98(9) 41.44(18)
A Flintoff(Bat) 32.36(5) 27.28(0) 31.66(5) 31.89(5)
A Flintoff(Bowl) 31.51(bowl) 38.00(bowl) 31.51(bowl) 32.78(bowl)(3)
AJ Strauss* 42.37(10)          42.63(2) 41.04(12) 40.91(21)
AN Cook* 42.65(10 ) 53.71(18) & 34.47(1) 44.88(19) 45.57(31)
JE Root 52.80(11) Not yet 52.80(11) 52.37(13)
·      Both Strauss and Cook had 2 different period of captaincy
As a Player
Australia Before Captaincy Post captaincy As a player Total Career
SR Waugh 50.44(17) None 50.44(17) 51.06(32)
RT Ponting 55.97 (20) 38.00(2) 52.18(22) 51.85(41)
MJ Clarke 46.97(14) None 46.97(14) 49.10(28)
SPD Smith 51.83(8) Not yet 51.83(8) 62.32(22)

 

Points to note are –

  • All Australian captains apart from Ricky Ponting increased their career batting average during their time as captain
  • Steve Smith at the time of writing has significantly increased his career average during his captaincy
  • For English captains, their career averages were reduced due to their batting average whilst captain, apart from Alastair Cook and Joe Root
  • Joe Root’s current average this series is 176 runs @ 29.33 with 2 x 50’s

For England to improve their team performances through the final two Tests, Joe Root needs to score at least one century in the 1st innings of a Test, preferably both, and have a batting average at or beyond his career average of 52!

Lead by example Joe!

 

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The specific vagaries of night pink ball cricket made the 2nd Ashes Test in Adelaide an absorbing contest for a period of the game.

It was symptomatic of England’s 1st Test loss as well – a few good periods amongst many others which consigned them to running second in each match:

  • The tour has some similarities to our Ashes loss to England in 2005: – Each team had its strengths and vulnerabilities.
  • Like this England team, we had a young captain in Ricky Ponting, touring England as captain of his first Ashes campaign.
  • We had had a low-key build-up to the 1st Test at Lords, and certainly not dominating the lead-in games and tournaments as would have been expected of a team that could assert itself through the series.
  • And we had some off-field and internal problems that festered throughout the tour. Unseen in most cases, but nonetheless, fractious and debilitating for the group as we were being stress tested every day as the tour marched along.

One of the main differences was that all we could see was RED.

England in the 2017-18 Ashes are not only seeing RED, but also have been required to see PINK too.

Now we can argue that both sides have had to make those adjustments and Australia did it better. I am not about to get into that debate.

Apart from saying that I could not see what all the Hoo-Ha was about concerning Steve Smith’s declaration, although it does point directly at the root (no pun intended here) of this article.

Steve Smith chose to give his 3 pronged fast bowling attack a rest after what they had been through in Brisbane, as well as an eye to the remainder of the series. He then backed his batsmen to bat England out of the game.

The fact that England played very well in that night session and then for the majority of the next day is not something that should not happen – England are allowed to play well!!

But back to the root of the article.

Pink ball Test cricket is the new format of the game. It is the 4th format behind red ball Test cricket and white ball ODI’s and T20.

The old game now has 2 forms of long cricket and 2 forms of short form cricket. Whether administrators can manage these forms properly and get the balance right is a wait and see proposition.

But importantly what cricket administrators, players, coaches, umpires and media must recognise is that the day/night pink ball format is different to the red ball game – do not mix them, or risk throwing history, traditions, statistics of Test cricket away, being more and more at the mercy of commercial.

The pink ball Test has a place as Adelaide has demonstrated, but it is not for every country, not for every Test series, and not for a whole Test series.

Other countries have experimented with dubious success. England’s one off Test was a disaster due to bleak and cold weather, inducing bowler friendly conditions. Anderson and Broad would have been huge supporters though…

 

Back to everyone clamouring about Smith’s decision to bat in night conditions. The reason for the outcry was that conditions at night, especially when starting an innings, are completely different to daytime.

Yes conditions change over 5 days of a red ball Test match which makes for the beauty of the game.

But there is little predictability of what these conditions will be from day 1 to day 5.

In pink ball Test cricket, it is predictable that each night, the conditions will be different to the day, no matter what the day. With predictability comes significant influence over decision-making and how a game unfolds – especially as it seems, what you want to be doing during night time.

The whole biorhythms of the players, coaches, umpires have to quickly adapt and change from starting play at 10.30am as opposed to 2.30pm. It is like playing with a bad case of jetlag.

So beyond some of the obvious, do the numbers support the case for the pink ball Test match being seen as totally separate from the traditional red ball Tests?

In his recent very interesting post, Indian cricket analyst, Krishna Tunga examines the pink ball game verses the red ball game a little more closely http://allthatcricket.com/498-ashes-2017/, looking at Adelaide since 2010 when playing red ball Tests verses the 3 day/night pink ball Tests.

 

The many facts he produces clearly demonstrate that the pink ball game is a different game to the red ball Test match:

  • There have been 4 innings under 250 runs in the 3 pink ball Tests compared with only 2 innings in 5 Tests under red ball conditions
  • The overall Australian batting average has been 23.3 in pink ball games compared with 35.8 in the traditional Tests
  • The average number of balls faced by batsmen before a wicket is lost stands at 45.8 for pink ball matches, while for the red ball, the average is 71.5

 

If we look at current Australian players batting and bowling data, it adds further weight to the significant difference between the two formats of long game cricket:

Name Pink ball average Red ball average
Batting
Warner 24.9 64.4
Smith 50.6 72.8
Khawaja 49.3 58.7
S Marsh 65.3 36.4
Bowling
Starc 20.8 30.9
Hazlewood 23.4 27.2
Lyons 29.2 34.2
Cummins 28.7 26.3

 

The purpose of this post is not to argue one format over the other.

leadership coaching peak performanceWhat this post seeks to achieve is that cricket now has a 4th form of the game – pink ball Test cricket.

It will not be played regularly due to a host of climatic, geographical, financial and scheduling issues.

But when it is, do not try to compare it with Red Ball cricket – because red and pink are different, and should not be mixed.

 

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Conventions in our working lives, our social interactions, family structures, political and religious norms are constantly under challenge and change.

One of these conventions is to do with age, which says that number of years on this earth correlates to knowledge, experience and sometimes, but not always, wisdom.

 

So the older we are, the more likely we will have greater knowledge, experience and wisdom than a younger person.

Convention also seems to dictate that at a certain age relative to each industry and sector, generally around what is considered to be the ‘retirement age’, this knowledge, experience and wisdom is no longer useful as it has passed its ‘use-by’ date.

 

Of course we have met, worked, played sport with people who were young but seemed to have that ‘old head on young shoulders’. As well as, there were older persons who still thought they were “Peter Pan” or “Tinkerbell”, and had never grown up.

But as a consequence, there can never be a fixed rule or unwritten policy that skews favour on age alone.

 

That is why I was interested in the comments of Steve Smith recently regarding a selection decision of Ed Cowan verses Daniel Hughes. If selection was based on results only, one would have little doubt that Ed Cowan’s numbers were superior. If selection was based on experience to perform at the level of the competition, Ed Cowan’s name would still be in front. If the selection was based on CQ, cultural quotient or ‘fit’ within the group, I cannot offer comment – but at the same time, those involved in selection have not either. So one can assume this is not the reason for Daniel Hughes’ selection.

 

The article suggested ‘potential’ was the reason for Daniel being elevated into the starting XI. While every player has ‘potential’, as very few, if any, have reached their ‘potential’, the younger the player the more ‘potential’ they are perceived to have.

So the conclusion that most people would reach is that age was the determinant of this selection.

 

I have seen this worrying trend in cricket and many sports in Australia over the past decade or more. It cannot be written into policy, as this would possibly lead to a legal challenge based on discrimination.

 

However there is plenty of evidence that clearly demonstrates younger players receive preference to older such as –

  • Those who make up academies;
  • Representative teams composition is biased to younger players;
  • Younger aged teams placed into higher level competitions;
  • Club competition structures and schedules work against older players remaining in the game, or playing at the level they should.

 

Why is this an issue? – Surely we want to give our younger athletes more exposure to higher-level competition to constantly test their skills and ‘potential’? And at the same time, there needs to be succession planning for the future.

 

The answer is yes – we do want to test them at higher levels, provided they get the learning experiences that will improve their current knowledge, experience and possibly wisdom or maturity, and give them the opportunity to take over from incumbents when the time is right.

 

But how are these young athletes exposed to in-game coaching and learning, if they are only playing with and against players of their own age?

My experience as a player and a coach over 40 years showed me that the best development of young players was when they are surrounded by older players – either those with whom they were playing, or those that they were playing against. Country and regional athletes and cricketers are good examples of development as they play their sport in and amongst adults for much of their younger years.

 

Australian batting for instance has forsaken the experience of Bailey, Klinger, Voges, Ferguson, White, Cowan, Henriques to name a few of recent times, in the hunt for ‘potential’ young cricketers.

 

Age should not be the barrier to playing cricket or being selected in competitions.

Simply because you are older does not mean you can no longer perform. And conversely, just because you are younger with ‘potential’, does not mean you will be successful.

 

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I was amused and dismayed by the reported story from Steve Smith’s  book launch on the process of his appointment as captain following injury to Michael Clark.

It was reported that a conversation between Board member Mark Taylor, and vice-captain Brad Haddin at a bar post Adelaide Test match was where a decision was made.

 

According to the report, Mark Taylor told them both that he would make a few calls to the Board and get matters cleared. The following morning Chairman of selectors, Rod Marsh, called to say the elevation of Steve Smith to the captaincy had been approved.

Admittedly there was only some 4 days to the next Test in Brisbane, and the position of captain of Australia needs Board sanctioning – but if what is reported to occur, did happen, Mark Taylor’s intervention highlights the need for a selection panel to be a relic of the past.

I have suggested on many occasions that I believe selectors are no longer a requirement in Australian cricket.

 

For cricket to change as David Peever was outlining with respect to the ACA-CA contract negotiations dispute, then processes and systems must change.

When selectors were first ‘invented’, there were no coaches, no talent identification systems, no technologies that allow for capturing of all data and vision of all players, no support systems such as Academies, sports science staff and so on.

Professional sport has moved on.

 

Professional sport, in most codes, places the Head coach or Manager as the person responsible and accountable for team results.

If there are selectors, they perform more scouting roles, and report directly or indirectly to the Head Coach.

 

These Head coach positions rely very heavily on the input of the coaching staff in their system to make the best calls on players. There are few better examples than the ALL BLACKS system where all coaches are employed by the national body and work closely together to ensure the best management of athletes, as well as putting the best possible teams on the park.

With the NZRU, this approach flows down through second tier provincial competitions, to clubs and schools.

 

If Cricket Australia seeks to return to world cricket dominance again, then in a number of key areas, it cannot expect to keep doing the same things and get different results.

The current archaic selection system, utilising a band of selectors is one of those key areas.

 

Respecting tradition, paying homage to the past is important to the culture and performance of any organisation.

But clinging to relics only anchors the business or the organisation in the past, and does not allow it to move into the future with direction and confidence.

 

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What has become very evident in the first 3 ODI’s of the Women’s Ashes series is that there are very skilful athletes on show who are executing simple but well thought through plans.

 

Powerful batting is normally not associated with women’s cricket, but even despite the loss of Meg Lanning, there is a healthy dash of boundary finding as well from both teams.

 

However, there will always be a different power game in women’s cricket due to the ball being smaller and therefore lighter; the bat speed that women can generate will be less; and the pace that the quicker bowlers can deliver limits the pace off the bat.

 

Nonetheless, all teams adjust to this lack of power and pace with other skills and tactics.

 

The use of spin or slower bowling forces batters to hit the ball if they want to pierce the field.

Consequently, teams have worked assiduously on their fielding athleticism to back up the bowling strategy.

 

Wicketkeepers are more likely to spend little time back from the stumps, preferring to be hovering over the stumps, no matter who is bowling. This keeping skill is reminiscent of male keepers from the 30’s through to 70’s who might make as many stumpings in an innings as take catches.

 

Allthatcricket have examined what the current stats (see tables below) are telling us about the series and the tactics. Unfortunately, the women’s series is not being covered very comprehensively from a broadcast and a statistical viewpoint, but we can draw some conclusions from the first 2 ODI games –

  • When batting the highest scoring shot rate (i.e. number of balls scored from compared to the total number of balls bowled) shows England and Australia similar on this indicator at 48.1% and 46.9% respectively
  • When batting and looking at the ‘dash of power’ where one team finds more boundaries? Australia have set the benchmark so far with 50 x 4’s and 9 x 6’s compared with England 31 x 4’s and 3 x 6’s with 6 times consecutive boundaries, twice as many as England
  • For the bowling teams we are seeking the reverse of these numbers, and Australia has been striking regularly taking a wicket at after 29.2 balls while England have only been striking every 42.6 balls. England were averaging 40.2 in the recent Women’s World Cup!
  • Australia’s dominance in the first 2 ODI games from the bowling crease is evidenced through –
    • Taking 18 wickets – verses 12 by England
    • Bowling 28 times, where consecutive overs were 4 runs or under – verses England 20
    • Bowling 53 overs of 4 or less runs in the 2 games – verses England 46
    • Delivering 30 overs that had 6 or more taken from them of which there were 6 that went for 10 or more – verses England 38 and 14
  • An interesting insight to the tactics of the first 2 ODI’s is that Australia spinners have bowled 54.33% of the total overs while England have used their spinners for 28.5%
  • Unfortunately, it is not possible to view fielding data (as we cannot see dropped catches, misfields, saved boundaries, etc.), to highlight the athleticism in the field from both teams. A gauge at the end of the series may be the number of runouts per innings achieved by both teams.

 

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Indian cricket analyst Krishna Tunga, http://allthatcricket.com/ looks at the numbers and believes Australia has lost its way in ODI cricket.

Here are his reasons based on the numbers:

Since winning the World Cup 2015, Australia have lacked any consistency. He points to a slightly better than 50% winning record 50 ODIs 25 wins.

What are some of the reasons behind these results which are lower than the previous periods –

  • post WC2011 to WC 2015 – ODI  wins (59.78%)
  • post WC 2007 to WC 2011 – ODI wins (63.55%)
  • post WC 2003 to WC 2007 – ODI  wins (72.80%)
  • post WC 1999 to WC 2003 – ODI  wins (69.72%)
  1. Player turnover:

Selectors have been relentless in turning over players – some churn can be helpful, but too much can destabilise a team

  • 35 players represented Australia since 2015
  • 15 debuted which is second only to lowly ranked Sri Lanka(21)
  • the playing XI hardly remained same .with the number. of injured and rested players, far less than dropped players.
  1. Batting weakness:
  • Higher % of batters dismissed inside 3 overs compared with any other period of ODI cricket – 26.40%
  1. Bowling weakness:
  • Under Steve Smith’s captaincy bowling has been the worst since WC 2015 compared with other Aussie captains and current ones of other nations
  • A couple of key indicators are, taking 25 games as min qualification for Australian captain since 1998 –

 

 

Recent ODI’s in India – some key performance indicators of results.

We will review these numbers and this tournament prior to the ODI series in Australia.

PEAK PERFORMANCE COACHING

 

Do the numbers lie?

Or is this trend changing for Australia?

Will such results have some bearing on the upcoming Ashes?

And how does the Australian women’s team compare, given their tussle for the Ashes series begins in October?

These are some of the questions that Krishna Tunga and I will answer over the coming months in our regular blog.

We look forward to your views and thoughts as the summer of cricket unfolds in Australia.

 

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