*All data supplied from allthatcricket.com

 

How does one judge Australia’s Test performance of 2017?

There are many ways in which to do this, but principally it is about team results and individual results.

This blog will address the INDIVIDUAL perspective.

I am also concerned with indicators of performance which are not simply due to the number of games or innings a player has played through the year, but I am more concerned with their respective contribution indicator (see red columns) as well as their effectiveness indicator (see blue columns).

 

I was also interested to look at international comparisons for Test cricket in 2017 –

  • batsmen who have scored over 1000 runs
  • bowlers who have taken over 50 wickets

Unfortunately after all the analysis that is undertaken by statisticians around the world, and the way broadcasters provide viewing of the game, FIELDING analysis cannot be provided with any accuracy or meaning.

From a global comparative batting perspective Virat Kohli just heads Steve Smith in terms of effectiveness, scoring on average a touch over 66 runs each time at bat, whereas Steve Smith is scoring about 1 run less per innings.

However, Steve Smith’s team contribution is significantly better than Kohli in that while Steve Smith is at the crease, he is involved in, on average 134 runs being scored. However, the master batsman on the world stage at the moment is Chet Pujara with a touch over 148 runs being scored while he is at the crease each innings.

From an Australian perspective, the numbers show that Australian top order batsmen, other than Steve Smith, are not scoring effectively and not providing strong contributions for the team.

There are a range of factors contributing to these outcomes:

  1. Lack of technical and mental adjustment to foreign conditions – solution, spend time there
  2. Insufficient time spent in these conditions, pre-tour and during tours – solution, adjust schedules to include extra games
  3. Lack of skill technique when facing a ball that deviates, either swing or spin – solution, building 1) and 2) above
  4. ‘Revolving door’ selection that is unforgiving for new players or young players in order that they can settle into an international environment – solution, head coach to run the program and use State Coaches and assistant coaches as talent scouts

It is of note that two Indian players feature in both batting & bowling top 5 rankings!

When looking at the global comparative bowling, Nathan Lyon, like Steve Smith stands head and shoulders above his teammates, and at the same time, is one of the best in the world. His contribution of over 3 wickets per innings is by far the best of any player in the world; while his strike rate is very good at 52 balls per wicket.

Australia has banked on its pace pronged attack which reaps dividends when wickets have some pace and bounce, and opposition batsmen are uncomfortable with this type of strategy. But as we have seen in the recent Boxing Day Test, the potency of the attack can become quite mundane with the loss of Starc, and more importantly, a wicket that gave England batsmen confidence that they were not going to be troubled by bounce.

Agar has been included into the 5th Test. But on figures alone which selectors are constantly seeking, O’Keefe on his familiar Sydney Cricket ground pitch, would seem to have a strong case to argue – this would have been the case had he not broken a bone in his leg during last night’s BBL clash.

If Australia is to continue with its pace bowling strategy, it would seem that each bowler needs to improve their contribution as well as their effectiveness if Australia is to move its way up the Test rankings, and maintain top position.

Some of the factors that will help are:

  1. Reduced use of ‘rotation’ policy for quick bowlers
  2. Increased amount of bowling for all quick bowlers from grade cricket through to representative ranks
  3. Sports science to provide information, final decisions to be made between coach and athlete
  4. Final selections to be made by Coach, and reduce or abandon the role of traditional selectors

The next blog will look at the Australian team results throughout the year as well as a wrap on the Ashes series and preview to the ODI and T20 series.

 

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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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Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull celebrated the re-election of Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce this week by saying they have the old team back together again.

However, just the week before there was little cause for celebration as Deputy Premier of New South Wales and National Party leader in that State, John Barilaro called for Malcolm Turnbull to step down from the role.

He believed Mr Turnbull was not the leader the NLP coalition needed nor the country required, to lead its members and voters into a better future.

This was like Shane Warne speaking publicly about the role of the coach being simply to get the team from point A to point B when he was a member of the Australian Cricket team. Although he did say at the time, his comments were taken out of context.

In the PM’s case, a member of the LNP team, somewhat more “obscure”, according to George Brandis, than Warnie was to the Australian cricket team and public, spoke to an eager media personality, Alan Jones about the need for change at the top.

While this incident is specific to the LNP, there are numerous like events over the past 12 months and longer that signal this type of occurrence is endemic in all political parties.

As a voter and taxpayer, I expect those who have been elected to run the country or the State or to lead their respective parties to deliver on promises, to live up to expectations, and operate like a peak performing team.

I do not see this from any side of politics and have not for some years now.

In my experience, a peak performing team will:

  • get results, and sustain these results over a long period of time
  • demonstrate strong leadership throughout the team
  • have leaders who stick to their values and principles which will put them at odds with people inside the team, and stakeholders out side the team
  • include game changers and match winners like a Shane Warne, but who, when stepping outside team boundaries, are quickly pulled into line by his peers and the agreed team standards
  • constantly seek to improve as individuals while collectively in pursuit of excellence

So in this current case of John Barilaro, the LNP if operating as a peak performance team would:

  1. Bring the PM, deputy PM, premier of NSW and relevant senior leaders of the LNP together to clearly understand:
    • Why the event occurred
    • How this issue should be handled internally now, and in the potential future
  1. Deliver a strong public message about what had happened, and what will be happening in the future
  2. John Barilaro to support this message and demonstrate his passion for his electorate, his State and country through his actions and behaviours

The Australian public simply want their parliamentary leaders to get on with doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. This means not being distracted by poor leadership and decision making to enable delivery of what Australians cherish about this country – security, health, jobs and the lifestyle that they support, climate, freedom, community pride, opportunity and mateships.

The two P’s, political parties and peak performance currently sit at either ends of a continuum.

We are looking to our leaders, especially our political leaders, to accelerate the alignment of the two P’s in order to provide this wonderful country, a future that is exciting and full of real prospects.

 

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It is a quick turnaround from the red ball Test format of the Gabba to the pink ball, the second form of Test cricket, in Adelaide.

If this is not a difficult task in itself, England’s plans for the series have been dealt a serious blow in Brisbane.

Add a touch of Bairstow bar-room humour using a headbutt rather than a handshake as a greeting card, and England have some head banging, or at least scratching to do before Day 1 at the SACA.

The obvious conclusions to draw from the 1st Test are –

  1. England’s game strategy of wearing down the three-pronged Australian attack so that runs could be plundered as the match wore on, were undone firstly by Lyon who took partnership breaking wickets at the right time.
  2. Secondly, by a timid batting display in the second innings, and especially by their tail
  3. Thirdly by Alastair Cook who is pivotal to the English game plan of subduing Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins such that they are physically spent by the time they reach Perth.
  4. The Smith factor has already shown that he will lead from the front with the bat, and control the game for as long as he remains at the crease
  5. The Smith-Cummins partnership brought the English 1st innings total to account, albeit at one time it seemed 50 to 100 runs short; then tantalisingly, looked like it may produce a lead of 50 to 100; to be finally shown to be inadequate
  6. This partnership highlighted the huge reliance England have on Anderson and Broad as Woakes, Ball and Ali could not produce enough consistency of spells to support the old opening pair.

To support these conclusions, I have included the analysis from Krishna Tunga: http://allthatcricket.com/496-gabba/

Draw your own conclusions from the numbers but look carefully at these sections which demonstrate the key differences between the teams, resulting in the thumping that England received in the First Test:

  • Role play
  • Scoring rates of the first 3 batting partnerships (and behind the data sits another telling statistic of balls faced per wicket lost by the top 6 batters in each team)
  • Bowlers spells, and bowling partnerships show the penetration achieved by Australia’s 4 bowlers compared with Root desperately searching beyond Anderson & Broad for breakthroughs

So the answer for them is simple – reverse all these points above to put themselves in a position to win the Second Test.

However, for them the key is not to go into any panic mode, or reactive selections, or change in game plans. Trevor Bayliss, the coach is smart enough to realise this.

It is whether he can convince the disbelievers, of which there will be a couple inside the English dressing rooms right now who have severe doubts of their individual and collective abilities to combat Australia.

England will also need to ride the luck that the change of conditions that the second form of Test cricket brings due to the pink ball, new biorhythms and night cricket.

If England go 2-0 down after Adelaide, the whitewash ghosts of 2006-07 and 2013-14 will haunt the English team – more than the occasional headbutt!

 

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WOMENS’ ASHES BURNING, WHILE THE MENS’ COMES ALIGHT?

The womens’ Ashes have burned, while the mens’ is about to come alight!

Contrasting styles, formats and controversies could best sum up the dual series.

The womens’ Ashes are being played on cricket grounds allowing spectators to enjoy the skills on offer viewing from grassy mounds and hills.

The game is almost played at a ‘pace’ that was the male version prior to the advent of ODI cricket.

This is in no way to disparage the contest between both women’s national teams of Australia and England. It is a comment that reflects upon the ‘good old days’ of cricket.

The games were played with uncomplicated skill. There was tough competition, but any ill-feeling between the teams (if it existed at all) was not seen or heard. The media attention was paid to the cricket and the players’ delivery of performance – not any side issues or controversies. And the spectatorship was relaxed, calm and enthused.

For a more detailed analysis of the women’s Ashes prior to the three T20 matches, take a look at http://allthatcricket.com/494-ashes-womens-test-cricket/

 

In stark contrast, the men’s Ashes have been set alight by the selection of the Australian team.

England have hardly been sighted or at least followed in their build-up – partly due to whom they have been playing and where; but mainly due to the microscope that has been placed on the Australian team, and those who have conjured up the starting XII, the selectors.

I have already posted my views about a selection panel being a relic of the past, so I will confine my commentary to what is, not what should be.

So to the real contrast between both Ashes campaigns…

 

PRODUCING PEAK PERFORMANCE: THE 4 C’s

My experience has shown me that to produce peak performance or at least, results which are trending to peak performance, then the 4 C’s are very important –

  • Consistency
  • Continuity
  • Combinations and
  • Communication
Consistency

This principle refers to consistency of message delivered through consistency of selection policy. For those who are selected into teams, then it is essential that they satisfy on the majority of counts that he or she meets key criteria of selection. More importantly, those that miss selection must clearly understand why they do not satisfy the selection criteria and what needs to be done to correct the specific criteria lacking.

 

Continuity

Wherever possible maintain continuity of athletes within a team or squad. In so doing, great rapport and team culture can be developed within the group. A team can move to maturity and self-regulation if there is not ‘turnstile selection’, players and staff coming and going. In teams where positions in the team are uncertain, most people protect themselves first, and team values are of little relevance. There is poor leadership culture as trust has been significantly diminished.

Since the South African series in November 2016, the Australian team has played 4 series, 12 Tests with 23 players, and now an additional 2 new faces at the beginning of this Ashes series. They lost 2 series, won one, drew one, with a Test win/loss record of 6/5.

In 11 series prior since Dec 2014, 34 Tests Australia used 24 players of which 6 retired; winning 5 series losing 2; and Test win/loss ratio of 12/6

Unless injury or retirement is forced upon the selection process, should any change to a team selection not indicate the selection process was wrong in the first place? Who carries the burden – player or selector or both?

 

Combinations

The longer people play together the more they understand each other’s game, and therefore the more help/coaching they can provide. Opening batsmen need a good combination to weather opening attacks through running between wickets, rotating strike for one another when a partner is having trouble, working as a pair to mentally combat the opposition. This can work throughout the order.

Other combinations that are critical are keeper to bowlers, and especially spin bowlers; 1st slip and keeper as well as slips cordon; fast bowling unit; and so on.

To keep interfering with combinations being established, reduces the effectiveness of team play and fosters individualism, poor team culture, and ultimately inconsistent to poor results.

 

Communication

If the selection policy is clear, then it can be easily communicated and understood by those within the group and outside the group. There are very few people that are ever unhappy about being selected. So where communication can play a significant role is to clearly communicate to those who are on the fringes of selection what they must do to give themselves best chances of selection. Equally, these communications must also be with coaches of the fringe dwellers so that they are aware of what is required.

Communication is often compromised by too many voices or channels that are part of the messages to be delivered. Reducing the clutter of people and noise, providing clearly understood criteria and sticking to policy all help the communication.

There will be on occasions, situations which fall outside the ‘guidelines’ such as the ‘cultural fit’ or the character of a person within the group; or the fast tracking of a person into or back into the team environment. These will be the occasional case and should be treated as such, and communicated accordingly.

However, like all forecasting and predictions the proof is in the eating.

 

HOW WILL AUSTRALIA WIN THE ASHES?

I think Australia will prove too strong on home soil for England.

England will rely on the savvy of Australian coach, Trevor Bayliss; a swinging ball new and old, delivered by Anderson with support acts Broad & Woakes; a top order that can deal with the menace of Australia’s quicks and the guile of Lyon to allow Joe Root and his well performed middle order of recent series, albeit lacking their most potent weapon Ben Stokes, to score the necessary amount of runs.

Australia on the other hand go into the series with the best pace attack assembled for many years – brilliantly supported by one of the world’s best spinners in Nathan Lyon. However, the Achilles heal to this strategy is that the quicks need rest throughout games and over the extent of the series. There is no allrounder like Shane Watson to shoulder 10-15 overs a game or an innings due to quality of players available, and the worry Australia has with its top and middle order batting. If Warner, Bancroft, Khawaja can combat the swinging ball effectively, then Australia’s batting should thrive and allow Australia to take the Ashes comfortably.

 

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