What has happened to Australia’s batting stocks?

Date: November 12, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

battingSadly, Australia’s batting stocks are continuing their steady decline.

In recent years, we have stopped seeing batsmen produce the big seasons that they used to. As a result, there is little pressure being brought to bear on Test incumbents.

In the past seven Sheffield Shield seasons, only twice have we seen a batsman score over 1000 runs – teammates Adam Voges (1358) and Michael Klinger (1046) achieved the feat for Western Australia in 2014-15.

Contrast that with the seven seasons from 1999-00.

Over that period, batsmen score over 1000 Sheffield Shield runs on 13 occasions – Matthew Elliott (twice), Greg Blewett, Simon Katich, Jamie Cox, Martin Love, Jimmy Maher, Murray Goodwin, Stuart Law, Michael Bevan, Phil Jaques, Dominic Thornely and Darren Lehmann.

There was only one season in that seven-year period that failed to produce a 1000-runs performance.

Many of those men put up big numbers season after season. Nowadays, we simply do not see that consistency.

In recent times we have seen batsmen promoted to Test ranks with modest first-class records.

Over the past five years eight specialist batsmen have made their Test debut. Only two boasted a first-class average over 42 at the time they were awarded their baggy green – David Warner (57.3) and Adam Voges (46.1). The other six were Joe Burns (41.7), Ed Cowan (39.9), Shaun Marsh (38.8), Alex Doolan (38.4), George Bailey (37.9) and Rob Quiney (37.4).

Batsmen pop up and have a solid season and on many occasions they fail to back up again the following year.

Batsmen like Lehmann, Bevan, Love and Matthew Hayden were prolific season after season. Hayden at one point reeled off four successive 1000-run plus seasons in the Sheffield Shield.

In recent times that kind of consistency just doesn’t exist. We do not have batsmen around in the system nowadays like Michael Hussey and Brad Hodge who both scored well in excess of than 10,000 first-class runs before they were called up.

In years past the likes of Jamie Siddons and Jamie Cox scored well more than 10,000 Sheffield Shield runs but could still not manage a baggy green.

In recent times, numerous players who played considerable Test cricket also compiled big runs across their Sheffield Shield careers – Matthew Hayden (8831), Justin Langer (9406) and Simon Katich (8807) to name just three. Darren Lehmann scored a record 13,635 runs and compiled 45 centuries in the Sheffield Shield while also managing to play 27 Test matches.

Some will argue that the advent of T20 is at the heart of the problem with batsmen nowadays lacking the ability to build large innings. For some that may be the case but it has not prevented Warner and Steve Smith from outstanding first-class and Test careers.

Batsmen also have the luxury nowadays of batting on drop-in pitches at the MCG and Adelaide Oval.

The dearth of second rung batsmen in Australia is currently the biggest issue facing the national selectors. Presently they are too often having to select players on speculation rather than a proven first-class grounding as was the case 15-25 years ago.

It is an area that must improve if Australia is to continue to challenge the other major nations.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 11 November 2016, soliciting 81 comments