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What has happened to Australia’s batsmen?

The Roar logo The Roar 13-08-2015 Glenn Mitchell
With Michael Clarke out, Australia goes through a rebuild of the new line-up. © Gareth Copley/Getty Images With Michael Clarke out, Australia goes through a rebuild of the new line-up.

Australia is about to go through a rebuild of its batting line-up, and the numbers do not bode well.

With Michael Clarke gone, Chris Rogers having said pre-Ashes that he will too, and Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges doubtful commodities in the future, spots are up for grabs.

The selectors may well be taking off their thinking caps to scratch their heads.

There are several names being thrown up: Chris Lynn, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Callum Ferguson and Cameron Bancroft.

These are the performances of those whose name is being bandied about, and also some whom have tasted Test cricket and since been discarded, over the past five Sheffield Shield seasons:

PlayerAgeMatchesRunsAverage100sF/C career average
C Lynn2529192346346
C Ferguson3038286345939
U Khawaja2828191745440
J Burns2542300644841
M Klinger3547312543839
E Cowan33423122431041
R Quiney3346332443838
S Marsh3230186842639
J Silk2319127135434
N Maddinson2340235935439
G Bailey3433180834437
A Doolan2943243233335
C Bancroft2222134634337

Cameron Bancroft has been mentioned by numerous Roarers as a replacement for Rogers at the top of the order. However, his career stats are light on.

In his first season with Western Australia, in 2013-14, he averaged just 22 from 11 matches.

Last season was far better, with 896 runs at 47, but to pick him on a first-class career average of 37 after 24 matches and expect him to perform would be a risk.

And therein lies the major problem for the selectors: there are few batsmen who have had consistently good seasons in Shield ranks.

With the exception of Lynn, whose first-class career is 35 matches old, no one else averages over 41.

In that regard things have certainly changed.

As a comparison, these are the Sheffield Shield records of past players at age 25, some of whom went on to play a lot of Test cricket.

PlayerMatchesRunsAverage100s
M Hayden4645026116
R Ponting4238885914
J Langer302756537
M Elliott3028815210
D Lehmann6756235117
M Bevan5137905114
G Blewett302343497
D Martyn5035274510
M Hussey5542184410
S Katich261768444

It is debatable as to why the current crop of Test aspirants, in the main, are well short of the above players’ records, especially as it only equates to their Shield performances by 25 years of age.

Many argue that it is the fact that latter-day batsmen have been weaned on a diet that includes the T20 game.

Others say that modern bats have seen a change in technique given the far larger sweet spot and power that is generated as a result.

Whatever the reasons, one thing appears certain – modern Shield batsmen lack the ability to compile runs heavily when you compare their averages to many players born in the era 1970-75.

Former Test captain Ian Chappell has lately bemoaned the fact that the Shield competition has lost the competitive edge for which it was universally admired.

His former vice-captain, Rod Marsh, is now the chief national selector and has made some interesting comments since the debacles at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

“I think our blokes have got to be more selfish. They’ve got to say ‘righto, no one’s getting me out and I don’t care if it takes me all day to make a hundred’,” he said to ESPNCricinfo.

“You’re allowed to bat all day, and I think our longest partnership in that game was something like 18 overs – that’s appalling in a Test match, I don’t care what you’re playing on. You should be better than that, and I’m sure all the batsmen are feeling exactly the same.”

The worrying thing is the next crop of batsmen who are shortly to enter Test ranks appear unlikely to give him what he wants.

Of late the selectors have opted to call up players like Chris Rogers and Adam Voges in their mid-30s as they have the first-class career numbers that batsmen under 30 do not seem to be able to amass.

Those players are now, however, going to be very much the country’s future in Test cricket.

Following their progress will be interesting and, dare I say, frustrating at times.

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