No rest for Test bats as Shield form to prove pivotal
RETURNING Australian batsmen will pad up for their states barely 72 hours after getting off the plane, desperate to launch headfirst into a baggy green shootout for the first Test.
Matt Renshaw made a hundred for his grade club on Saturday in his comeback to the crease, and will open for Queensland in a Sheffield Shield clash against South Australia, starting on Thursday, that is also set to feature determined Test rookies Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head.
Coach Justin Langer says the sheer magnitude of Australia's batting crisis is keeping him awake at night.
Langer knows that even if he wins the odd battle and finds quick fixes to make Australia competitive against India this summer, he won't win the war against chronic collapses unless systematic changes are made to how batsmen are produced and fostered in the national system.
The new Aussie coach watched on in dismay at his team's capitulation against Pakistan, but he was just as horrified by the Sheffield Shield results going on at the same time where low scores and collapses defined every match.
Langer has emphasised the importance of character and being a good bloke in his formation of a revamped batting order, but in the wake of Australia's record loss to Pakistan, he admits that actual technique is far more important than mental toughness.
Australia are being forced to pick batsmen who average low 30s to play Test cricket and in many ways can't be surprised by the outcomes.
One of Australian cricket's greatest ever fighters built his entire career on problem-solving and he says he will burn the candle at both ends in search of a solution.
"It keeps us awake at night," Langer said.
"I never used to sleep when I first played Test cricket, either. I slept better as time went on. Hopefully that's the same in this case.
"After day two (when Australia was crushed for 145) I was up until about midnight watching batting videos, looking at ways we can get better.
"I've been through this all before as an individual player. You come in, it's really hard, and the only way you work it out is by problem solving and working hard.
"That was my formula as a player and all the great players I've been lucky to play with, they're just really good problem-solvers. They work it out.
"If I can take the lessons I learnt as a player into problem-solving or making the team better, then hopefully we'll be patient and go OK."
Langer believes that Australia's state system has neglected the importance that should be placed on technique as the most essential factor in developing batsmen.
"If you look at this round of Sheffield Shield cricket, I know a number of the states have also had some big batting collapses," said Langer, the long-time former Western Australia coach
"I've been in the State system watching for a long time and I've watched this and what I'm really intrigued about is you're not allowed to use the word technique anymore.
"(A former golfer) told me once that he'd rather have a guy with a good technique who is a bit softer mentally, than a guy who is really mentally tough with a really bad technique.
"I said, 'what do you mean?'
"He said, 'well, if you've got a good technique you'll hit most balls down the middle of the fairway and over time you'll develop some confidence and you can learn concentration and that's how you get mental toughness.
"If you've got a bad technique and you're hitting the ball behind the trees or in the rough, it doesn't matter how mentally tough you are, eventually you're not going to be able to hit it into the hole that often.
"I think it's the same with cricket.
"There wouldn't be a state coach out there who would be saying it's all rainbows and butterflies out there after this weekend's cricket, because of all the collapses.
"We can't sugar-coat it any longer."