Youngsters need to toughen up
THE father of arguably Australia’s best cricketer at the moment, Shane Watson, says the national team will continue to fail unless junior competitions stop going soft on youngsters with their “everyone has a go” policies.
Bob Watson, who coached his son and representative cricket teams in Ipswich for several years, said participation should not be the only focus in junior cricket grades.
Mr Watson said participation was important, but separate competitions should be created for elite players so they learnt to play long innings and did not have to retire once they faced a certain amount of balls.
“There’s not enough fair dinkum, proper cricket, being played at a junior level as well as senior level,” Mr Watson said.
“You want as many kids playing cricket as possible, but for the better kids they should have an opportunity to bat long Test-like innings.
“There need to be a lot of changes.
“You get very talented batsmen who have to retire 30 not out all the time in junior grades.
“What does that teach them?”
“There should be more opportunity to play Test-like innings.”
In under-12 and under-13 age groups, a batsman must retire after having faced 50 balls.
The younger grades are even more heavily restricted.
The only time young players get to bat until they are out is at the State titles, once a year.
Shane won his second Allan Border Medal, the highest individual honour for an Australian cricketer, on Monday.
He was a star performer in Australia’s losing Ashes team this summer.
Bob Watson, who many credit as the reason for Shane’s superior batting technique, said he wished Shane had grown up playing longer innings.
“The coaches are also too concerned about winning in the younger grades,” he said.
“It should be about developing the players, not winning.”
Ipswich and West Moreton Cricket Association president Peter Leschke said his organisation did not want to be elitist.
“Our goal is to increase participation,” Mr Leschke said.
“If you focus on the elite players, a lot of the guys who just enjoy the game won’t get a bat or a bowl, and they fall away.
“The better players make it to the State titles and can bat until they get out, and that’s where Shane Watson made a name for himself.”
Mr Leschke said there had been a drop-off in junior and senior participation in Ipswich cricket competitions this year.
“We are four junior teams and two senior teams down on last year,” Mr Leschke said.
RISE TO THE TOP
Shane Watson was selected for his first Australian team in early 2002 – touring South Africa.
His prolific bowling efforts for Tasmania in the Pura Cup, plus solid middle-order batting, prompted his call-up.
Watson scored an unbeaten century on his debut in a tour match, but he did not play in the Test series. However, he did make his ODI debut on tour.
Injuries cruelled his following seasons, but Watson eventually made his Test debut against Pakistan in 2005.
He has now played 27 Test matches and 123 one-day matches.
Ricky Ponting is the only other Australian cricketer to win back-to-back Allan Border Medals.
Watson was an opening batsman throughout his junior years, but he became a middle-order hitter when he reached State level, where his bowling improved.