Sutherland defends Australian Test team's preparation

James Sutherland: “I don’t think the preparation is anything that Australian cricket can complain about because South Africa have had the same schedule in terms of preparation as we have” © Getty Images

James Sutherland, Cricket Australia’s chief executive, has claimed the national team had near identical preparation to South Africa despite the facts telling a rather different story.

As the hosts came to terms with another disastrous batting display on day one of the Hobart Test, Sutherland said that Steven Smith‘s team could not blame their preparation for the poor results achieved so far this summer, following on from a 5-0 ODI defeat in South Africa and a 3-0 away pasting at the hands of Sri Lanka before that.

“I’ve heard a little bit of commentary around preparation and I think it’s interesting. The first thing is that every summer is a little bit different,” Sutherland said on ABC Radio. “If we cast our minds forward to next year there will be more opportunities for Shield cricket, that’s a different schedule again because the season will start later.

“But also that criticism around the preparation, I don’t think the preparation is anything that Australian cricket can complain about because South Africa have had the same schedule in terms of preparation as we have. We have both played each other in one-day matches in October, came through here, had various forms of long-form or other preparatory matches.

“They played a game in Adelaide under lights as Shield cricket played under lights. So if you draw that comparison the team we are playing against hasn’t had any different preparation. So yes, ideally you might have a different preparation but the fact of the matter is you can’t.”

In contradiction of Sutherland’s words, Australia’s players did not get the chance to play even a single match with a red ball in between the Sri Lanka and South Africa Test series. By contrast, many of South Africa’s players – those not taking part in the ODIs at home – were able to play first-class cricket during this period, and then had two warm-up matches in contrast to the one (pink ball) Shield game played before the Perth Test.

Sutherland noted that there was a wider effort currently being undertaken at ICC level to reduce the amount of international cricket played while adding the context of league structures across each format. Such a move would in turn allow more room for domestic schedules to breathe.

“The reality is the future tours program requires us to play a certain amount of cricket at home and whatever we play at home we’ve got to reciprocate away,” he said. “So the complexity around that is greater because most countries share the same season as us. So we have to find ourselves playing matches like we did this year in October against South Africa. We couldn’t play them earlier because that’s not their season, their season is October. We are having them and then Pakistan later in our peak season.

“From that perspective the schedule is difficult and at ICC level it’s something we’re working very hard on to try and get more structure to refine the way in which international cricket is played and to be honest ultimately play less international cricket so that it’s more valuable and is not these random series that crop up all the time. That we have context through some sort of a league structure. The hope is there will be less international cricket which allows gaps in preparation but also ideally for international cricket to be more valuable and precious.”

Responding to criticism directed at the captain Steven Smith, Sutherland said that while all were impatient for immediate success, there was a strong belief within CA that Smith was the right man for the job – as evidenced by his steely innings while the rest fell around him on day one at Bellerive Oval.

“We’re certainly very conscious of the fact that Steve has come into the role much younger…than any of his four or five predecessors,” Sutherland said. “I had a look the other day – you go back to Border, Taylor, Waugh, Ponting, Clarke…between 29 and 34 I think they came into the captaincy of the Australian team. Steve was 26. All of them came in being world-class batsmen. But I don’t think if you look back in history, certainly in my time [as CEO], none of them have made an easy or smooth transition into the job.

“It’s a big step up and it’s a real challenge and even more so if you don’t have the players around you that are performing as well as they might or could or whatever. So that added challenge is there. But we have a very high regard for Steve Smith as a person, as a leader, and obviously as a cricketer and we think that with his support and as he builds the team around him and they perform he’s got a very bright future as a leader for a long time.”

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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