Australia’s batsmen aren’t bad players of spin, they’re just not prepared to fight hard enough, according to Australian batting supremo Stuart Law.
Law, who works at Cricket Australia’s Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, has been tasked with improving Australia’s batting across the board – and in light of our most recent Test series, improving against spin bowling would be high on his list of priorities.
On Tuesday, we brought you Law’s thoughts on the problems facing the country’s up-and-coming batsmen – namely the IPL, dodgy pitches and low expectations.
Now we look to the standard-bearers of Australian cricket, the Test team, ahead of their much-anticipated Ashes tour.
A 4-0 drubbing at the hands of India once again showcased a perceived weakness against spin, so we started by asking Law what was being done to rectify this.
Read on for part two of foxsports.com.au’s exclusive interview with Stuart Law, and click here to read part one.
Our batsmen clearly struggled against spin in India. How much work is done at the Centre of Excellence working on playing spin bowling in particular?
One game over there I just said, “Right, if anyone mentions the Doctor this trip, you’ll get on that plane and go back home. I’m sick of hearing about it – it’s a bloody wind”.
How he dealt with the Fremantle Doctor when he played for Queensland.
Obviously spin is a necessity now. Most places that Australia go, apart from South Africa and possibly England, they’ll target us with spin. When I was playing, I remember Queensland hadn’t won in Perth for about 18 years, and the one reason that really stood out to me was that every time we landed in Perth, it was, “oh the (Fremantle) Doctor, the Doctor’s blowing this way, it’s not in, oh what’s the Doctor doing today, how hard is it going to be?”. One game over there I just said, “Right, if anyone mentions the Doctor this trip, you’ll get on that plane and go back home. I’m sick of hearing about it – it’s a bloody wind”. It’s the same with India. We got told how bad we are at playing spin, you hear the Indians talking about it in their press conferences a month out from the series. You start saying it so much, you start believing it. I don’t think we’re bad players of spin, I just think we’re not ready to fight the fight that we have to against India in India. We probably went over there and tried to muscle them off the park, which has worked for us before but the Indians are a bit smarter and a bit more worldly these days when it comes to taking on the opposition in their home conditions.
So if anything you think Australia’s weakness against spin is more psychological than it is to do with skill?
In different conditions, different surfaces we play spin very well. In India, you look at the way their players play the spin. Everyone says they go hard – they don’t really go hard. They still hit the ball late, they still move their feet, they’re able to find the gaps and make the bowler bowl a half-volley or a half-tracker. That’s through good footwork, knowing the conditions and having belief that you can do the job. In years gone by, Australians have gone over there and faced conditions in India that spin, but this tour that’s just gone on, I don’t think we were prepared to bat for a very long time and make sure that we wore them down.
You spent a bit of time with the national team last year – what was that like? Is it something you want to do more of down the track?
I thoroughly enjoyed it, being in the dressing room again and getting around with the team. It was interesting to watch – it was more of an observation for me just to see how they operate. If I took the role on permanently, I’d be able to get in and have a talk to each player specifically and learn to find out what they’re working on. To be involved with one of the best teams in the world, with some of the best players in the world, it is a real buzz. I took the option of opting out of the batting coach role for now, mainly due to the fact that I’ve just cited reasons to leave my international post in Bangladesh to spend more time with my family, and had I taken the Australian job I would have spent less time with my family than when I was overseas. It didn’t quite come at the right time for me, and that’s the way I explained it to Pat Howard and Mickey Arthur and other people. It was just the wrong time at this stage. I’m still very happy where I am, I get to see those guys quite closely and work with them quite often, which is still a huge buzz.
Your replacement ended up being former Tasmania batsman Michael Di Venuto. What are he and the rest of the coaching staff – including former England batsman Graeme Hick, who is spending some time with you at the Centre of Excellence – going to be telling the batsmen in the Test side before they head over to the UK?
I think we’ve got to get a bit of the old school toughness back into us.
We’ve asked Graeme Hick to join us up here specifically to talk to the players individually. I’ve just told Graeme, “I just want you to explain to them that batting in England is different to batting over here”. Your technique is probably more tested in English conditions, your footwork’s got to be precise. That’s the message we’re telling the players. There are also different conditions in the different counties they’re playing in. The wickets over there perform differently, and it’s a great insight to have someone who’s lived it and breathed it. I’ve played enough cricket over there as well, so for the two of us to get in their ears and answer any questions they have, it just gives them a bit of confidence and a bit of comfort going over to England. Graeme Hick was a prolific scorer of runs, he scored hundred after hundred after hundred. To quote a good friend of mine, Graham Gooch, “You’ve never got enough. When you think you’ve got enough, get some more”. We’re just looking to instil that mindset. As I said earlier on, I’m sick of reading “such-and-such got a magnificent 30, he was looking fantastic”, or “he played the innings of his life, he got three”. I’m sick of hearing that. That doesn’t do anything to a player, it doesn’t do anything to the system that we’re in, it just breeds false hope. I think we’ve got to get a bit of the old school toughness back into us. Forty is well played, but it’s not good enough, and if you’re going to keep getting forties then we’ll get someone else in who can get hundreds.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan will join Fox Sports for our coverage of the Ashes. Watch the whole series, starting with the first Test on July 10, LIVE and in HIGH DEFINITION on Fox Sports.