"WillowBlue"... it's Australian for "English Willow" 

Doggy's Blog

Can you direct me to the Cricket Pathway?

Posted on 21 April, 2017 at 0:00

I have given a great deal of thought to the game of over the years, in particular the development of the game and its pathway systems. Obviously most of my thoughts have been to do with cricket in Victoria... so please don't hold that against me.

I was a young country boy who became interested in cricket because of my father and Mother. Dad was playing cricket and football for Yarck (a small country town 9 miles from Alexandra on the Maroondah Hwy) Mum was scorer. But Dad had also played under Leo Finch at Carlton so naturally I was going to follow in those footsteps dreaming of higher honours.

I remember one hot summer day listening to the cricket on the radio… Bobby Simpson was nearing a hundred. I was in “make believe” land, (some say I still am), playing every shot for him and running each run between the wickets I’d set up on “Wrights Lane” out side our house. Unfortunately Freddie Titmus ended “Bob Cats” innings at 91.

Who would have thought that someone from Yarck, was destined to play Test Cricket let alone under him 16 years later?

I was probably very fortunately that my parents moved to Croydon a few years later where I was able to play junior cricket. (Yarck’s population was about 50 and had barely enough children to keep the school open)

So I began my cricket at the Heathmont Cricket Club in the RDCA and the pathway to higher levels was easy enough to follow: Practice hard, continually make runs or take wickets, earn representative selection and eventually an invite into the District ranks.

In those days the Dowling Shield was the avenue most young cricketers followed but I thought it more beneficial for me to compete against men to test myself. So as a 15 year old I earned selection for the RDCA u21’s against CUOV u21 Association teams. I did well and went on the represent the CUOV in national championships and was then selected for the National Team.

I was 18 when I was invited to Carlton where Peter Bedford was the coach and I started in the 3rd XI. Each year I was able to earn promotion based on my performance. It wasn’t easy by any means; I found that there were so many good cricketers all desperate to succeed and so it took five years for me to earn selection to play for my country.

The pathway to higher levels obviously worked well for me so I cannot understand why it is still not the preferred avenue today.

It  was based on performance… isn’t that a good idea?

So we get to the reason I am writing this… I was astounded to read recently that Cricket Australia had named an under 16 Australian Team. I immediately thought… what do all the other young developing cricketers around the country think about that?

I feel that if you ever wanted to demoralise a young cricketer, offer the Australian dream, entice our children to take up the game, lead them along the so called pathway system and then cut them adrift by selecting an Australia U16 team. Meanwhile the majority of our youth cricketers who missed out must be wondering if it is worthwhile continuing on.

I think about Glen McGrath… who was missed by every development program. Why? Because some kids develop slowly, they are still growing and lack the strength.

What could be more soul destroying than for a 15 year old waiting for their body to catch up to miss out? And what about Mum and Dad, think about the process, every parent goes through because they believe that there’s a pathway to follow.

Here is Mum washing and ironing the whites each week, having picked up the young aspiring child from school for Milo Cricket, then onto practice, then to matches in under 12’s, u14’s representative cricket and on to u16’s only to see others chosen ahead of their child and given priority and special treatment.

It makes me wonder why Cricket Australia recommend that clubs should retire batsman after so many runs or why we give very child a bowl even when they can't. It seems that there is a contradiction somewhere in all this?

So having missed selection, the family sit around the dinner table discussing whether or not they should continue on. Perhaps they can make it through the District ranks... now “Premier Community Cricket”.

Is it worth the effort?

They might not think it is… or perhaps they might think of leaving home to go to Melbourne or any other Capital city, find a job, practice hard. There is a chance of making it through the ranks to State Selection… but what about the draft system someone might be brought in over me? I suppose I could go to another State and do a “Peter Nevill”, I could be that lucky or not?

I cannot see why the pathway system has been made so uncertain… it should be about taking the opportunity.

I have an idea, let us make it performance based… make runs, take the wickets and hold the catches.

I can see huge problems with Australian Cricket because it seems to me that they believe our future cricketers should just be allowed to have fun without being disciplined or challenged. It is my belief that we have far too many academics from an failing education system running the development of the game and we need to balance this out very quickly otherwise we'll have cricketers coming through who've never been disciplined or challenged and life as is cricket... is a real challenge where no one in the real world is or should be entitled. 

Yes have fun and enjoy the game... it is great for keeping the numbers up so the marketing arm of the game can promote "more people are playing cricket than ever before". Let us get them on the “SCG or MCG” during the lunch break of a Test, never mind that they can’t hold a bat, bowl a ball or catch it!

We can tell everyone that there having fun and look how well cricket is doing… can we have more funding please?


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1 Comment

Reply Leon Davies
5:06 on 21 April, 2017 
This is such a fantastic article although, I must stress that I am a strong advocate for the Dowling Shield, but concede that process also has room for improvement, there are many issues in cricket such as the influence by marketing people and people of influence who really don't have a feel for the game, many of these are only interested in climbing the ladder and make decisions accordingly.
We don't manage players or their development well, the elite at a young age are promoted to high level representative cricket but that only caters for a few, as pointed out in this article there is a void in the development of players who have potential but take longer to develop, these players are either lost to the game or end up simply becoming excellent cricketers at their local club with no motivation to continue their progression or development.
As far as the modified rules with shortened pitches and the like it absolutely astounds me, this only serves to increase numbers and justify jobs, sure,
have some modified versions for those who want to participate , after all we even have variants at first class level but for heavens sake do not hinder the development of young participants who have the ability. Why dont we consider looking at competency based playing levels in juniors guided by age groups rather than the fixed model we currently have, at representative level this may not be a consideration but those capable should play the highest level they can.
Changes currently being mooted cater for the less talented/committed and it is okay to create a participation level but not at the expense of those who need, want, deserve more.
I have been involved as a Pathways Coach for around 13 years and have a real concern that the future planning is way off the mark, ultimately there will be a price to pay, the future strategy is severely flawed.