Perseverance is key in slumps
WITH our Australian cricketers in seemingly unbeatable form against India this summer, former test cricketer Doug Walters suggested players could negate a slump in form by regularly re-injecting themselves back into the 50-over state competition.
"Everyone has form slumps, it's just a matter of persevering," Walters said during a brief stay in Aramac, 300km west of Emerald.
"The easiest way with a form slump is to drop down a bit but players don't tend to do that anymore these days, they don't drop down from test cricket to Sheffield Shield cricket, or from Shield cricket back to club cricket. And they play so little of even Sheffield Shield cricket that it makes it that little bit harder for them to get back into test cricket.
"They have got to rely on one-day matches and getting back into form like that and that's near impossible."
Players could soon be distanced even further from their state whites, with reports this week the 100-year-old Shield competition may be shifted to the winter months in an effort to accommodate the financially lucrative, shorter format tournaments such as the Twenty20 Big Bash.
With more players taking up contracts for these leagues both at home and overseas, some pundits claimed today's first-class cricketer has lost the crucial test-match ability to leave the ball off off-stump. Walters believes the problem lies less in the demands of each tournament, and more the methods by which they are coached.
"I think it has a lot to do with the way they practice," he said. "They get guys to throw the ball at them, 'throw downs' they call them. If they went back to a simple method of getting someone to swing the ball at them and practice like that, they will learn to overcome the swinging ball.
"I've never seen anyone in a 'throw down' swing a ball.
"With proper bowlers it only starts swinging when the ball is two thirds down the wicket and that's the only way you learn to play those sorts of bowlers is to face them."
Today, much of Walter's time is spent in a mentoring role with the Australian Sports Camps where he hoped he could still pass on the "odd little hint" to the next rising star.
He also has taken a latter-year liking to golf and fishing, with Sydney Harbour the pick of the spots because "the water is nice and clear and you can even eat them", he confides with a wink. It also gives him time to ponder some of the more memorable moments of his career, but not always for the right reasons. Such as when he was caught riding a push bike at the change of overs in the West Indies.
"I was trying to give the captain Ian Chappell a hint," Walters clarified.
"I missed a couple of overs that morning, I arrived late, and he was sending me from fine leg to third man, third man to fine leg all session. So I borrowed a kid's bike to give him a hint but it didn't work, but I still had to go from third man to fine leg for the rest of the session anyway."
Walters was infamous for these type of happy-go-lucky, if slightly unorthodox approaches to his cricketing duties.
He stressed he did not condone such actions, but offered that some modern-day cricketers need to re-think their motivations for playing.
"We played cricket not to make a living out of it, we played cricket for fun," he said. "Sport should still be played for fun. All sportsmen are getting paid too much," he said.
"It's fine if you're asked to make a living out of it but some of them go a little overboard, I think, and carry it a little too far."