Smith, Warner left young batsmen without teachers – Hazlewood

Even as he conceded that he had no idea whether he would be reconsidered for Australia’s vice-captaincy, injured fast man Josh Hazlewood has declared that perhaps the biggest gap caused by the bans on Steven Smith and David Warner was the absence of first-hand experience and advice for the group of young batsmen cycled through Test series against Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.
Neither Shaun Marsh nor Usman Khawaja are universally regarded as seniors, according to Hazlewood, and his comments reflected the fact that advice provided exclusively by coaches was unable to get any further than the boundary’s edge. Hazlewood said that the likes of Marcus Harris, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne, all new batsmen in the Test side, suffered for the lack of guidance at the other end from players who had found ways to be consistently high scorers at Test level.
While the aforementioned trio looked the part at times throughout the summer, it was not until the final match of the home Test calendar that any batsman reached three figures. Khawaja, his season interrupted by a knee injury, did not reach the milestone until his final innings in Canberra, and Marsh was dropped after an underwhelming run of innings against Pakistan and India.
“It’s probably been the first time when you’ve had the top six with no real senior batsmen to feed off, I guess, around training and games, so they [the newcomers] have had to do all their learning from the coaches”
“Every time Steve goes out to bat, he pretty much gets a hundred these days, so the time with the feet up is pretty important [for the fast bowlers],” Hazlewood told ESPNcricinfo when reflecting on the gulf set to be filled in time for the Ashes series in England later this year. “It’s probably been the first time when you’ve had the top six with no real senior batsmen to feed off, I guess, around training and games, so they [the newcomers] have had to do all their learning from the coaches.
“It’s just so important to have those couple of senior guys when you bring those couple of young guys into the top six to learn from. You just can’t teach some things as coaches, you have to learn out in the middle batting with a senior person, so I think the other young batters will really feed off having them back.”
Hazlewood got a vantage point from which to observe how the reflexes of Smith and Warner had been dulled by what is now close to a year without top-tier first-class cricket, having participated in a pair of net sessions against them in Sydney in early January. It suggested that coach Justin Langer’s desire to see both the former captain and his deputy playing a significant volume of cricket before returning to Australian ranks is well-founded.
“It was great to have them around – it’s better than bowling to a stump if no-one’s available,” Hazlewood said. “They were really keen to get in there and have a hit. I think all three quicks were there on one of the occasions and there was just me and Patty [Cummins] the other time.
“They’re class players and they really put you to the test and it really makes you get something out of the net session. They were a little bit rusty early on, it’s hard to prepare to face 140kph-plus if you haven’t been doing it, but you saw over the course of three or four overs how much improvement they had even in that short space of time, so there’s no doubt they’ll be ready to go when called upon.”