David Warner's weight is distributed as if he's a right-handed batsman facing the wicketkeeper, according to Neil D'Costa. Photo: Getty Images
One of Australia's most successful cricket coaches believes there are fundamental flaws in our Test batsmen's techniques.
In addition to working with Test captain Michael Clarke for almost 20 years, Neil D'Costa has worked extensively with Phil Hughes and Mitchell Starc, coached in England and India, and holds development coaching roles with Sydney grade club Campbelltown Ghosts and the Ghosts Cricket Academy.
D'Costa said there were ''non-negotiable basics'' in the techniques of batsmen with more than 5000 Test runs that were missing from the Australians' games.
''Coaches, particularly in South Africa, India and England, are focusing on those basics in their junior elite programs,'' D'Costa said. ''There is a more biomechanical approach and greater importance being placed on technical fundamentals, like grip, stance, kinetic flow, balance and shot entry and exit points.''
D'Costa believes individuals' flaws have been ''picked apart and exploited time and time again'' by opponents in recent series and will continue to be until glaring errors are addressed.
''I don't want to be critical of the players, who have all shown by reaching Test standard that they are very talented,'' he said.
''Obviously, they're trying their hardest. But their performance says that without some adjustments, the inconsistency will remain.''
On those he has worked with, D'Costa said Clarke had the fundamentals right but was restricted by back pain, while Hughes worked on flaws last season but some had returned to his game.
''These are all small things to do with technique that could add consistency to these batsmen's game,'' he said. ''Players like Ian Bell have worked extremely hard at the basics and the results are obvious. Over three years in India I saw that, at the elite junior level, they kept ensuring their players had these basics in place and, I believe, the county system is doing it well, too. I hope we start to educate our junior elite players like that so we can get back on top.''
Neil D'Costa identifies some technical issues with Australian batsmen:
Warner has what in swing mechanics is called a reverse swing. His weight is distributed as if he's a right-handed batsman facing the wicketkeeper.
The shoulder facing the bowler is high when, in fact, it should be lower at the time the ball is released. That would enable Warner to enter his shots with the correct weight shift. What I see is Warner leaning back. That allows him to cut easily but, when he comes forward, his balance is off and it makes him susceptible to lbw when the ball is swinging. Watch Kumar Sangakkara when the ball is released, this will make sense.
Watson has a similar shoulder angle and alignment problem to Warner. He shifts his weight back when he sets up. Watson is a big build, so it's worth comparing him to Kevin Pietersen or Jacques Kallis, who both get their front shoulders down and stand slightly open at release so they can lean into the ball, chin-forward. Watson's weight is back, so he leads with his leg, which is why bowlers are trying to blow away his front pad. Lately, he's been over-compensating by reaching with his bat and shifting his back hip around faster, which leads to edges.
Khawaja breaks rule No.1–keep your head still. He's tracking the ball by dropping his head. After his dismissal in the second innings of the fourth Test, Nasser Hussain asked “How did he miss that?” The answer is, he dropped his head before the ball arrived and was looking at the ground instead of the ball. Until he changes that habit and is able to track the ball in and out with his head still, the rest doesn't matter.
Smith stands too straight and is not engaging his quadriceps. If he crouched a little, he would bring in his quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and core, and his head would be lower. He would be better balanced. Smith also checks the swing on his cuts and pulls, and doesn't rotate his left elbow over. He's not using enough wrist. No player has been consistently successful with that sort of technique. Smith is a rare talent and a fighter, but on wickets with variable bounce or swing, he will keep struggling. He will still perform on occasion but will find consistency without adjustment challenging.
You cannot recalibrate your judgment if you move your head and Haddin moves his head around when batting and when wicketkeeping. In both situations, like Khawaja, he drops his head and loses milliseconds of vision. MS Dhoni mis-gloves fewer balls than any keeper because he keeps his head still and drops his eyes when the ball comes into his gloves.