Graeme Hick interview: Behind enemy lines trying to teach the Australians to dig in before The Ashes

Former England bat tells Richard Edwards there is talent coming through Down Under – it just needs honing

There was a time when Australian cricket's flow of talent was less a trickle and more a flood – what the country is currently witnessing though, looks suspiciously like a drought.

In these leaner times, the Aussies have now done the previously unthinkable and turned to one of English cricket's most enigmatic talents in a bid to re-ignite their success in the run-up to this winter's Ashes series.

Graeme Hick was appointed as the high performance coach at Australia's Centre of Excellence in Queensland earlier this week and is now charged with developing the next cabs off a rank that is looking less congested by the year.

When Hick played his first Test against Australia for his adopted England at Old Trafford in 1993 he found himself face-to-face with a batting line-up of Mark Taylor, Michael Slater, David Boon, Mark Waugh, Allan Border and Steve Waugh.

Players of the calibre of Stuart Law – the man Hick replaces at the Centre of Excellence – Martin Love and Darren Lehmann barely got a look in. It is a measure of how fast Australia have fallen in recent years that only Michael Clarke, of the current vintage, would come close to dislodging any of that top six.

Hick himself is under no illusions as to the size of the task he faces to resurrect Australia's ailing fortunes but believes there's still considerable talent to be harnessed in a country that between 1989 and 2005 didn't lose a single Ashes series against their oldest rivals.

And in a nation which has embraced Twenty20 cricket more than any other, with the obvious exception of India, Hick is clear where his greatest challenge lies.

"It's really a case of getting the guys used to playing long innings," he tells The Independent from Queensland. "There are going to be times over the course of the season when you could say that some dismissals are down to Twenty20 but I think that really happens when you're moving from one competition to the next within a day or so.

"This year all the big competitions are in big blocks. You've got three [Sheffield] Shield games on the trot, you've got all the Ryobi [one-day] Cup matches in a three-week block. I think a lot of it is really down to the mindset of the players and getting time at the crease to put a long innings together.

"I'm hoping these guys will realise how good it is to play a long innings because it's not something that too many of these players will have done very often.These youngsters need to force their way into the selectors' minds and if they start the season well then I wouldn't be surprised if there was a left-field selection or two. Lehmann is a bit like that and there is some talent coming through."

Hick was a master at the long game during a 25-year career that saw him register a staggering 136 centuries for Worcestershire and England. Of that tally though, only six came in Test cricket as Hick struggled to cope with the hype that few, if any, English cricketers have had to experience before or since.

His best Ashes innings, ironically, also ended in inglorious fashion when Michael Atherton famously declared to leave Hick stranded on 98 not out at Sydney in January 1995. Hick recently said that decision represented "a blip" in his friendship with the former England captain but, in truth, his Test career was full of them.

Hick in his pomp for England Hick in his pomp for England  

Hick played his last Test for England against Sri Lanka in March 2001 but continued playing for Worcestershire for another seven years. His career also included a season playing for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield, which makes his latest appointment something of a homecoming.

"I played here in 1990-91 and I really enjoyed the cricket," he says. "I think the Shield stuff was probably a little bit more competitive than it is now. It was tough cricket, it was pretty direct, there was maybe a little bit more sledging going on in those days. You knew if you had performed well because there was always that edge."

That edge was certainly present this summer in the Ashes with little love lost between the two sides. So what's the mood like in Australia as round two approaches?

"When the Ashes were on I think most Australians were feeling a little bit down about the way the side was performing but by the end I think they sensed that Darren Lehmann was turning things around, so there's definitely a more upbeat feeling here.

"The down side is that England weren't at their best but still won 3-0. They really won the big sessions in the series, there was always someone holding their hand up and putting runs on the board or taking wickets. I still think England have the upper hand."

Hick will be watching, wearing the green and gold, but without mixed feelings. "Cricket's an international game now, there are coaches from all nationalities working all over the world," he says. "This is just a great opportunity for me."

One of the sport's finest slip catchers will undoubtedly grasp it with both hands.

Hick highs and lows: Graeme's career

Born 23 May 1966, Zimbabwe

County career

1984-2008 Worcestershire

1997-98 Auckland

1988-91 MCC

1987-89 Northern Districts

2008 Chandigarh Lions

First class matches 526; Runs 41,112; Ave 52.23; 100s 136; 50s 158

International career

England debut Jun 1991 v West Indies

Tests 65; Ave 31.32; Runs 3,383; 100s 6; 50s 18

ODI appearances 120; Runs 3,846; 100s 5; 50s 27

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum