Are our sports be­ing run by robo­cops?

POST Newspapers - - Property -

For some­one born into a world with­out credit cards, mi­crowaves and tele­vi­sion, tran­si­tion into the realm of com­put­ers and the in­ter­net can be dif­fi­cult.

When I was young the moon might as well have been a bal­loon as some­thing to walk on.

I still like to go to the air­port with a ticket, and to be on first-name terms with my bank man­ager.

If I want to buy a pair of jeans, I want to try them on rather than risk buy­ing them on the in­ter­net.

If you’re old, it’s damn easy to be left grop­ing in the dark, par­tic­u­larly when IT also hit our sports.

En­ter the world of the sports sci­en­tist.

Be in no doubt, sports sci­en­tists are suf­fo­cat­ing our sports, par­tic­u­larly foot­ball and cricket.

I was at the Ea­gles last year for a few months, pri­mar­ily to do a bit of goal-kick­ing work with Jake Water­man.

On the first morn­ing, for­wards’ coach Jaymie Gra­ham told me their sports sci­en­tists had de­creed young Jake must never be al­lowed more than 30 shots on goal on any given day.

From that point on I knew that it was al­most point­less me be­ing there.

I had thou­sands of shots on goal dur­ing my ca­reer, over and above my nor­mal train­ing.

And in a 271-game ca­reer, plus 40-odd prac­tice matches, I missed only one game be­cause of a mus­cle-tear in­jury.

The Brayshaw broth­ers – An­gus, An­drew and Hamish – put them­selves through 100 x 100m sprints, one af­ter the other, on Christ­mas Day last year.

Which Melbourne, Dock­ers or West Coast sports sci­en­tists were across that?

We’ve had Robo­cop, the movie; now we have Crick­et­cop – the sports sci­ence cow­boys have got their lar­i­ats around cricket.

The re­sult is that when the first Test against In­dia be­gan on Thurs­day our fast bowlers – Mitchell Starc, Josh Ha­zle­wood and Pat Cum­mins – were all un­der­done.

Cricket Aus­tralia fell into the trap of rest­ing fast bowlers from Sh­effield Shield matches last week­end, when they would have been bet­ter off play­ing com­pet­i­tive cricket.

Since the team came back from its dis­as­trous se­ries against Pak­istan, Starc, Ha­zle­wood and Cum­mins have played some white-ball cricket, which is hardly the prepa­ra­tion for a Test match.

They all should have played in round five of the Shield sea­son.

This still would have en­abled them to have a five-day break be­fore the first Test against In­dia, as well as pro­vid­ing nec­es­sary prac­tice with the red ball in match con­di­tions.

It was im­be­cilic to rest them. My mind goes back to great fast bowlers like Den­nis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Lenny Pas­coe.

There’s no way any of them would miss a Shield game to rest. All of them would see it as part of their prepa­ra­tion.

Thommo once told me all this sports-sci­ence stuff was bull­shit.

“We used to bowl in the nets for hours,” he said.

Spin­ners like Tony Lock, Richie Be­naud and Shane Warne also toiled long and hard to per­fect their craft.

Lockie said bowlers needed to send down 20 overs three times week at a tar­get with­out a bats­man to get “bowler fit”.

He would have strug­gled to run one lap around the WACA Ground with­out stop­ping, but he could bowl 30 overs un­changed in a match eas­ily – be­cause he was bowl­ing fit.

Be­naud also had two two- hour ses­sions over and above ev­ery­thing else, just to get his ac­cu­racy right and his bowl­ing fit­ness up to stan­dard.

Shane Warne didn’t be­come the mas­ter he was with­out bowl­ing 25 overs in his spare time on ev­ery other af­ter­noon .

Much of Warnie’s tute­lage was un­der the watch­ful eye of Terry Jen­ner, but most of that work­load was done over and above any other prac­tice he was do­ing.

Alan Davidson wrote: “I lived near Richie Be­naud and ev­ery Tues­day and Thurs­day af­ter­noon we went to the SCG and did two hours of tar­get prac­tice be­fore state train­ing.

“We prac­tised hard, un­til we could land the ball with the ac­cu­racy of shoot­ing a ri­fle.”

Wasim Akram also spoke about the ben­e­fits he got from do­ing work in the nets over and above his nor­mal train­ing regime.

The mi­cro­scopic mon­i­tor­ing of our Test crick­eters is bad enough, but it would seem the sports sci­ence boys have got their claws into junior cricket as well.

Christ Church Gram­mar all­rounder James Pike was due to play for his school against Wes­ley last week­end.

But be­cause he had been se­lected in the un­der-19 WA team to go to the east­ern states this week, he was stopped from play­ing.

I know full well what Christ Church coach Gra­ham Wood would say about all of that!

Junior coaches are now con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing the num­ber of balls be­ing al­lowed to be bowled by young­sters. It’s bunk to do that with kids.

More time should be spent on get­ting ac­tions right, while mak­ing cer­tain that any­body with a method that is dif­fer­ent (like a young Thommo) is al­lowed to de­velop nat­u­rally, par­tic­u­larly if he’s quick.

Noth­ing good will emerge from in­tro­duc­ing sports sci­en­tists at junior level, and I even won­der if it’s help­ing at all with the guys at Test level.

Our fast bowlers are still go­ing down like wooden milk bot­tles at a coun­try fair with one in­jury or an­other.

Maybe it’s time we just let them bowl.

Pace­man Mitchell Starc in ac­tion.

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