Sheffield Shield decline blamed for Oz Test horror show

London: Former Australian cricketer Dave Gilbert has blamed the declining performances of the domestic Sheffield Shield competition as responsible for Australia`s continual poor run in Tests, which has been specifically magnified in the Ashes.

According to the Guardian, Gilbert, an Ashes tourist in 1985, is well qualified to dissect the current situation, having bowled in county and Shield cricket and been a well-regarded administrator in both nations.

Stating that previously Shield contests were almost always battled over four days, Gilbert said that nowadays results have become a two or three-day lottery on under-prepared surfaces, adding that because of these issues, the Australian cricketers have been facing so much problems, in England now and in India a few months back.

According to Gilbert, bowlers earn cheap wickets, spinners are redundant while the batsmen fail to learn application in Shield games nowadays, adding that dodgy playing surfaces have also become a major problem in the domestic game in Australia, which is not healthy for the game.

Gilbert, who ended his tenure as New South Wales` chief executive in January, also said that the Shield does not have the quality of hardheads that once played in the domestic competition, adding that the best players are removed from the scene impacting the young players, who then perform poorly in international competitions.

Gilbert further said that in the medium term fixing the Shield system must be a priority.

The report also said that a young player`s inclination towards Tests has been reduced due to the fact that there are millions of dollars potentially to be made in eight-week periods in Twenty20 cricket, for which the domestic strengths that once drove Australia to 16 years of dominance are now considered weaknesses in the Ashes world.

Glibert, who has watched England slowly transform from a mocked rabble to a position in which they own Australia at home and away, further said that there are three reasons behind England`s rise- the improvement of pitches, central contracts and a grudging agreement from counties that England would be the priority.

On the other hand, the report said that annual deals, which are an Australian invention, still award more than those allocated by England even though the list has recently been trimmed to a smaller, more manageable selection.