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Ryan Harris, the former Australia pace bowler and now a coach at the National Cricket Centre, has said that the players have to take responsibility for Australia’s recent problems rather than it being laid at the door of the high performance manager Pat Howard who was sacked this week.
Howard, who had confirmed he would not seek a contract extension next year, was shown the door at Cricket Australia during another week of major departures at the beleaguered organisation.
Harris was part of the Australia Test side when Howard was brought into his position following the Argus review in the wake of 2010-11 Ashes defeat and after his playing career finished moved into the high performance set-up which Howard was ultimately responsible for. The win-at-all-costs mentality, which came to a head with the Newlands ball-tampering, has been laid at Howard’s door following the cultural reviews.
“He would probably do a few things differently but I don’t think we can, as some people are saying, put the demise of Australian cricket on him and the people above,” Harris told radio station SEN. “In my opinion as a playing group you are in control of how you play, if you aren’t playing well you lose your spot and if the blokes behind you not playing then the team doesn’t go well.
“Pat didn’t make all those decisions on his own, I’m sure he would have had consultation from people around the game. I found him good to work under, both playing and coaching, and was disappointed to hear the news. But as he said to me, you have to move on and let’s get the game where we need it to be.”
Kevin Roberts, the new CA CEO, has said that Howard’s replacement will have a strong cricket background and Belinda Clark, the former Australia captain, has slipped into the interim role. Harris acknowledged that the whole high performance system he is now part of will come under scrutiny amid the wide-ranging restricting.
“We have to ask, is what we have set up now right,” he said. “We are all under the pump. We’ve lost some key people, some good people. Are we all in the right role and does it need to be reassessed?”
A glimmer of good news in recent times has been the performances of a number of the players who were part of this year’s National Performance Squad which Harris has worked with. The New South Wales pair of Jason Sangha and Jack Edwards scored hundreds in the recent Sheffield Shield round, legspinner Lloyd Pope took a seven-wicket haul and batsman Josh Philippe has impressed but Harris cautioned about rushing them through the system.
“We’ve heard a number of comments about not having a lot depth and they can hopefully be superstars, but let them earn it first,” Harris said. “It’s great to see these guys succeed but let’s not throw them in the deep end just yet. Let them learn the game and earn their spots.”
Harris did, however, echo the views of Ricky Ponting that the Sheffield Shield – and the levels below – are not proving to be a strong-enough breeding grounds for the next generation.
“I tend to agree, I grew up playing against guys like him in really strong teams. No disrespect to the current players, there’s no doubt the competition is not as strong as it used to be. We went through an Under-23 comp which may have been detrimental, and we probably lost a few cricketers through that. But that’s history now.”