Among the major outcomes of the Argus Review — the reformative plan released in 2011 to strengthen Australia’s cricket structure — is the National Cricket Centre. The facility, close to the Allan Border Field which housed the older national academy, is evidence of it.
The NCC, housed in a gleaming building, adopts a uniform approach to training and mentoring. The rehabilitation centre includes a three lane, 25m pool, a hot and cold plunge pool, three medical consulting rooms, a physio treatment area and a gym with anti-gravity treadmills for players on injury rehab.
“By standardising the curriculum, the coaching methodology across Australia remains pretty much the same, and everybody is on the same page. So, there is no chance of players getting exposed to disparate coaching methods,” said Greg Chappell, the NCC talent manager. Youngsters spend 4-5 months at the centre, although they are encouraged not to give up studies. Leadership qualities are identified early and Aussie newcomer, Mitchell Marsh, is among those shortlisted for the future.
The NCC offers scholarship programmes for select juniors from across the world to train at the facility, which includes Indian players as well.
Recently, a BCCI delegation visited NCC to study whether the curriculum and infrastructure can be replicated at the NCA in Bangalore. From backyard to baggy green, NCC shows how Cricket Australia has made efforts to integrate coaching.
An adelaide school of Australian captains
The Prince Alfred College in Adelaide, South Australia, houses a cricket ground which is steeped in history. Built in 1869 and spread over 25 acres, it is named to mark the visit of Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria. Among the products of the college are Ian Chappell and his brother Greg, Joe Darling and Clem Hill, all going on to captain Australia. Trevor Chappell and Greg Blewett also wore the prized school cap before donning the baggy green.
“We had Ray Smith, who played club cricket. Chester Bennet as coach taught me about captaincy. Then, the pitches were very good,” reminisced Ian Chappell.
The rivalry with St Peters College also helped breed competitiveness among students. Chappell recalled leading his school against a higher grade club and how facing up to then Australia fast bowler Alan Hitchcock taught him mental toughness and how to get even. “I batted at No 3 and he dished out a couple of bouncers, and told me to knock my block off. This is when I learnt about handling yourself when someone is trying to have a go at you.”