By Alex Penny
As Australia’s Under-19 coach, David Fitzgerald is on the front line of his nation’s determination to recover their No 1 position on the world stage. After the loss of Australia’s golden generation it is a tough task, but Fitzgerald points to the emergence of players like David Warner, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon to support his claim that – in Aussie eyes – all is not yet lost.
Fitzgerald is adamant that new talent is coming through, with a new crop of fast bowlers headed by the exciting Cummins, who took a match-winning 6 for 79 against South Africa on his Test debut, being a particularly strong area of renewal.
“We have seen the introduction of quality young batsmen and bowlers into the Australian team over the last 12 months,” said Fitzgerald, “and they will benefit and learn a lot from living and training in that elite environment, being around and playing with Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Shane Watson.
“There have been a number of players from the Australian Under-19 World Cup winning team in 2010 to play for Australia and Australia A this year. Josh Hazlewood made his senior debut in an ODI against England six months after the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, and more recently the Australian Under-19 captain Mitch Marsh also played in the Twenty20 international and ODI series against South Africa. He is an exciting all-rounder.”
Lyon, the spinner who took the prized wicket of Kumar Sangakkara with his first ball in Test cricket, against Sri Lanka in Galle earlier this year, has backed new Australia captain Michael Clarke to be the man to lead the country’s cricket recovery as a global power.
“Michael is an awesome captain to play under, and he has the respect of all the squad members,” said Lyon. “He has clear and set plans and makes sure everyone knows their role, I definitely believe he is the right man for the job to get Australia back on top.
“As for myself, I certainly hope I can hold my spot but there is a lot of talent going around in Australia and I know I have to keep working hard on my skill set and developing my game to keep improving.
“It’s a very exciting time to be around the group and I think we have a very exciting future with a lot of young blood coming in combined with some good experience. We want to get back to being the number one team in world cricket across all formats.”
Fitzgerald is confident that his current crop of Under-19s will continue to provide strong contenders for the senior Australian teams at Test, 50-over and 20-over international level.
“We have seen some excellent performances with both bat and ball in recent times,” he added. “One batsman has made three hundreds in ten Under-19 one-day matches, which is an outstanding record and matched in his case by a high-quality work ethic.
“Our pace bowling department is exciting too, with a combination of speed, height, and ability to swing the ball, and they are very well supported by a group of impressive spin bowlers who bowl aggressively with flight and turn. Throw Pat Cummins into this squad and Australia’s future success looks positive.
“I believe the best cricketers develop the key fundamental skills in each discipline and can adjust their thinking and strategies to the format they are playing. Warner is a great example for young cricketers in Australia with his ability continually to improve as a cricketer. He has developed his skills to be successful in four-day first-class cricket and is now included in the Australian Test squad.
“All our emerging players want to wear the Baggy Green cap – that is their goal above anything else. I’ve yet to work with a player who does not have that as their career goal, and Test cricket is still their pinnacle. In saying that, they are certainly mindful of the opportunities Twenty20 competitions can also offer.”
*Alex Penny is a freelance writer