SYDNEY, New South Wales (AFP) – Former captain Steve Waugh has urged Australia coach Darren Lehmann to stick with his underperforming top six batsmen, saying no one performs at their best with the axe hanging over them.
Lehmann on Tuesday warned his batsmen that their Test careers were in jeopardy after a dramatic second innings collapse in the fourth Test saw England to a third straight Ashes series win.
"No-one's guaranteed (their place). Apart from probably Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers," he said, referring to the captain and the opener.
But Waugh, who played 168 Tests, said selectors need to stick with the nation's top six Test batsmen if they are to have any chance of putting Australian cricket back on a winning path.
He said uncertainty over selection meant fringe batsmen were unable to relax into their natural stroke play.
"Look at Phil Hughes, he's been up and down the order and has been dropped three or four times in 20 Tests. That doesn't give you much confidence," Waugh told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation late Tuesday.
"Usman Khawaja is another example.
"If you've got the axe hanging over your head always it is really hard to relax and play your natural game.
"Selectors have got to say: 'We're going to go through some tough times, but these are the six or seven batsmen we believe in and we're going to back them even if they don't succeed straight away'."
Waugh said he experienced first-hand the benefits of selectors showing faith, as he did not win a Test match until his 13th Test and failed to score a ton until his 26th Test.
After that, he flourished into one of Australia's most successful batsmen and captains, accumulating 10,927 Test runs with an average of 51.06 and leading Australia in 15 of their record breaking 16 consecutive Test victories.
"It took a long while for me to get it right as well," Waugh said. "But I had the benefit of getting it wrong. Right now, the selectors need to pick and stick and show confidence in players."
Waugh added that he believed Australia's problems stemmed from too much Twenty20 and one-day cricket, which he said did not adequately prepare batsmen for the discipline of a Test match.
"We've got more than enough talent but they are not sure how to play Test cricket, they've had so much Twenty20 and 50 overs cricket," he said.
"Test cricket tests you in every department -- physically, technically and emotionally -- and if you are not up to it in any category you'll struggle."