Craddock's eight Aussie cricket New Year’s resolutions
THIS time last year, Australian cricket was staring at its shoe laces.
The Boxing Day Test had just been lost to India. Fast bowlers were being ground to dust. David Warner and Steve Smith were in exile. The Australian team looked shot and disjointed.
But then it all changed. The year 2019 was one of exceptional progress, but Australia should not be complacent.
Greater challenges await and India's return next year will be the ultimate measuring stick.
It's that time of the year when we all make promises we rarely keep. Here's a few new year's resolutions that can keep Australian cricket on its toes.
PAT ON THE BACK
NSW should appoint Pat Cummins skipper in every match he is eligible for, to enhance his chances of being Australia's next Test captain.
With Tim Paine set to lead on next summer, the Blues just have enough time to squeeze a few matches into Cummins before a decision is made on the next Test skipper - if they can take a hint.
Australia must look at ways to send its young players to the greatest finishing school of all - England.
Marnus Labuschagne rocketed to the top of the charts after his stint at Glamorgan.
It takes only a few hours to drive from one end of England to another, but it contains all sorts of decks - from turners to seamers - with all sort of challenges.
And when you drive with seasoned county teammates up and down the country and they talk all things cricket in the car, you learn about the game by osmosis.
WHERE ARE THE KIDS?
Australia must continue to ask why, despite its massive multimillion-dollar coaching support system, it has struggled to produce back-up troops for two essential elements of Test cricket - spin bowlers and batsmen.
Though Mitchell Swepson is making solid strides, life beyond Nathan Lyon has been a slow-bowling wasteland and, if Marnus Labuschagne had not emerged, you could have said the same of the batting.
SIGN THE STARS
Big Bash teams need larger salary caps to entice more big-name stars.
AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn are promotional gold, but across the board the standard of imports has dropped.
MIND THE MINNOWS
Australia must remain aware that while it is bathing in rivers of gold due to broadcasting deals, many of the world's top 10 nations are struggling desperately and finding it increasingly difficult to fund first-class cricket systems.
Australia has never been much good at helping battling nations, but by doing so it actually helps the game and, as a consequence, itself.
TIES THAT BIND
Australia has a wonderful group of fast bowlers and should accept its rigid one-year-at-a-time contract system needs to be more flexible to keep them together.
If fast bowlers can get contracts of two years - hardly a gamble when you think of their pedigree - it will ensure they don't have to play the Indian Premier League when they should be resting.
Australia must continue to keep the pressure on ball manufacturer Kookaburra.
The sight of balls losing their shape early in Tests is unsatisfactory. There are plenty of seasoned judges (Shane Warne among them) who would happily use the English Duke ball in Australia simply because they feel it is a better product.
THE MENTAL GAME
Australia must continue to spend up big to tackle the mental health crisis which, at one point this season, has three members of Victoria's top six on the sidelines.
Players should be encouraged to seek a life outside cricket to release the pressure of their professional call.