Top-class cricket teams are getting skittled out for shambolic totals such as 47 and 49, as witnessed in Tests in South Africa this year. They are dumbfounded against the new ball's notorious movements. The conditions were favoring the fast swing bowlers, without a doubt, but these deliveries weren't impossible to negotiate. There's a problem with the mental makeup of the modern-day batsmen.
Too many batsmen don't show enough interest in occupying the crease and are falling into the trap of the moving cherry. Perhaps it has to do with the volume of limited-overs cricket over the years and the advancement of Twenty20 in recent times that has uplifted the urge to score at more than four runs per over in Test cricket. This urge puts pressure on top-order batsmen to score runs at a rapid pace while requisite skills such as immaculate defense, precise footwork, playing with soft hands, occupying the crease, learning to adapt to the conditions and patience are overlooked. And for which, on testing conditions, a lot of modern-day batsmen suffocate.
The importance of staying at the crease for a longer period - much like Hanif Mohammad, Rahul Dravid or Sunil Gavaskar did - doesn't seem to be a part of many modern-day batsmen's mental makeup. With cash rich domestic tournaments like the IPL and BBL such skills are now being shoved in the background. But no matter how dull occupying the crease may appear to be, this old-fashioned ploy is still the best option to survive in testing conditions.
In the late 70s and 80s, limited-overs cricket boomed and it became a brand in the 90s. As time progressed, limited-overs cricket's younger brother, the T20 format, was born and added a rush of adrenaline. But this format's glamorous version, the lucrative T20 leagues, has affected the batting temperament of many modern-day batsmen. Yes, these leagues give the opportunity to earn money, but I just can't support the over indulgence of such these when Test matches are sacrificed.
The battle between Michael Atherton and Allan Donald or the domination of Brian Lara against Wasim Akram or Steve Waugh's unique fight back against a raging Curtly Ambrose is still a part of cricket's folklore. Why don't we witness such battles today? One of the reasons is lack of interest in participating in county cricket which is still the platform to develop as a world-class cricketer.
In the good old days of the late 70s, 80ss and 90s playing county cricket was the utmost priority of many cricketers. To develop themselves into a better product, cricketers of those days participated in county cricket and it helped them to learn how to adapt in various conditions. One of the blessings of county cricket is learning to adapt and develop patience and these qualities can hardly be noticed amongst the modern day batsmen.
Today, county cricket is not the target which is a shame. The players of the present generation should get involved in county cricket so that they don't get perplexed in trying conditions. A good stint with better county teams will be a blessing for the modern day cricketers. But the volume of cricket and the leagues don't allow them. And the ideal balance between all the formats might allow them to think about county cricket. Is that ideal balance possible? In the near future I don't see this ideal balance.
The choice must come from the cricketers. Those cricketers who wish to be a Lara, Waugh or Akram must give county cricket a priority.