PACIFIC BEAT: Cricket Academy 2

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Working on the theory that to improve you copy the best, rival cricket nations have been busy setting up academies to match the one Australia started in Adelaide more than a decade ago. Little wonder: eight members of the most recent Australian XI, including Ricky Ponting, are graduates of the Australian Cricket Academy. But in an attempt to stay ahead of a field that's closing the gap on Steve Waugh's team (which has won just one of its last three series), the Australian Cricket Board is considering a new way to prepare promising talent for the first-class scene.

Instead of spending a year in Adelaide, the country's best youngsters may soon be nurtured by state cricket bodies, with only brief stints in Adelaide. The likely change follows so far unsuccessful attempts to replace the Academy's long-standing head coach, Rod Marsh, who has taken up a similar post in England. The free-thinking former Hockeyroos coach, Ric Charlesworth, used an interview for Marsh's job to tell administrators where they were going wrong: Australia's vast "geography," he told the ACB, made a centralized system of junior coaching impractical.