AUSTRALIAN cricket must remove its Twenty20 blinkers if it is to avoid more Test humblings at the hands of India and England, according to the nation's most successful domestic coach.
With the end in sight to his trophy-laden career, Tasmanian coach Tim Coyle has spoken out about national cricketing priorities.
He believes the mid-season break for the Big Bash is stifling development of Test batsmen and making Australia a one-man batting team.
After Australia tumbled to its second crushing defeat in India, Coyle blamed domestic scheduling.
``Test cricket is supposed to be the most important thing but we compromise our Sheffield Shield competition by having our summer broken up with eight weeks of Twenty20 cricket slap bang in the middle of it,'' Coyle said.
``One of the issues for me in terms of making sure we have hardened first-class players is we've got this massive break in the middle of our cricket season.
``Players are not playing red-ball cricket for up to 80-odd days between Shield matches. We're picking players to come into our program that have not played four-day cricket for so long. I think that's asking for trouble.
``Look at the current Test team and the blokes who are struggling - (Ed) Cowan, (Phil) Hughes, (Shane) Watson and (Dave) Warner - how much red-ball cricket have they actually played leading into what is a pretty tough environment in India?
``It's not ideal preparation.''
Cricket Australia's Argus Report into the last Ashes loss stated that emphasis needs to be shifted away from Twenty20 and back to Test cricket, but Coyle questioned whether that was happening.
``I understand the commercial situation for Australian cricket and that the Big Bash is a major player in that, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.
``From the players' point of view, it's the cash cow. The players don't want to lose that income and I understand that.
``But somewhere along the line there has to be a compromise and decisions made making sure our Test cricket is not compromised by Twenty20 cricket.''
Coyle, who is overseeing his penultimate Sheffield Shield fixture in Brisbane, believes the situation could come to a head later this year with back-to-back Ashes series.
``At the end of the day major questions will be asked when we play the Ashes. That's the Holy Grail. The question will be easier to answer when we see what happens there.
``I actually think our fast bowling group is as good as anyone in the world. At the moment our problem is with our batting. We need to score more runs to give our bowlers a chance.
``Our batting line-up is relying too heavily on Michael Clarke. We've got to find some batting which is underpinned by significant first-class runs and we're not seeing that.''
Coyle also suggested the quantity of cricket being played was an issue.
``Ten or even five years ago they were not playing anywhere near as much cricket and the more cricket you play the more chance you have of injury.''