Former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh says the need for succession planning, particularly for the coming post-Ponting years, is upon us.
Today marks my first foray into the world of sports commentary, and I do this on the back of those comments.
Ponting’s return to form this summer should not distract from the fact that we urgently need a succession plan in place, including blooding future stars in a better manner than the team does, while at times resting more experienced players, or if the case merits, dropping them altogether like Waugh suggests.
The most pressing reason for a succession plan is to avoid a repeat of the experience of losing McGrath, Warne and other experienced players all in one hit. Results beginning to suffer badly at the hands of teams that rarely troubled us in the past.
Dropping players without consultation might show decisiveness on the part of Cricket Australia, but this would need to be backed up by a strong succession plan which has definite players in mind for each spot coming up for availability, who have been identified and properly inducted into senior cricket at an international level.
I have in mind other ways to achieve a succession plan that should benefit the team, rather than simply dropping a player toward the end of their career. It should be about a transitioning rather than ending a career and starting a new one completely out of the blue.
One method is to work with players more intimately that are getting toward the end of their careers and asking them sincerely where they see themselves in say 1-3 years.
This would involved ongoing and regular re-assessment of goals over time between team management and the players, effectively allowing the players more of a say in their futures in a consultative arrangement that should avoid leaving players feeling disenfranchised as may occur in the event of being dropped outright.
Crucial to any succession plan is for Cricket Australia to involve the list of contracted players and perhaps other players of promise regularly and closely in the senior Australian team environment.
This should include inviting the list of players to be involved in as much training with the Australian team as possible while not impacting too much on game time in the domestic or overseas cricket competitions.
It should also include more Australia A matches, including where possible touring an Australia A team more often overseas with the Australian XI.
Once replacements are found and involved in the team environment it is incumbent on Cricket Australia to show faith in new players for a prolonged period of time rather than to indulge in knee-jerk reactions and dump players struggling in their first few Tests.
If players have had a proper induction to the high standard of cricket required this may not even be necessary.
A final bugbear of mine is selectors picking too many players for a first representative cap that may be only a few years from retirement, denying the career longevity of promising younger players that once existed for players such as Ponting and other greats before him.
That’s not to say that young players consistently showing poor performance should be given too long a leash. There should be a good mix of youth and experience.
It’s not going to be easy, but there you have it, Cricket Australia.
It really can be this simple, and we ought to pay attention to the words of Steve Waugh. We ignore them at our sporting and cultural peril.