Cricket’s rotation policy leaves too many questions
The 2011 Argus Review into Australian cricket was an attempt tohelp Cricket Australia deliver the best team it could.
The previous selection panel under Andrew Hilditch was heavily criticised, particularly during the Ashes debacle.
One of the consistent criticisms regarded poor communication between the selection panel and players.
But it appears, even with a new panel, the same mistakes are coming up again. Players are suffering. They don’t know if they have been rested, rotated or dropped.
At the start of the current ODI series, chairman of selectors John Inverarity announced the squad, omitting incumbent ‘keeper Brad Haddin. Haddin had struggled in the Test series against India with both bat and gloves. To the naked eye, it appeared that he had been dropped.
When the questions came in the press conference, Inverarity swatted them away, with comments about Haddin being “rested” for a few games.
In came Matthew Wade, who impressed as both a forceful opening batsman and a solid keeper, which left the selectors in a conundrum. Haddin then came out in an interview and said he was dropped.
When Ricky Ponting was dropped from the ODI side, Inverarity held a press conference to announce the squad for the next few matches and also to discuss Ponting’s axing.
After the shock of Ponting’s departure, the talk turned to Haddin, who was again left out.
Inverarity was quite clear, and also apologetic. He admitted that Haddin had been dropped, and apologised for not being clear with the truth. He continued on to say that Haddin knew he had been dropped.
So why say he was rested? Had this turned into schoolboy sport, where people are let down gently and every child wins a prize?
It appears at the moment that sports scientists are pushing some of the direction in Australian cricket when it comes to managing fast bowlers. There are limits on number of balls a bowler can bowl at training (particularly for the under 19s).
These limits are set not by hardened, experienced Test fast bowlers, but by sports scientists who have probably not played the game at even a first-class level. Using similar ideas to those used in AFL, rotating players to lessen the workload has come to the forefront.
Fast bowlers appear to play a few games before being left out and rested or rotated. Proponents of a rotation policy point to the success of rotation at Geelong and Collingwood, who have won the last three AFL premierships.
But now the rotation policy has bitten Australia’s best fast bowler of the last few years, Ryan Harris. Coming back from injury in January, he played back to back Tests against India, and then went straight into the one day side.
He was ‘rested’ after a couple of games, when he was not injured or needing a rest, and was desperate to play, having missed the first half of the summer.
Media reports said that Harris wasn’t happy about being left out and he admitted he needed to bowl to keep his rhythm. So when he came back into the side following his enforced rest, he was a little rusty, and struggled. Brett Lee and Ben Hilfenhaus were preferred with the new ball.
Within a week, things had suddenly changed. Rested or rotated had suddenly turned into dropped for Harris. While he hadn’t been in ideal form, he had previously been a spearhead for Australia in the one-day game.
The selectors seemingly ignored injury concerns for Brett Lee, again. This does not build a good team culture, as players will fear being dropped if they don’t immediately hit the ground running when they come back from a rest.
With the amount of money on offer in the modern game, players will reject the rotation policy as it is not in the best interests of their career. In a team game, where the individual is the performer, how many individuals are going to start looking out for themselves?
With new Twenty20 competitions springing up from Bangladesh to Brisbane, will the new selection policy see players looking after their wallets, rather than having selectors and sports scientists decide their fate?