Cricket Australia’s much vaunted high performance mantra, it seems, doesn’t extend to the national selection panel.
Inaction on ending the careers of ageing stars has left little time to groom the next generation of batsmen before a gruelling 12 month period in which Australia play four away Tests against India before heading to England for a five match series which will be reciprocated in the 2013-14 Australian summer.
Entering the Australian summer of 2011-12, the national selectors were faced with the dilemma of planning for the 2013 Ashes and managing the exits of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Fears that Ponting and Hussey wouldn’t be round for a tilt at regaining the Ashes in England have come to fruition.
Ponting struggled against New Zealand before plundering the Indian attack in the New Year, however Ponting’s renaissance didn’t last and by year’s end he had announced his retirement from Test cricket.
Hussey’s retirement comes as a greater shock as he has shown few signs of slowing down and leaves Test cricket at the top of his game.
Inevitably when Australia loses, the selectors are judged harshly by the public and there will always be a player or three around the country who thinks they have been hard done. There is the saying that it is harder to get into the Australian Test team than get out of it and that makes sense, as stability is an important ingredient of a successful cricket side.
Recent comments by John Inverarity indicate this is a selection panel which fears getting it wrong. High performance selection panels make steadfast judgements which show faith in the players to perform and don’t attempt to justify their actions at press conferences.
Staggering public comments suggesting that Phil Hughes was protected from facing South Africa on his return to Test cricket have the potential to do Hughes and Australian cricket great harm.
Since when have Australian players been hesitant of doing battle with South Africa?
After all Hughes made a century on debut against South Africa and while they have a good pace attack, they are hardly Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Andy Roberts!
Michael Hussey has been a great player at international level since making his debut at 30 and it’s hard to be down on him for wanting to play international cricket for as long as his mind would allow, though his sudden retirement does leave a gaping hole in what is fast becoming a fragile top six.
Should the selectors have tapped Ponting and Hussey on the shoulder last summer and said for the betterment of the team it’s time to move on? A high performance selection panel would have most certainly retired Ponting and probably been brave enough to do the same with Hussey.
Initially both decisions would have been highly unpopular but then again so was the axing of Ian Healy for Adam Gilchrist. The angst subsided very quickly when Gilchrist started blasting centuries while batting at seven.
As we say goodbye to 2012, the Australian cricket team is about to embark on the toughest 12 months it has faced in decades.
Expect competitive performances against India, who have their own problems with the form of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. Though better Australian sides have struggled to beat India on the subcontinent, a series win isn’t out of the question given the weak Indian bowling attack.
England will win the Ashes and by plenty. England are simply a better side and would have beaten Australia with Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting in the middle order, which makes it all the more frustrating that some tough decisions weren’t made earlier.