Feeling a bit down after Australia blew a once-in-a-generation chance to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India?
Worried about losing Mitchell Starc and the increasing nastiness between the sides on the field? Slightly scared by the prospect of Ashton Agar striding out to bat at number six?
Have we got good news for you (not)! Australia has decided to keep on the firm of Trevor Hohns, Darren Lehmann, Mark Waugh and Greg Chappell as our national selection panel.
There have been some changes – the Test panel will now be three (Hohns, Lehmann and Chappell) while they’ll be a separate one for the T20 (Lehmann, Waugh). But basically it’s the same four dudes.
Before I get stuck in, I feel obliged to acknowledge that all four men were great cricketers. All four at least have the guts to have a go as selector, which is more than can be said for many former players. All four have impressive-ish track records after the game, and all four clearly have excellent political skills that enabled them to hang on to their jobs.
But I think there are problems with what’s happened. Major problems, that need to be addressed, if we’re serious about being number one in all three formats.
1) They’ve been locked in for too long
Cricketers can get the boot after one game, but our selectors have been given long term contracts – Hohns until 2020, Chappell and Waugh until August 2018, Lehmann until the end of the 2019 Ashes.
That is a long time. In Hohns’ case, very very long. Apparently it’s more important for selectors to be able to have job security than the players.
I get that there needs to be some stability but why can’t they be employed on a series-by-series basis? Because there’s so much other demand for their services? Because they have to over-see their long-term development plans like, I don’t know, Sam Heazlett? Or is it another case of jobs for the boys?
2) The coach is still a selector while the captain isn’t
In the topsy-turvy world of modern Australian cricket, the coach has more power than the captain. If push came to shove, Darren Lehmann has the power to get rid of Steve Smith but not the other way around. It’s madness.
Consider this: Lehmann coaches the Australian team in all three formats, is a selector in all three formats, and has a contract until 2019. Losing five Tests in a row gave Cricket Australia the opportunity to pull back on the power of this megalomaniac but nope… he’s still in there, stronger than ever.
Cricket is not football. You don’t have interchanges. You don’t have drafts. Matches go for five days; the players have more control over their own destiny. But yet the Alex Ferguson-ification of Australian cricket continues.
3) They’re old men less in touch than they think they are
Chappell (aged 68) last played first class cricket in 1984, Hohns (63) in 1991, Mark Waugh (aged 51) in 2004; Lehmann (aged 47) in 2007. That’s a lot of years in the stands. The selectors clearly like youth on the field at lot more than they do around the selection table.
4) Hohns never played a one day international
The only one who played T20 is Lehmann – a grand total of 17 games, not one of them an international. I know Mark Waugh watches a lot of BBL, but isn’t there a hell of a difference between watching it and playing it?
To use selectors of a format with such limited experience in that format is a joke, especially when there are so many other potential candidates around.
If we are serious about international T20 selection, why don’t we get in some truly fresh blood and a completely new panel with some actual playing experience in the format? There’s a lot of ex-cricketers out there.
5) They are media bullies
I should qualify – Darren Lehmann and Trevor Hohns are. Lehmann loves to take pot shots at people who criticise him or his family. Brett Geeves “wasn’t a very good player” (what does he think of Hohns, I wonder?).
Kevin Pietersen wasn’t worth the money the Stars paid for him. Pat Howard should shut up. Steve Rixon should “concentrate on his own job” instead of daring to criticise Lehmann. He also loves to publicly pick on players in his own side who’ve displeased him (especially Glenn Maxwell and Usman Khawaja).
Lehmann seems to have inspired Trevor Hohns to participate in similar Trump-esque behaviour, bagging Cameron White’s playing career because he had the gall to (accurately) point out the selectors were sidelining domestic cricket.
All this press posturing is not only childish, it’s mean spirited, bullying and potentially litigious, especially considering that neither Hohns or Lehmann were sanctioned by Cricket Australia for their comments.
6) They believe their own genius rather statistics
The most notable example of this is Mitchell Marsh, who the selectors still seem to think was/is Keith Miller in disguise despite first class statistics that indicated this never has and never would happen.
He’s only one of several recent picks based on little more than “gut feel” – Sam Heazlett in New Zealand, Nic Maddinson in the Tests, Billy Stanlake in the one dayers, Moises Henriques in Sri Lanka.
Absolutely Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw worked out well – but you know something? Their domestic performances were pretty good – you could justify their selection on stats – as you could for O’Keefe and Hilton Cartwright – whereas you couldn’t for Heazlett, Maddinson, Stanlake and Henriques.
Steve O’Keefe’s stats were very impressive, and very ignored for a long time. Chadd Sayers has amazing stats that are being overlooked now.
Everyone remembers the ‘gut feel’ selections which work out well eg Ian Healy. But there’s been plenty who turned out to be completely underwhelming – Ian Craig, Graeme Hole, Ian Davis, Ron Archer, Rick Darling, Les Joslin, John Watkins, Michael Beer.
We have a really good domestic comp. I know statistics aren’t everything but I trust them a lot more than the gut of this four.
7) They’re ducking work
The new policy is that selectors don’t have to be at every state game – they can rely on state talent managers. Hohns says this will give them “a little bit more flexibility as to who we go to watch.” In other words, “it makes it easier for us to play our favourites”.
This isn’t just lazy, it’s short sighted. You wind up doing things like picking Michael Beer as a spinner in the Test side because Shane Warne “likes the look of him” or fast tracking a heap of Queenslanders because you know them better than the other blokes.
As a Queenslander, I find it especially distressing that it’s selectors from my home state doing this; back in the old days, Queensland players (along with their Western Australia and Tasmanian colleagues) suffered badly when it came to national representation because selectors simply didn’t watch them as often.
Now we’re all set to repeat the mistakes of the past with this lazy, nepotistic-leaning “flexible” policy.
8) They love bits and pieces all rounders
Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Moises Henriques, Marcus Stoinis… these players really have no business being considered for Test matches, not based on their first class career form. But for some reason this selection panel seems to think the secret for success at Test match level is a number six who averages around thirty with the bat.
I mean, we’ve never had a consistently successful Test side in history with a number six doing that, but what would history know? Gut!
It still baffles me why our selectors are so passionate for this breed. I do get the feeling that Mark Waugh confuses players like Henriques and Mitchell Marsh with himself at a younger age (Waugh used to open the bowling for NSW)… but Waugh was a top rank batsman by his third season of domestic cricket, something those have still never managed.
Lehmann’s love for Marsh and Agar defies any sort of logic – are they the extra sons he never had? Is their youthful promise? Sheer bloody minded-ness? A case of blackmail? Unrequited love? Does he see them as his legacy? They might be, but not in the way he thinks….
Why is it so hard to have a number six who must perform properly with the bat? And just do we’re clear, crappy scores in the thirties is not “performing properly”.
9) They’re not accountable for their failures
Three of these selectors – Lehmann, Waugh, Hohns – were part of the selection panel who masterminded Australia’s five Test losses in a row. The only selector to “lose” his job was Rod Marsh, who resigned.
They were all part of the decision to bring back Mitchell Marsh at six, one of the leading reasons we lost the second Test. Greg Chappell’s previous two stints as selector coincided with periods of constant failure for the Australia Test one – the second time was so bad he was banned from the Australian changing room. They’ve been punished accordingly with more job security than pretty much anyone in Australian cricket.
10) They can’t stop tinkering
They give Hilton Cartwright one Test, he does okay… then they refuse to take him to India so they can make room for those proven match-winners Mitchell Marsh and Ashton Agar. They finally give Khawaja an extended run, he rewards them with a stack of runs …. Then they boot him because he’s no good in “Asia”. (All pitches in “Asia” are alike apparently.)
They discovered Matt Renshaw, who rewarded them with fantastic form… then publicly considered dropping him from the first Test against India to make room for that other match winner, Shaun Marsh.
Somewhere along the line our selectors have lost the ability to pick and stick and discovered a taste for dropping players who are in good form.
This has been a mostly negative article, I admit – it’s just so frustrating when the people in charge of player’s livelihoods get away with so much. We could be two nil up in India if they’d picked a proper number six.
Moving forward, I’d like to propose the following changes to selection policy:
a) The composition of the selection panel is reviewed at the end of every Australian summer – no one has a contract longer than 12 months.
b) Different panels for the Test, one day and T20 side – and by “different” I mean completely different.
c) Everyone on the panel must have some experience playing in the format in which they are selecting.
d) The coach is not a selector.
e) Selectors are susceptible to the same fines as players for “bringing the game into disrepute” if they slag off their colleagues. Selectors especially should not be able to publicly disparage players over whom they have selection powers.
f) Return to the policy of a selector at every state game.
It won’t happen but I can’t help hoping.