Australia’s ‘youth first’ policy is short-sighted

Nick Roar Rookie

By Nick, Nick is a Roar Rookie

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    A lot has been said recently about CA’s top-down approach to favour youth over tried and proven performers at the selection table.

    For a long time, Greg Chappell has personified this approach. By his own admission, Greg Chappell is anxiously searching nets throughout the country for another 16-year-old incarnate of Ricky Ponting, who was the most talented kid he’s ever seen, according to him.

    He is looking forward to that day with longing in his gnarled old heart. We’d all be happy to hear about the next Ponting or any once-in-a-generation player for that matter. Imagine the narcotic rush of discovering such a player. It must be addictive.

    But what exactly is the long-term plan for talented young players?

    A year ago, Australia invested in a batch of younger players including Matt Renshaw.

    What happens if next year another prodigiously talented 20-year-old opener is discovered and Renshaw is not setting the world on fire?

    Matt Renshaw bats during a test match against India

    (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

    On the evidence of players like Joe Burns, Alex Doolan, Nic Maddinson, Cameron White, (the list of discards is long) the chances are they’ll be overlooked and Renshaw will be dropped. These players may then languish in state cricket. There are ODI discards also, like Peter Forrest, Mark Cosgrove, etc. who have seemingly disappeared.

    The prospect of going back to State cricket and grinding it out for one or two seasons thereafter to regain top form would be perfectly acceptable provided there is an assurance that the player can return, and provided the selectors have a substantial interest in that player doing so. I suspect the second half of this equation may be lacking.

    This may explain why some of our discards haven’t set the world on fire back in State cricket. Even if the player goes back and top scores, you may be dropped from your state side like Ed Cowan.

    It appears Australian selectors have very little regard for experience, yet we’re all told that the jump up from state level to Tests is substantial and that it’s a mind-game as much as anything else.

    Why then does the experience of having played for Australia at Test or ODI level seem to count for so little once players are dropped? Wouldn’t it be logical to closely monitor and support such players and give them every chance to develop the extra few percentage points their games need to fulfil the promise that warranted selection in the first place?

    Steve Waugh got 27 Tests before he scored a hundred. Steve Smith did not look like the batsman he is now when he was first selected.

    When you add in the disappointment that players who have been dropped from the Australian team have experienced, some of their mediocre results makes more sense. It must be crushing to go from such huge highs, big paydays and exposure to being someone ‘who was dropped’ when you know the selectors are just going to look for youth.

    Those players must feel like they had their chance and blew it. Not much of a performance incentive.

    You might say, never mind, next year there will be another young player in the Matt Renshaw mould. Or, perhaps we could start prioritising experience, reward all players who’ve earned selection into the Australian team with a long-term program and stronger encouragement they’ll earn more chances.

    At the end of the day, a player who has potential and who also has the experience of having once played for Australia, surely trumps a player who just has potential.

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    The Crowd Says (25)

    • Roar Guru

      November 9th 2017 @ 9:40am
      JamesH said | November 9th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Good points. Ponting, Clarke, Hayden, Langer and Martyn, to name a few, were all dropped for a significant period after their initial stint in the side. Just imagine if some of them had been discarded…

      I still think the problem stems from picking guys who haven’t done enough at Shield level in the first place, though. Maddinson’s promotion was a classic example, as was Smith’s initial selection (as a leggie). A player who has done the work initially seems more likely to re-apply themselves in the Shield if they do get dropped because they already know what it takes.

    • November 9th 2017 @ 12:53pm
      beepee said | November 9th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

      A good read, and well done shining a light on the Greg Chappell bias. He’s a guy that’s been untouchable as an administrator, yet his post-cricket feats have come nowhere near to living up to his cricketing abilities. Failed in a number of places as a coach and manager, and now as a selector, we get the same warped thinking – that is, youth at all costs and never mind the players that have earned a better deal. Classic case, mentioned on here yesterday by Brad Hogg, is the curious case of George Bailey. Why has he been treated so harshly after such consistent domestic performances? Can anybody even say why he was discarded from the One-Day side a couple of years ago? He’s an unfashionable player from a state with no influence, but he could have offered so much more in terms of experience and leadership to Australian cricket.
      Continually searching for the next Ricky Ponting will more often than not, end in disappointment and embarrassment for the selectors, and the ruining of many good cricketer’s careers along the way.
      Cricket Australia seems loathe to move on this type of selection thinking, even given the Rod Marsh experience.

      • November 9th 2017 @ 6:32pm
        John Erichsen said | November 9th 2017 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

        Bailey’s case is a strange one. His has scored good runs in the past two shield seasons but he seems harmed by his one day performances. He seems branded a limited overs batsman and his career average of less than 40 dismisses him quickly from test side talk, much in the same way Michael Klinger’s does.

    • Roar Rookie

      November 9th 2017 @ 1:10pm
      Matthew Pearce said | November 9th 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

      Well said, this stated many of my feelings in regards to this policy much better than I could have done myself.

      You certainly get the feeling that the likes of Burns, Ferguson, Bailey and co. are never going to play for Australia again, regardless of how well they do, because the next flash kid will be in and firing for one or two good seasons, only to inevitably drop off and get replaced by the next cab off the rank.

      We seem so driven to rage against the selection policies we hate (real or imagined), but for some reason this youth policy is completely escaping notice. Let’s be honest, from all these new selections only one player has properly proven himself. No coincidence that he’s the oldest player of the lot as well.

      This is a misguided solution to a problem that never actually existed, and it’s going to cost good players their careers.

    • November 9th 2017 @ 1:39pm
      Taurangaboy said | November 9th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

      You must remember Australia has not been doing very well for the past 10 years. Selectors have needed to cull a few underperforming players . At times they chose older guys to replace them, like Rogers and Ryan Harris. They’ve usually given the new players a good go, but many of them have hardly shone. Also there hasn’t been a plethora of players demanding to be picked because of superb performances.

    • November 9th 2017 @ 1:47pm
      BurgyGreen said | November 9th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      The thing is that of these discarded veterans, only really Cowan, Burns and perhaps Bailey have career records that should put them in the frame. Ferguson, Doolan, White etc. average less than 40 in first class cricket from long careers. They’ve all been outperformed by the younger generation – Renshaw, Handscomb, Cartwright, Patterson, Lehmann. Those guys have actually played better than the older guys, rather than being given undeserved chances because they’re young.

      Cowan is hard done by in Shield cricket, and should’ve been considered for the Test side last season. Burns was dropped unfairly. But all the others don’t have career records screaming ‘pick me’. They’re hardly modern day Brad Hodges or Mike Husseys.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 9th 2017 @ 2:12pm
        Matthew Pearce said | November 9th 2017 @ 2:12pm | ! Report

        That’s true enough about the averages of those older players, but there’s still a couple of issues there; guys like Ferguson and Klinger, for example, have been averaging well above their career averages over the past few seasons. We’re told how important recent form is, does it not also apply here?

        The other problem is that the younger generation are being pushed up on the basis of one or two seasons – maybe three or so, if they’re initially on the outer. Usually they’re just “good” seasons as well. None of these players have consistently piled on runs year after year, with the exception of Handscomb, which, like I said above, has to be why he’s the only proven success of this new selection policy.

        If players were consistently given second chances once they’d proven themselves again (especially when they’re unfairly dumped), it wouldn’t be a problem. When players are left behind for the new young shiny player who hasn’t properly proven themselves, that’s when it becomes a problem.

        • November 9th 2017 @ 8:35pm
          John Erichsen said | November 9th 2017 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

          Ferguson first class figures
          2017 507 runs @ 25
          2016 478 runs @ 53
          2015 836 runs @ 52

          Another experienced player who missed out while selectors piddled around with the Mitch Marsh project. His treatment last summer by selectors was just rude.

          • November 10th 2017 @ 2:19pm
            George said | November 10th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

            Yep, and sure enough Mitch (a player who never seems to need to have even one great first-class season) was back in the side in India.

      • November 9th 2017 @ 2:26pm
        beepee said | November 9th 2017 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

        Even if it were only those three (Cowan, Burns and Bailey), then that’s three too many good players thrown on the rubbish heap for the sake of being the selector who discovered the next big thing. But as Matthew just pointed out, RECENT form should really count, and Klinger has received precious little reward for his last few seasons. The selection panel state that performances in domestic cricket are paramount, and then blindly ignore them in favour of their ‘gut-feels’ or ‘youth policy’. Australian cricket was not always like this. We used to pick the best XI regardless of age, state or who you were (or weren’t) related to.
        And a final point – is Cowan now un-selectable because of his outspoken views during the recent pay dispute? One may think his cards are marked forever.

        • Roar Guru

          November 9th 2017 @ 2:40pm
          Rellum said | November 9th 2017 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

          Given his comments of selections in the press in the last week I think he has decided his card is already marked and is now speaking his mind

          • November 9th 2017 @ 4:26pm
            beepee said | November 9th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

            Yes, perhaps so, but it should never, ever have come to this. If Cricket Australia aspire to the highest standards of fairness (which of course, they don’t) then neither Cowan’s age, nor him acting as a player’s advocate, should count against him. In Australian cricket, you’re either in the boy’s club or you’re not.

            • November 10th 2017 @ 2:22pm
              George said | November 10th 2017 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

              Meanwhile, the captain Smith (not a selector) plays favourites (to the detriment of the team) and calls for a mouth behind the stumps because he can’t handle the on-field demands of his position properly. At least Cowan, Khawaja and White et al are constructive in their comments.

        • November 9th 2017 @ 6:42pm
          John Erichsen said | November 9th 2017 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

          Klinger averaged 23 last shield season. 47 the season before and 58 three seasons ago. Not convinced his recent form warrants selection. Three years ago, Klinger was overlooked for Voges, who averaged 100+. Hard to argue that was a poor selection.
          Bailey’s career average doesn’t scream out “SELECT ME” and his good last summer was matched by Hilton Cartwright so picking youth seems sound. Cowan had a great series last year but only averaged 36 the previous year as he tried to reinvent himself as a test option. This summer would have been important for him to reinforce his claims yet selection bias results in him not playing shield cricket so that Daniel Hughes, on the back of two summers with mid 30 averages, gets showcased, WTF…..

          • November 9th 2017 @ 7:14pm
            beepee said | November 9th 2017 @ 7:14pm | ! Report

            Its not always about CAREER average. He’s been overlooked consistently in favour of other players who have done no better but are more closely aligned with ‘the selectors and their whims. Bailey has much more to offer to a struggling Australian team, and if you read widely on the topic, you’ll find most agree he is one of the cases that has deserved better treatment.

            • November 9th 2017 @ 8:30pm
              John Erichsen said | November 9th 2017 @ 8:30pm | ! Report

              Maybe, but selected weren’t overawed by his 5 tests against England last time they toured. He had a full test series on home soil to stake a strong claim and he averaged 26 against an English side that was destroyed mentally by MJ. I won’t even try and get inside the selection panel’s head but I would have been more than happy to see Bailey batting at six for the 21 tests Mitch Marsh played.
              Career averages are a guide to a player’s consistent performances and shouldn’t be ignored just because the numbers aren’t favourable. I will agree that recent seasons should be weighted more highly. Bailey’s recall hopes seem to have been lost in the Mitch Marsh project and now Cartwright seems to be as successful as Bailey in recent seasons, but with youth on his side.

              • Columnist

                November 10th 2017 @ 2:07pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | November 10th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

                At the age of 28, Klinger was only averaging 27 with the bat in FC cricket (from 39 matches).

                Since that age Klinger has pretty much gone … one great season …. one ordinary season …. one great season …. one ordinary season. That isn’t going to get you selected for Tests as an old batsman.

                Klinger still only has an FC average of 39 yet some people act as if he’s been robbed of a long Test career.

    • Roar Guru

      November 9th 2017 @ 2:01pm
      Rellum said | November 9th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

      I don’t have time to get into this, look into my previous posts if you want. It is more about the system and the Shield as a comp vs a development league.

      This statement from a foxsports report on the ashes squad says it all to me. They will be training literally across the road from where the Shield game is being played. It would not suprise me to see Warner and Smith rested as well.

      “Bird, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will be rested from next week’s Sheffield Shield round and sent to Brisbane where they will train as a unit at the National Cricket Centre before the November 23 Ashes opener”

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