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.