Steve Waugh is right about cricket’s succession plan

Tom Bridge Roar Pro

By Tom Bridge, Tom Bridge is a Roar Pro

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    Former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh says the need for succession planning, particularly for the coming post-Ponting years, is upon us.

    Today marks my first foray into the world of sports commentary, and I do this on the back of those comments.

    Ponting’s return to form this summer should not distract from the fact that we urgently need a succession plan in place, including blooding future stars in a better manner than the team does, while at times resting more experienced players, or if the case merits, dropping them altogether like Waugh suggests.

    The most pressing reason for a succession plan is to avoid a repeat of the experience of losing McGrath, Warne and other experienced players all in one hit. Results beginning to suffer badly at the hands of teams that rarely troubled us in the past.

    Dropping players without consultation might show decisiveness on the part of Cricket Australia, but this would need to be backed up by a strong succession plan which has definite players in mind for each spot coming up for availability, who have been identified and properly inducted into senior cricket at an international level.

    I have in mind other ways to achieve a succession plan that should benefit the team, rather than simply dropping a player toward the end of their career. It should be about a transitioning rather than ending a career and starting a new one completely out of the blue.

    One method is to work with players more intimately that are getting toward the end of their careers and asking them sincerely where they see themselves in say 1-3 years.

    This would involved ongoing and regular re-assessment of goals over time between team management and the players, effectively allowing the players more of a say in their futures in a consultative arrangement that should avoid leaving players feeling disenfranchised as may occur in the event of being dropped outright.

    Crucial to any succession plan is for Cricket Australia to involve the list of contracted players and perhaps other players of promise regularly and closely in the senior Australian team environment.

    This should include inviting the list of players to be involved in as much training with the Australian team as possible while not impacting too much on game time in the domestic or overseas cricket competitions.

    It should also include more Australia A matches, including where possible touring an Australia A team more often overseas with the Australian XI.

    Once replacements are found and involved in the team environment it is incumbent on Cricket Australia to show faith in new players for a prolonged period of time rather than to indulge in knee-jerk reactions and dump players struggling in their first few Tests.

    If players have had a proper induction to the high standard of cricket required this may not even be necessary.

    A final bugbear of mine is selectors picking too many players for a first representative cap that may be only a few years from retirement, denying the career longevity of promising younger players that once existed for players such as Ponting and other greats before him.

    That’s not to say that young players consistently showing poor performance should be given too long a leash. There should be a good mix of youth and experience.

    It’s not going to be easy, but there you have it, Cricket Australia.

    It really can be this simple, and we ought to pay attention to the words of Steve Waugh. We ignore them at our sporting and cultural peril.

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    The Crowd Says (16)

    • February 9th 2012 @ 4:35am
      Lancey5times said | February 9th 2012 @ 4:35am | ! Report

      Sending 2 teams on tours is a rather expensive option and would need the schedule backing of the other nations. May be tough to get as teams like Sri Lanka can’t afford to field one side.

      I agree however with the need to identify the talent and ensure they are playing enough and the right type of cricket. I have posted previously that all CA contracts should cover only 2 forms of the game. Test/ODI or ODI/T20. This would mean no test players playing international T20. Hasn’t hurt Alistair Cook among others. But good article. Good to read something that isn’t talking up Usman or carving up Marsh and/or Haddin

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      • Roar Pro

        February 11th 2012 @ 6:14pm
        Tom Bridge said | February 11th 2012 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

        It certainly is an expensive option and I do not advocate widespread/regular Australia A tours but certainly more than exists and definitely more Australia A games against international sides touring Australia.

        I would tend to agree with your comments regarding Test players not playing in T20 games as I think that it can condition Test players to play in a similar manner in the longer form of the game.

    • February 9th 2012 @ 6:42am
      Red Kev said | February 9th 2012 @ 6:42am | ! Report

      While Waugh is right, it was obvious they needed one during the Ashes last year when Ponting was tanking. However the loss, the subsequent Argus review and the new selection panel enabled both the old selectors and the new ones to wash their hands of it (scared of being the guy to tap Ponting on the shoulder) and just let him play on.
      I have decided to now hope he keeps going. I’d love nothing more than to see Ponting get shown up Dravid-style by some good bowling from both South Africa and England. Not that it would convince Ricky he must retire, but at least it’ll be good for a laugh.

      • February 9th 2012 @ 11:16am
        Disco said | February 9th 2012 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        At least Dravid scored three Test tons in England less than a year ago. Let’s see Punter do the business against a strong team overseas.

      • Roar Pro

        February 11th 2012 @ 6:16pm
        Tom Bridge said | February 11th 2012 @ 6:16pm | ! Report

        A plan should have been in place before Warne et all retired and yes definitely should have been looked at while Ponting was performing poorly for a prolonged period of time.

    • February 10th 2012 @ 7:24am
      Lolly said | February 10th 2012 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      Succession planning? And what is that exactly? Hoping like hell that another player as talented as Punter turns up sooner rather than later? The selectors have been trying out new batsmen for the past 2 years so they are trying to get some experience into new players. It’s not like the team is full of 35 year olds.

      This talk of ‘succession planning’ always makes me wince. Selection is hardly an exact science where you can just pull another experienced and highly talented player out of the first class comp to replace someone with 100 or so tests experience.

      • Roar Pro

        February 11th 2012 @ 6:21pm
        Tom Bridge said | February 11th 2012 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

        It’s certainly not an exact science, but identifying promising players early and getting them involved and used to the international level and senior team culture is a very important ingredient in continuing to build the team and foster success.

        To just start thinking about replacements when players retire has shown in recent years just how badly some form of plan was needed to at least attempt to continue the success of the team.

        Further, your last sentence indicates that you may not have read parts of my article.

        • February 11th 2012 @ 6:41pm
          lolly said | February 11th 2012 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

          I don’t like it when players are carried around with the Aus team for the experience but not played. Tim Paine spent an entire summer hardly playing matches at all, Steve Smith has been in the same boat. No matter how much they are learning about the Aus team culture, I’d bet all of them would actually like to play their sport.

          Ok, I’ll address one of your other points as I hear this mentioned a lot. We would all like to see more A tours but they cost money. Where is CA meant to get that sort of money when these tours don’t generate any ticket or broadcast revenue?

          Edit OK I see you’be addressed this point above in a response.

          • Roar Pro

            February 12th 2012 @ 1:22am
            Tom Bridge said | February 12th 2012 @ 1:22am | ! Report

            I certainly wouldn’t advocate not playing the players much. I wouldn’t send all up and comers on all tours and spend all summer with the senior Australian team, just where practical and where it doesn’t interfere with a suitable level of domestic cricket as I pointed out in my post. There is certainly no substitute for “match fitness” so getting used to the senior level has to be balanced with that, certainly.

            Perhaps for those not going over to play county cricket in our winter, identified players of promise could join the team for training for a short period of time if they are not overseas on tour.

    • February 10th 2012 @ 10:53am
      jameswm said | February 10th 2012 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      We don’t need any succession planning for our bowling. We have 6+ very good quicks and we just have to manage them. Management is surely onto this.

      Haddin should go from all forms now. Whilst he’s supposed to offer experience, from how he plays the game, it doesn’t seem to count for much. I’d rather a consistent, reliable and smart gloveman and no.7 batsman. Paine or Nevill for the tests for me.

      All we need is two batsmen to fill Ponting and Hussey’s spots within the next 2 years. That’s all the succession plannning we need to worry about. If Cowan and Warner work out, then Khawaja will surely take one of those spots. It is then for Marsh, Cooper (who struggled in NSW but does seem to have come on a lot), Forrest, Maddinson, Hughes etc to fight for the other spot. Give them goes in ODIs and take them on tours, and see who scores the most shield runs. It’s not that hard.

      If Cowan doesn’t work out and Khawaja opens, then we need to find two more batsmen.

      But with (hopefully) Clarke at 4 and Watson at 6, we do have some stability there whoever comes in.

      • Roar Pro

        February 11th 2012 @ 6:35pm
        Tom Bridge said | February 11th 2012 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

        Certainly agree with your comments regarding the 6+ very good fast bowlers we have and the need to manage them properly. We certainly will not have to embark on succession planning imminently for their eventual replacements who are probably only in junior cricket at present.

        I too think that Haddin should probably go before he is given too much more of an opportunity. I would add Wade to your mix of players in the running to become the next Australian wicket-keeper on a full-time basis. I think we need someone that has at least a good 5-7 years in them.

        I do think with the batsmen that we need to start looking at replacements for Ponting and Hussey and I would hope that the search has begun but I would have liked the intentions to be a bit more public as to who is being considered.

        Ideally in all cases we should start succession planning a good 3 or so years before the average retirement and involve those players in the team or Australia A in whatever capacity suits and gets them used to team culture and standards. A proper “induction” process if you like.

      • February 11th 2012 @ 10:21pm
        Red Kev said | February 11th 2012 @ 10:21pm | ! Report

        It is interesting to try and think about an “A” team batting lineup (otherwise known as the next in line batsmen). There are not a huge number of options, any selection is really a bit of a gamble (although obviously my personal opinion is that Khawaja is worth some faith).

        North and Ferguson are done in my opinion.
        D.Hussey is too old and suspect against short bowling.
        Smith and Hughes are at least a year if not two away from getting back into contention for national selection.
        Liam Davis, Nic Maddinson, Joe Burns and Mitch Marsh are all very good prospects but too young and raw, they need at least one if not two full seasons of domestic cricket before they’re ready.

        So if we assume the Test lineup is Warner, Cowan, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Watson that leaves:

        Khawaja, Quiney, S.Marsh, Forrest, Bailey, Cooper as probably the Australia A top six which makes them the six most likely to contest for the last spot on the West Indies tour, and the most likely to replace Ponting and Hussey should they retire / suffer a form slump / accidentally blind each other when attempting a high-five.
        Although Khawaja banged on the door hard, he didn’t perform with the chances he’s been given so far; Marsh did perform then blew it … both are likely to be back but it may not be by the Caribbean tour. It will be interesting to see what the selectors do.

        • Roar Pro

          February 12th 2012 @ 1:34am
          Tom Bridge said | February 12th 2012 @ 1:34am | ! Report

          Khawaja may well be worth some faith again, could turn out the way the Matthew Hayden career did, coming back and truly becoming a world-beating batsman.

          North and Ferguson I would say too are firmly out of the equation as far as any foreseeable Australian team goes.

          The idea of David Hussey playing Test cricket just does not work for me at all. He is a strong ODI player and a handy enough bowler in that format but stepping him up another level to a different form of the game would probably not be a smart move for CA to undertake.

          I would like to see a good spinner in the team and Smith could be it if he really works hard.

          I think Hughes has probably lost his opportunity even if Cowan or Warner don’t work out long-term, though if both go, with injury plagued Watson around then Hughes might appeal again.

          Re Marsh I think he may have more of a chance getting back in the side than Khawaja so that may be interesting to see.

        • February 12th 2012 @ 1:25pm
          aussie1st said | February 12th 2012 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

          Cooper would be in the too raw basket as well. Hopefully the youngsters can finish the season strongly, there was some good signs from last weeks Shield matches but still got the consistency issues.

          • February 12th 2012 @ 1:53pm
            jamesb said | February 12th 2012 @ 1:53pm | ! Report


            lets not forget that some of the pitches in Australia would be similar to those of the tests. Tough seaming greenish wickets which I think has played a part with our domestic batsman lacking consistency

          • Roar Pro

            February 12th 2012 @ 1:58pm
            Tom Bridge said | February 12th 2012 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

            I agree. A consistently performing group of youngsters in the domestic competition is somewhat of a contributing factor toward the continuing strength of the future national side, though not the entire equation.

            To add to that, we need to encourage more young spinners to enter the fold as the current lot seem at best to be middle of the pack prospects.

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