Broadcasters briefed on controversial ODI squad
Australia's squad for the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka was deemed so sensitive that Cricket Australia met with the host broadcaster Channel Nine ahead of its announcement to explain why Michael Clarke, David Warner and Matthew Wade were to be rested and Michael Hussey dropped.
ESPNcricinfo understands CA's team performance manager Pat Howard sat down for two meetings with members of the Nine commentary team and the network's director of sport Steve Crawley during the Sydney Test, in an effort to convince the broadcasters of the need for squad rotation and the introduction of younger players during the ODI phase of the summer.
While CA and Nine meet frequently for discussions of the schedule and other related matters, it is believed to be exceedingly rare for a squad's selection and the reasons for its composition to be relayed in advance, underlining the controversial nature of the team chosen.
After the national selector John Inverarity unveiled the squad on the fourth and final morning of the Test, Nine was critical of the absence of Warner and the retiring Hussey in particular from the first two matches. Crawley weighed in with the following words.
"From an entertainment point of view, and as a fan, I struggle to understand how those two are not in the side," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "There is no doubt we've got to bring in new players. I think that's a good thing. But I don't get leaving out Warner and Hussey. When my kids play in the yard, they're David Warner and Michael Hussey."
Australia's stand-in captain George Bailey subsequently made a reference to the concurrent television rights discussions as a possible reason for Nine talking down his team, eliciting a sharp rebuke from the network's cricket executive producer - and former New South Wales allrounder - Brad McNamara.
"It's rubbish and George should stick to playing cricket and leave rights to the people who know what they're talking about," McNamara said. "I reckon he's got his hands full as it is. He needs to concentrate on staying in the side. And he needs to understand where his money's coming from.
"Without the TV rights deal, George is probably working in a coal mine or flipping burgers at McDonald's. All this talk about the death of one-day cricket, it's not coming from us. Given we were lacking star quality, we were very happy [with the ratings]."
While hardly an innovation, Australia's rotation of players at appropriate times in an increasingly packed calendar has caused plenty of angst around the country, and in some cases among the state associations. The former Australian captain Ricky Ponting is a supporter of the policy, but has said that CA may need to explain the rationale a little more clearly in order to avoid the sort of coverage it has since received.
"I think an educational process should be put in place," Ponting said, "to let the sponsors, the people who are covering the game and the fans understand what's actually going to happen before the day the team is announced."
Though declining to speak specifically about the meeting, a CA spokesman said the governing body maintained a healthy relationship with Nine. "The closest of families occasionally disagree," he said. "But we and Nine enjoy a remarkable chemistry which has always transcended the black ink of some 30 years of contracts."
Crawley was not available for comment.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here