Australian news June 7, 2011

Katich call a necessary evil

While Simon Katich has done nothing wrong, Australia's selectors needed to look to the future

Simon Katich can consider himself hard done by. Since his second coming as an international player three years ago, only England's Ashes hero Alastair Cook has made more Test runs than Katich. But his axing from Cricket Australia's contract list was a decision made not with the past in mind, but the future. And while it might seem unjust, it was the right call.

At times over the past few years, Andrew Hilditch and his panel have made Tony Abbott look progressive, so it's pleasing that the selectors now have at least one eye on the future. By embracing Usman Khawaja, Patrick Cummins and James Pattinson, they have shown they are serious about rebuilding after a disastrous Ashes campaign.

Marcus North is gone, as expected, and Katich is an unfortunate casualty, having missed the final three Tests due to injury. The Test team works and plans in Ashes cycles, and now is time to start thinking of the next battle. Today it's Katich, next year it could be Ricky Ponting or Michael Hussey, or both, who are phased out ahead of the 2013 Ashes.

Such is the fickle nature of sport that this time last year Katich seemed the safest of those three older batsmen. But in the past 12 months, he has averaged 32.83 and hasn't made a Test century. Hussey was one of Australia's few Ashes stars and importantly is also a key ODI player who the selectors believe still has a role to play.

The selectors also want to see if Ponting thrives after giving up the captaincy. His Test form has been poor, but as a 15-year veteran and record-breaking captain, he has earned some leeway. It all adds up to mean the end for Katich, with the selectors keen to avoid a synchronised exodus of three senior players, a la Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer in 2006-07.

By calling time on Katich, they have also increased the pressure on Phillip Hughes. Clearly the next in line to join Shane Watson at the top of the order, Hughes needs to lift after making 2, 12, 16, 23, 31 and 13 in his six innings when called in as the replacement for Katich during the Ashes. At 22, he is in Australia's long-term plans but should he keep failing, Usman Khawaja could comfortably step in to open with Watson.

Khawaja's promotion was arguably the least surprising detail of Australia's new contract list. The inclusion of Cummins, the teenage fast bowler from New South Wales, was much more unexpected, but given that he is currently sidelined by a back injury, the selectors must be careful not to ask too much of him in the immediate future.

It was also notable that Michael Beer, the incumbent Test spinner, was not offered a deal, while Xavier Doherty and Jason Krejza were signed up and Nathan Hauritz, out of favour during the Ashes, retained his contract. Beer and Krejza are both heading to Zimbabwe this month for an Australia A tour that will act as a virtual bowl-off for the August Test series against Sri Lanka. If the contract list is anything to go by, Krejza is the frontrunner.

The inclusion of the one-day allrounder John Hastings is clearly a straight swap for James Hopes, who has been cut, while Clint McKay has been overtaken by his younger Victoria team-mate Pattinson in the fast-bowling order of precedence. Andrew McDonald and Adam Voges were never likely to have their deals extended, and having confined himself to Twenty20, Shaun Tait effectively confirmed his own axing.

The one surprise in the batting set-up was that David Hussey secured a contract. Hussey is 33, but the selectors want him for ODIs and Twenty20s. Hussey might be on the wrong side of 30, but unlike Katich, he's on the right side of 35.

Hussey can go to bed tonight dreaming of playing for his country for another year, while Katich will begin to ponder his future. And the selectors have decided it's a future in baggy blue, not baggy green.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Warrick on June 9, 2011, 23:41 GMT

    ..cont'd- By reducing the numbers of players, stronger competition for places would be encouraged. If a state player gets promoted to the Test team, then he can have his payments increased by way of your 'top up', over and above his match payments. If CA save money from this type of arrangement, they should make money available to the States to increase the value of their contracts to empower the states more. I'm not sure if the current contracts include this or not, but they should also have bonuses for performance and number of games played. This will encourage players to maintain their fitness & encourage more determined performances. Just my ideas and it's always good to throw these things around IMO.

  • Warrick on June 9, 2011, 23:34 GMT

    @Meety- I always welcome ideas or proposals for something better, rather than emotional outbursts as I feel the latter doesn't achieve much. I agree with your points about CA top ups to existing state contracts as opposed to fully fledged CA contracts. Adam Voges is a prime example there. He hasn't played much cricket at all for Oz, yet still gets serious amounts of dosh from CA & state. The 'rookies' contracts are a good idea, mainly as an incentive to the rookies to keep at it & ward off threats from other sports to nab good cricket talent. I agree there should be separate contract groups. I disagree with increasing the amount of contracted players, I feel the number should be reduced. There could be a core of 10-12 core contracted 'Test' players. Their payments should be higher than others so it's something to aspire to and also to negate the threat of players playing IPL or BBL instead of Test cricket. This might also might help create 'test specialists'. cont'd

  • Basil on June 9, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    Funny thing is I would've had Katich opening, McDonald at 6, and OKeefe at 8 in a purpose built XI for SL Tests. None of them have contracts.

  • Garry on June 9, 2011, 2:50 GMT

    I've made points about the Marsh boys before but I think Mitch is an exciting talent who will hopefully get a chance with the Aussie T20 and maybe ODI in the next few years. Shaun's overall first class average has been mentioned by a few of our passionate forums lads and in the media (about 37) but has averaged 60 the last two years of 1st class or 50 in the last 4 - not bad in my books, plus scored a great ODI 100 three games ago for him. How would anyone get promoted whether it be cricket or work if we went on what they did earlier in their career and not what the person or player is now? Katich is one of the best openers now so he should be picked for SL and SA but if they go elsewhere I think Marsh is the man. He can also bat anywhere in the top 6. Yes T20 isn't really proper cricket but he's been quite amazing in that both domestically and IPL for a few years - where he plays the same proper shots anyway. Not saying he'll be the next Ponting but I think he's a gun and needs a go

  • Andrew on June 8, 2011, 23:55 GMT

    @ jonesy2 re: Marsh brothers. Regarding Mitchell, I think he is an outstanding talent & under the terms of how I would work the contract list - I'd probably top up his state contract. I would imagine he & Beaton would go close to securing a Rookie contract. I'd also consider M Marsh for a T20 contract. As for S Marsh, sorry but I think he is overrated. I've been dissappointed by him, & think he'll eventually be like one of the Hussey's - which one I don't know. Will he develop into a muture entry player like M Hussey, or will he always be a fringe/nearly test cricketer like D Hussey. For my mind D Hussey has far more on his resume then what Marsh has. I would want to see S Marsh have at least one more big Shield season scoring 3 100s & averaging 60+ before I select him for Oz. Anyways just my opinion! I also didn't select Smith even though I'm a huge fan of - I'd have him on a top up contract with NSW or maybe in instead of Bailey.

  • Bryn on June 8, 2011, 7:06 GMT

    this article is pretty terrible really. "with the selectors keen to avoid a synchronised exodus of three senior players, a la Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer in 2006-07." you forgot damian martyn, somehow. @meety, you somehow managed to not mention the marsh brothers

  • Bryn on June 8, 2011, 7:00 GMT

    simon katich will go down as a great, he is in the same bracket was other underrated australians martyn and mark waugh. shaun marsh should open with hughes and watson at number 3. that would be the most dangerous top order in the world. clarke at 4, hussey at 5 and punter at 6. teams would dread bowling at that.

  • Andrew on June 8, 2011, 5:05 GMT

    If I were the CEO of Cric Oz, I would create an extra 5 contracts for Rookies, set aside 5 contracts for short formats & run with 20 contracts for Test potential. Test contracts in order (roughly) of importance; - 1 Watson 2 Clarke 3 Ponting 4 M Hussey 5 Johnson 6 Haddin 7 Hughes 8 Harris 9 Bollinger 10 Khawaja 11 Paine 12 Hauritz 13 Siddle 14 Ferguson 15 O'Keefe 16 Copeland 17 Pattinson 18 Butterworth 19 Cosgrove 20 Bailey ODIs 1 White 2 D Hussey 3 Lee T20s 1 Warner 2 Doherty Rookie 1 Cummins (NSW) 2 Maddinson (NSW) 3 Lynn (QLD) 4 Richardson (SA) 5 Faulkner (TAS) As I said previously - I would limit the amount of times a player can score a Rookie contract. Whilst I think there is huge potential in Cummins, I don't thinnk he warranted a place ahead of Copeland or O'Keefe. I would probably have the Rookie contracts at around $100k - these contracts would be strictly conditional on behavioural clauses. Should I be sacked too?

  • Andrew on June 8, 2011, 4:20 GMT

    (Cont.) - Point of order actually - Cummins didn't have a contract at the start of the season (not that I'm aware of anyways), but Copeland did. If Copeland got a top up from Cric Oz for example, its a lower cost option for Cric Oz to spread the "professionalism" of being in the national set up. I think there is a place for T20 specialists in the central contract list - although only a few places as generally speaking - these players are best situated to command good mercenary contracts in other cricket leagues. -- -- -- As a guide I would suggest that Cric Oz provide 20 contracts for the best Test players in Oz, 3 contracts for the best ODI players (assuming they are not in the Test selections), 2 contracts for the best T20 players & 5 contracts for the best young talent, (rookies) in the Shield & Futures League. The "rookie" contract would be only available to a player for 2 seasons - with the hope they have gone on to big things with their state and/or national team afterwards.

  • Andrew on June 8, 2011, 4:09 GMT

    Given that the central contract policy was developed in 1998, (about 6 or 7yrs before International T20s), I think its time that the policy was overhauled. In 2011 & beyond there is 3 formats, which include 2 W/Cups & a Test championship, so all 3 formats have degrees of importance. Also given that there is a growing concern that players have been overworked, I think only having 25 centrally contracted players is not enough. I think there is a real arguement towards increasing the contract list to 30 or more. In the NRL & AFL most clubs have rosters of over 30 players, (an unlucky club through injury & poor form can go through over 40 players in a yr). Whilst cricketers are NOT as injury prone as footballers, they do get injuries. We have State contracts which is reasonable money (particularly in comparison to the minimum wage!) - there could be scope for Cric Oz to offer top ups for someone like Cummins instead of a full contract. (cont)

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