Australia news August 17, 2011

Ashes autopsy report close at hand


Australian cricket's reckoning for a disastrous Ashes series, and the decline from greatness to mediocrity that preceded it, is belatedly at hand. The findings of the Australian team performance review will, as ESPNcricinfo reported in July, be tabled and discussed by the directors at the Cricket Australia board meeting to take place in Melbourne on Thursday and Friday, nearly eight months after the Ashes were lost in an innings defeat at the MCG.

Upon the conclusion of the meeting CA's chairman Jack Clarke will face the cameras and microphones to run over whatever findings the board chooses to make public. Based on the submissions of a litany of players, coaches, administrators and other well-placed observers, they are expected to be blunt and wide-ranging.

The review panel, chaired by Don Argus and including the former captains Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh plus the former CA chief executive Malcolm Speed, is likely to direct its harshest critiques towards the selection policies of the out of contract chairman, Andrew Hilditch, whose term lapsed at the end of the World Cup.

Hilditch's tenure began in 2006, and after enjoying a 5-0 Ashes sweep on England in the following summer he was fated to negotiate the retirements of a succession of great players, including Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn.

He and his panel have been heavily criticised for numerous decisions across that time, most pointedly the revolving door for spin bowlers since the selectors' planning was thrown out of balance by the sudden retirement of Stuart MacGill in 2008.

More recently the removal of Simon Katich from the list of CA contracted players provided a window into the players' discontent about the ways of the panel, something also highlighted by a formal submission to the review regarding selection by the Australian Cricketers Association.

Rod Marsh, the former Australian wicketkeeper and highly-respected academy coach, has expressed his interest in becoming chairman of selectors, discussing the possibility with CA's head of cricket operations, Michael Brown.

Other matters at issue for the review panel include the shape of the Australian team's support staff, with the place of the head coach Tim Nielsen in some question. Since the World Cup Nielsen's support staff has been bolstered by the additions of Craig McDermott (bowling coach) and Steve Rixon (fielding coach), as the players desired greater guidance from mentors with international experience.

Rixon's arrival in particular has been met with great enthusiasm, and as the former coach of New Zealand and NSW his credentials far outweigh those of Nielsen, who was a distinguished assistant for South Australia and Australia but had never been a head coach until he replaced John Buchanan in 2007, like Hilditch at the outset of a difficult period of transition.

Australia's players and support staff currently on tour in Sri Lanka are expected to be briefed about the review findings on Friday morning in Colombo, before Clarke presents a summary of the findings to the public.

The Australian team's contract system, scheduling and preparation have also been matters for discussion, with the former chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns noting that a sleeker and more flexible contract system should be devised.

It has also been pointed out that Test cricket in Australia would benefit from being the clear financial pinnacle of the game, with sufficient incentives for young players to devote themselves to its pursuit.

The evolving role of the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane is considered a sore point in the development of players, as CA has sought to make it more of a finishing school for internationals rather than a bridge between junior cricket and the first-class arena.

Further down the pathway, the standard of domestic cricket has been openly questioned by the likes of Ricky Ponting, who fervently believes that young cricketers need to be held to the same rigorous standards he had to reach before he was selected to play for Australia.

Twenty20's onset, and its attendant impact on the techniques and priorities of domestic players, is another factor, but CA are torn on this matter by competing desires to have the Test team successful while also growing the game's revenue.

There is little the review panel can do about the onset of the T20 Big Bash League and its heavy impact on the domestic schedule, meaning there will be plenty of hurdles ahead for the Australian team, whatever Argus and company recommend at the board meeting.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on August 19, 2011, 4:43 GMT

    @ HatsforBats - doh! Okay, can't have that, I'll go Dan Smith, he can bat #8, & I'll promote O'Keefe to #7!

  • kieran on August 19, 2011, 3:56 GMT

    @ Meety: this is funny, I'd not heard of Neville so I looked him up, he's from VIC! Looks like we'll just have to make do with a ring-in for the keeper!

  • Andrew on August 19, 2011, 2:39 GMT

    @HatsforBats - oops!! Okay I'll start again! @Paullie deep down you know the Ozzy test team should be 1. Hughes, 2. Jaques, 3. Maddinson, 4. Clarke (c), 5. Smith (c), 6. Henriques, 7. Neville, 8. O'Keefe, 9. Copeland, 10. Cummins, 11. Bollinger & 12th man Warner! LOL!!!! @HatsforBats - I usually remember Katich is a west coast boy, I keep forgetting Haddin though! I wont dig up Gilly - let him RIP (so to speak), & run with Neville, I haven't heard much about the quality of his keeping (Haddinesque or Healyesque????), but IMO he is definately a better batsmen than Wade or Paine!

  • kieran on August 19, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    @Meety: that is a classic! Unfortunately Katich is a WACA boy & Haddin is from the ACT. Let's just get Gilly out of retirement.

  • Andrew on August 18, 2011, 23:12 GMT

    @Paullie - deep down you know the Ozzy test team should be 1. Hughes, 2. Jaques, 3. Katich, 4. Maddinson, 5. Clarke (c), 6. Henriques, 7. Haddin, 8. O'Keefe, 9. Copeland, 10. Cummins, 11. Bollinger & 12th man Smith! Making up the other touring positions would be Hazlewood, Starc, Armstrong & Abbott! LOL!!!!!

  • Randolph on August 18, 2011, 22:53 GMT

    @ tdobbo, I wouldn't want all those guys dropped, you play your best team everytime. Our best team always contains a mix of young and old. Be under no illusion if we played all kids we'd be even further down the rankings. Just look at the current tour, who's scored all our runs????

  • Paul on August 18, 2011, 21:25 GMT

    Trevor Hohns was vilified by the media when he tried to remove Steve Waugh when he was playing like the old man he was. When did he become our likely saviour? Just goes to show that the cricket media don't like it when you try to treat NSW players like everyone else.

  • Jay on August 18, 2011, 17:12 GMT

    The BIGGEST mistake Cricket Australia have made is the inception of the new look Big Bash League along lines of the IPL. We all know how the IPL has changed the mind sets of some of the young Indian players with regards to test cricket. The last thing Australia needs is a complete ignorance of test cricket talent. If that happens, India and Australia will find a cozy home in the middle of the ICC rankings. T20 is good but it's becoming overkill. I am not a big fan of test cricket but I do respect its history and superiority over the format of T20. Leagues like the Big Bash and IPL must ONLY be annual festivities rather than HOT summer showcases in terms of the respective first class seasons. Shield Cricket and Ranji Cricket are the breeding grounds of prospective future test stars; unfortunately the yard stick are these new T20 competitions. Very disappointing news for cricket purists.

  • chris on August 18, 2011, 10:24 GMT

    Bit confused.Why does Aussie captain of 6 months present findings in Sri Lanka?.Where is James Sutherland?.

  • Anthony on August 18, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    I think its a cop out to be blaming Hilditch, seems to be a case of Aussie cricket is rotten to the core. Why doesn't someone stand up to the older blokes, like drop Ponting, Hussey, Haddin and give some young talent a go. England must be licking their lips at the prospect of what essentially will be the same Aussie team in 2013 as it was in the last two one sided series. Unless of course they try to unearth some new talent. Let's hope they've got better young players than Hughes and Smith who seem to me to be well away from test players.

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