Hilditch gone as chairman of selectors
Cricket Australia has effected sweeping changes in the running of the national game, from the top-most levels, while ratifying several key recommendations from the Argus review. It decided to appoint a full-time national selector, ending Andrew Hilditch's tenure as Australia's chairman of selectors, and also removed Greg Chappell from the selection panel, while asking the coach Tim Nielsen to re-apply for his job.
The Argus review was set up to investigate Australia's team performance following their Ashes debacle last summer and its wide-ranging investigation has pointed to problems at every level. At the top are the selectors, and the review has recommended a five-man selection panel with a full-time chairman and two independent selectors, while the captain and coach have also been given increased responsibility and will become selectors.
The national talent manager, Chappell, won't be part of the group. Jack Clarke, the CA chairman, said the newly-created position of national selector would be a full-time role and had therefore ruled out Hilditch, who also works as a solicitor in Adelaide, although Clarke was unsure whether Hilditch would apply to stay on the panel as one of the two part-time selectors.
"The position is a full-time role," Clarke said. "Andrew is not available to work full time. He has just started up a new legal practice so he is not available to apply for the role. I haven't spoken to Andrew about [whether he wants to stay on the panel]. He's certainly unavailable for the top job."
Hilditch said in a statement: "I fully support the recommendation of the review panel to appoint a full-time chairman of the national selection panel and the appointment of the captain and coach as members of the panel. It is a structure I supported as appropriate when interviewed by the review panel and I think it will serve Australian cricket well going into the future.
"They were always going to be difficult years as chairman with the exodus of so many great players but I have given it my all and always acted to the best of my ability to achieve the best outcome for Australian cricket. Once the new head selector is appointed I look forward to spending a lot more time with family and friends and my growing legal practice. It has been a privilege and an honour to serve Australian cricket."
Nielsen and Australia's captain, Michael Clarke, will immediately be made selectors for the ongoing tour of Sri Lanka, while Chappell, who is with the team as the selector on duty, will temporarily remain in the job while the new structure is finalised. However, Nielsen's future is uncertain, with the coach's position to be expanded to become a more senior role, leading the overall coaching strategy for Australian cricket, and he is not guaranteed of getting the job.
"Coaching the Australian team is a tough job anyway with the travel and that sort of thing," Jack Clarke said. "It's going to take some additional time and skill sets to put a strategy for the whole of Australian coaching. We need to align the coaching so that there's one philosophy which the head coach has got to be able to articulate and get that through to the state coaches and all other coaches in the system.
"Tim can apply for the job and he may well get the job. But it's a different role, and in a restructure, you don't just give someone the job in a new role."
Another key change will be the appointment of a general manager of team performance, who will report to the CEO and oversee coaching, selection and the Centre of Excellence. The position is similar to the role Hugh Morris now fills for the England team, a job the ECB created after the Schofield Report into their disastrous Ashes series in 2006-07.
In his opening remarks, Clarke conceded that Australian cricket's custodians had more or less sat on their hands towards the end of an era of great success, and had not been proactive enough in dealing with the looming problems posed by the retirements of great players and the change in the Australian team's profile.
"It is clear with the wisdom of hindsight there are some issues that could've been addressed earlier. The right time for fundamental change to structures and processes is not always easy to pick, particularly with a system that has worked so well for so long," Clarke said.
"Sustained on-field success may well have masked some problems - in a sense we were victims of our own success, and if you won in a certain way you were probably less likely to change your ways. However it is quite clear the world has moved on, and a system that once worked is now in need of change. In doing this we have not taken a short-term approach, looking for scapegoats or applied band-aids to problems.
"It might be argued we should've done more to replace the great players who retired recently, having said that it is not easy to replace players the calibre of Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Hayden and others of the era."
Paul Marsh, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers Association, commended CA and the review panel for their thoroughness.
"I commend Cricket Australia and the Argus review panel for their thoroughness and transparency," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "The players want to see Australian cricket back at the top as much as anyone, and we are glad to see that desire shown so strongly in the review."
CA directors were handed an executive summary of the Argus review findings at the conclusion of the first day of Thursday's board meeting, before Argus led a detailed presentation to the board on Friday morning. The recommendations stemmed from a most exhaustive review undertaken into the drastically waning fortunes of the Australian side, culminating in an Ashes defeat that included an unprecedented three innings hidings.
Australia are fifth on the ICC's Test rankings, and are in danger of missing out on a place in the inaugural Test match World Championship, to be held in 2013. The team is in the midst of a tour of Sri Lanka, the first Test assignment for the new captain Michael Clarke, and players and officials - including Chappell, the selector on duty - were briefed on the review findings before public discussions commenced.
Chaired by Argus, the review panel included the former captains Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, plus Malcolm Speed, formerly the chief executive of Cricket Australia and more recently the ICC. Speed's CA successor, James Sutherland, sat in on the process as an ex-officio, non-voting member, but interviewees were allowed to request his absence if they felt uncomfortable discussing problems in front of their current boss.
A total of 61 interviews were conducted, across a spectrum that included players, coaches, officials, media and other well-placed observers. Senior figures from other sports were also consulted, including the multiple-premiership winning Australian Rules football coach Mick Malthouse.
Click here to read the entire Argus review.
Brydon Coverdale and Daniel Brettig are assistant editors at ESPNcricinfo