Shipperd wants 12-a-side in Sheffield Shield
Greg Shipperd, the coach of Victoria, has called on Cricket Australia to allow 12 players per side in the Sheffield Shield in future seasons to provide greater opportunities for players on the fringe of Australian selection. Shipperd's radical proposal comes as Victoria consider how to juggle their surfeit of strong contenders for next week's Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania, although he has been campaigning for such a change for some time.
Last week, Victoria beat Queensland at the Gabba with a side featuring eight players who have represented Australia and two more - Jon Holland and Rob Quiney - who the Victorians believe have the potential to play international cricket soon. Since then, they have been bolstered even further by the return of Andrew McDonald and Glenn Maxwell from the Champions League and finding men to squeeze out of the team won't be easy.
Cricket Australia is especially keen for the left-arm spinner Holland to remain in the side despite the fact that he has bowled only 10 overs in the first two Shield matches of the season, on green, pace-friendly pitches. CA's desire for Holland, considered by the selectors as one of the best two spinners in the country, to be given game time meant the in-form batsman Aaron Finch was pushed out of the side, and Shipperd believes there could be a better approach.
"When I think about the future of Australian cricket ... we should play 12 players, because we're going to have to make a decision on someone who could play for Australia who's going to have to sit on the bench," Shipperd told ESPNcricinfo. "Yes, we could send them off to 2nd XI cricket, but if it was Jon Holland to miss out, or Clint McKay, or John Hastings, or resting Peter Siddle, is that the best thing for Australian cricket and that player and the competition? I don't think so.
"Last game [Finch and Holland both playing] would have happened. Our batting depth would have been better, our bowling depth would have been still as strong, but the game would have been tougher for the opposition. Likewise they would have been in a similar position. The game would have been tougher for us. I think it's all about playing tough, competitive cricket for Australia to get back to No.1 and we've missed that opportunity. Yes, it's still 11 against 11, but there's a lot of good players out there that aren't being exposed to the game across the course of four days."
The main problem with Shipperd's suggestion is that under the existing ICC regulations, the Sheffield Shield would lose its first-class status if it moved to 12 players per side, with 11 batting and 11 fielding. ICC rules clearly define the conditions of first-class cricket, including that matches must be "of three or more days' duration between two sides of eleven players". There is leeway for teams to be tweaked mid-match if a player is called up for national duty, but there is no provision for games to start with more than 11 players per side.
Cricket Australia is believed to be open-minded to Shipperd's idea in principle, but not if it meant the loss of first-class status for the Sheffield Shield. CA has been willing to think outside the square in one-day cricket where there is more flexibility - their move to a 12-a-side split-innings format in the Ryobi Cup in 2010-11 was particularly adventurous - and Shipperd wants a similarly bold approach for the longer format.
"I've been saying it for years now, it is just unfortunately falling on deaf ears at the playing cricket committee level [at CA]," Shipperd said. "They keep blaming the ICC but I think that's a furphy. Cricket Australia have on many occasions been a leader in terms of going our own way, in terms of finding what is the right recipe for us.
"It's not always about jumping in to bed, so to speak, with a slow-moving ICC process. I think we've lost a couple of years of player opportunity and player development and toughening up our environment because we're beholden to some archaic traditional view of what a cricket team should look like, with 11 players only."
Shipperd said other state coaches were supportive of the idea, as were medical staff around the country. The move would help with the management of young fast bowlers, for the workload could be spread among a larger attack in each first-class match.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here