Australia news January 14, 2013

Selectors can't have it both ways

If Australia's selectors expect informed public debate on player rotations, they must be prepared to inform the public.

The national selector John Inverarity is one of the more unflappable members of Cricket Australia's staff. He backs his decisions, explains them publicly and worries little about criticism. A lifetime of involvement in the game has given him good reason to have such confidence. So it was notable at the announcement of Australia's ODI squad on Monday when Inverarity interrupted while being asked a question about player rotations.

"I presume you mean informed player management," Inverarity said to the journalist, before the question had been completed.

It was a testy response and it suggested a growing frustration from Australia's selectors at the way their rotating of players - sorry, informed player management - is being viewed by the media and the public. The coach Mickey Arthur expressed similar views on Sunday night. Their annoyance is understandable. There was an outcry when Mitchell Starc was left out of the Boxing Day Test, despite the plan having merit, as there had been when Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus sat out of the Perth Test against South Africa earlier in the summer. And again when Michael Clarke, David Warner and Matthew Wade were rested from the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka.

But if Inverarity and his fellow selectors expect informed public debate, they need to inform the public.

Siddle and Hilfenhaus had endured a heavy workload in the second Test in Adelaide, where James Pattinson had broken down mid-match, and the short gap before the Perth Test did not help their recovery. On the eve of the Test, the captain Michael Clarke announced that Siddle and Hilfenhaus would be left out because "both guys are still quite fatigued after Adelaide".

As the Perth Test wore on, it emerged that the pair had not simply been rested, but had specific injury niggles. Siddle had a tight hamstring and Hilfenhaus a sore knee. But that information wasn't revealed before the match. Not surprisingly, that left plenty of time for the media to criticise the resting of players.

"Peter Siddle after the Adelaide game a) was exhausted and b) had a really tight hamstring," Inverarity said on Monday. "If he'd played it was unlikely that he'd have got through the game. It was the right decision."

And when Starc was left out in Melbourne, there was still more criticism of the decision. He had bowled Australia to victory in the previous Test in Hobart. He had emerged as a Test cricketer for the first time. But in the lead-up to the Boxing Day Test, Inverarity said Starc's workload was a concern and he would not play both the Melbourne and Sydney Tests. After Sunday's ODI loss in Adelaide - three weeks after Boxing Day - Arthur revealed there was more to it.

"He had an ankle impingement," Arthur said. "He's got spurs that are going to require an operation at some stage. We're hoping that will be a year down the line, but at some stage that is going to give in. There was no point in us playing him in a Boxing Day Test match and risk losing him for the one-day series and then for a tour of India. That would've been plain stupid."

During the same interview, Arthur said: "I've been really annoyed and frustrated by some of the articles that have been going around. For me it's common sense. It's either very naive or just a little bit stubborn that people don't understand what we're doing."

For Arthur and Inverarity, it might be common sense. But did the public know Starc had bone spurs in his ankle? Did the media? No. They were not told. If they had been, the selectors might have found they had far more support. But if information is withheld, public discourse cannot be anything but naïve. Of course people won't understand what the selectors are doing. How can they? Strangely, Inverarity seems happy with the process.

"I don't think it's in the interests of the player to reveal every little niggle. I don't," Inverarity said. "Players don't want to be seen as vulnerable or physically suspect, and we respect that. That's the right decision. We won't always say that he's got a bit of a bad knee, because then more can be made of it and it's awkward for the player. We'd rather take the heat than the players."

You can't have it both ways. The selectors are not obliged to explain every inclusion or exclusion, or reveal every minor injury. But if they don't, they shouldn't sell the public the "informed player management" line. Nor should they be surprised when their decisions are questioned.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Christopher on January 16, 2013, 5:01 GMT

    @Hippiantor...There is a vast chasm between the revelation of an underlying injury in the AFL where body to body contact is intrinsic to the game and Cricket where it has no relevance. With respect to Mitchell Johnson, his career would appear to support any view of his emotional susceptibility and be proven to be both pre-existing and true. I therefore deem the impact of the reporting of such information after the fact to be irrelevant. It should be understood that these are extremely well remunerated people who get paid to play sport. Any small inconveniences that they may appear to suffer as a consequence are minute in the scheme of the lives of most Australians.There is a significant disparity in both the timing and integrity of the information being supplied by the NSP that gives credence to any reporting and questioning of it. I doubt that it would withstand the witnesses chair at trial but the NSP are prone to running their own rules-ergo the necessity for Argus and the media.

  • Andrew on January 16, 2013, 1:14 GMT

    @ johnathonjosephs on (January 15 2013, 18:47 PM GMT) - small point, but Herath is NOT a good ODI bowler. He is a fine (outstanding) Test bowler. Point well made with Sanga & Chandimal though. However if you want to start talking A & B teams, SL A beat Oz A. I prefer to say it is 1all between two good ODI nations!

  • Luke on January 15, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    @hyclass, point taken, however I do believe there is a balance between giving and suppressing the details of injuries. Constant media (and public) speculation about fitness/injuries/personal life can have a negative impact on a player's confidence and ability to perform ( Mitch Johnson 09 Ashes). It can give public perception that the player is soft. As you say being in the spotlight is part and parcel of this career, however I believe the selectors if feel they need to protect the player from the spotlight then so be it. Resting due to niggles commonly happens in other sports such as the AFL, and the media and public seem to understand that there is underlying injury niggle and accept the club's reluctance to reveal specifics. This whole idea of player management is new to cricket so it will take time for the media and public and selectors to adjust. I'm not saying Inverity, and co have handled this perfectly but I understand their position.

  • Johnathon on January 15, 2013, 18:47 GMT

    What do people say to that a Sri Lanka B team beat Australia? No Sangakkara, no Chandimal, and no Herath? Sangakkara is the best batsman on the team and Herath is the best bowler. That obviously says something.

  • Lou on January 15, 2013, 11:59 GMT

    Well said, Jono Makim. The selectors invariably cop little except criticism but quite frankly, it's not their fault. Australia at the moment just doesn't have the cattle at their disposal to be no 1 in tests or one dayers.

  • Graham on January 15, 2013, 11:29 GMT

    eric-bryan; its not just a few tests that has added to Starc's workload. Glenn Mcgrath has always talked about having a window for a pre-season where bowlers can do work with weights and no bowling giving them the strength to get through a season. They dont have the opportunity while playing to do weights whilst they are on the playing circuit. Starc has gone from touring West Indies, playing one-dayers in England, playing English county cricket to the champions trophy, to test cricket. He missed the first few games but I bet he bowled a lot of overs in the nets. The selectors decided he was not at 100% for that game and a fresher bowler would be better. You must remember that he hasnt had a pre-season and now needs to play one-dayers, tour India, ICC champions trophy, back to back Ashes series and then tour SOuth Africa over the next 13 months. 17 tests, approximately 40 one day games and around 10 T20 games. Thats a lot of cricket so preserving bowlers makes sense.

  • Christopher on January 15, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    @Hippiantor...while I appreciate your desire to denigrate all things media, the irony that you have the ability to present an opinion because you're working on that media's forum, should not be lost on you. I encourage you to be specific and describe how you believe it is counter productive and in what manner this site or the media have abjured their percentage of the bargain.CA is dependent upon the media for its livelihood and that is not the case in reverse.There is no information about any player injury on any cricket side in the world that has any relevance once the players take the field. How is back soreness of a batsmen or bowler important to the opposition? It isnt and never could be.Either the players can bat bowl and field or they cant.Players are paid to be in the spotlight. If they have no interest in being observed, perhaps they should choose a desk job. We arent talking about hidden cameras. This is legitimate journalism of the kind that encourages integrity of process.

  • A on January 15, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    A whole load of nonsense 2 - 3 weeks after dropping a player, there is a 'supposed' injury the player had at that time. There appers a pttern in Siddle and Starc being dropped and reasons coming later. And what kind of support staff is it that cannot get a player fit in time for back-to-back test matches. In such a case CA shd not plan back-to-back tests in the future. It is this same Chairman of Selectors who did not think it was fit to give Mike Hussey a farewell across ODIs in Australia ... the Indian selectors are better than the CA selectors ...

  • John on January 15, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    Okay I'll accept rotation but what I don't accept is ridiculous rotation. Exactly how do the selectors justify rotating Khwaja for game two when he had been run out, particularly as he has clearly improved in the area they needed him to - his fielding. Not much of a message. Meanwhile a bowler with technical deficiencies that have been highlighted throughout the season is selected and rotated in as one of only 3 seamers on a seam friendly pitch. How much of Kane Richardson's bowling did the selectors watch? It's amazing he even gets through an over let alone 4 in the BB.

  • Andrew on January 15, 2013, 9:39 GMT

    @landl47 on (January 15 2013, 04:30 AM GMT) - T20s, a big YES! ODIs, maybe it was sort of trialled at INternational level before, TESTS a big NO! It should be a test of endurance, coming from an Ozzy who would of dearly loved to replace Patto in Adelaide.