Players take concerns to CA
At a time when Australia's cricketers are preparing a report to tackle the game's apparent decline at the top level and around the nation, Cricket Australia maintains there has been progress in every area singled out for improvement in 2011 by the Argus review apart from the preparation of domestic pitches.
More than 100 Australian and domestic players met in Sydney this week to discuss a draft of a report prepared by the Australian Cricketers Association, outlining a range of trouble areas in the game from scheduling and injury management to the talent pathway from club cricket up to the national team.
After a period of consultation where players meet with the ACA, look over the report and add their own critiques and suggestions, the players association chief executive Paul Marsh will submit the report to CA in December. One of the key recommendations of the report is expected to be a proposal to tighten the Twenty20 Big Bash League and move it elsewhere in the summer schedule.
While not prepared to comment on specifics of the report, Marsh said the extraordinary general meeting in Sydney had been fruitful, if also an offshoot of the scheduling of the domestic limited overs competition in the one city at the start of summer - an innovation opposed by many of the players as previously stated by George Bailey and Cameron White.
"It was the first consultation step around the state of the game report, we've spent a number of months putting together a draft report that deals with what we think are issues in the game we're concerned about and how we think we can resolve those issues," Marsh said. "It's the first step in what's going to be a pretty extensive process.
"There were no recommendations the players kicked back on, there were some additional recommendations they made for us to consider, which was fantastic. But it was overall a very positive meeting and most of the meetings we have with the players are."
Marsh does not wish to air the report's dirtiest laundry in public, preferring to work together with CA on the problems the players have identified. However, the governing body's internal assessment of its progress against the recommendations set out by the Argus review suggests the organisation's head office in Melbourne does not hold the same views.
In a presentation prepared for a media briefing lunch held in Sydney on October 10, the team performance manager Pat Howard outlined various issues around the national side, including domestic cricket, injury management and selection policies for the Ashes summer.
One slide showed an assessment of where Australian cricket had progressed in response to Don Argus' report, which was compiled by a group including former Test captains Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. "Of the 122 recommendations the majority have seen some real improvements to Australian cricket," it said.
Of the recommendations outlined, only the preparation of pitches for the Sheffield Shield competition was marked red, indicating a lack of progress. Every other area was given a green light, indicating improvement, or yellow, to show progress or pending results.The appointment of the captain as a selector, a role relinquished earlier this year by Michael Clarke, was not mentioned.
Goals of the report listed as yellow included "ensure we have the right people in key roles", "improve the Australian team's skills", "increase the strength of our supporting competitions" and "improve injury management". When told of the presentation, Marsh said serious concerns with the health of supporting competitions such as club cricket would form a major plank of the report.
"We think there are some genuine problems with the pathway at the moment that need to be looked at," he said. "That's obviously a significant part of this report."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here