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Clarke selection call a turning point - Marsh

Daniel Brettig

May 2, 2014

Comments: 14 | Text size: A | A
Brettig: Mark Waugh a well-regarded voice

Australia's new chairman of selectors Rod Marsh has pointed to Michael Clarke's resignation from the selection panel following the dire 2013 tour of India as a pivotal moment in the team's resurgence to their current perch at the top of the world rankings for Test and ODI matches.

The 2011 Argus review that helped install Marsh as part of a new panel also appointed Clarke as one of the selectors, an arrangement that became fraught as early as December of the same year when the chairman John Inverarity conceded the dual role was creating "extra difficulty" for Clarke in his interactions with the team.

Rod Marsh on...

  • Rotation: "I don't think they were ever rotated. It was never a word that we used. We didn't choose some fast bowlers because we were informed by the medical staff that if we were to choose them they would break down. It was always going to be our call whether we choose them, but we didn't deliberately rotate them and say before the season 'he plays this game, he plays this game, he plays that game'. Young fast bowlers will break down and will continue to break down, because it's the most unnatural act the human body can perform."
  • Becoming a selector: "I never really aspired to be a selector, it just happened. I came back home to retire basically, but then the opportunity for selection came up and I thought I was probably too young to retire and obviously I still loved the game of cricket with a massive passion. It seemed because I was too old to continue to coach it seemed a very good way to keep a very active interest in Australian cricket."
  • A repaired relationship with Darren Lehmann after pushing him out of South Australia: "He reckons I did him a great favour because he wouldn't be coaching Australia if he was still playing. We get on like a house on fire."
  • Use of statistics: "Sometimes you have a look at the stats, and if you analyse them really closely, you can see that a guy might have made more runs than someone else. But you know, and you've got this gut feeling that he won't be successful against a particular attack on a particular ground, so you don't pick him. However if you can't find a reason not to pick a bloke with the best stats, then usually the bloke with the best stats gets picked."

By the end of the 4-0 hiding on the subcontinent a little more than a year later, Clarke decided that he needed to devote less time to selection teleconferences and more to a side that was fracturing in the absence of the retired Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, as exemplified by the suspension of four players in Mohali for failing to follow instructions. While Darren Lehmann's appointment to replace Mickey Arthur as coach has been commonly noted, Marsh said Clarke's call was equally significant.

"Quite a few things have occurred, but I think one of them, which seems to probably get overlooked a little is that Michael gave away his selection duties, which I think freed him up a lot to be able to interact with the team a lot more at training sessions, and off the field," Marsh said. "Michael we all know is an outstanding on the field captain, but I think his off-field captaincy has flourished since he stepped down as a selector, and you can understand that. It's very difficult for him to operate off the field when he's both captain and selector.

"That's freed him up a lot, Darren has brought a no fear feeling to the boys, he's encouraged them to go out and play with freedom and of course getting Mitchell Johnson back into the team and bowling well has just been an absolute bonus because if you remember we had very good, young fit fast bowlers a couple of years ago who've all had injuries and as a consequence it was nice to have one of the old timers, for lack of a better word, back and bowling like the wind."

Marsh spoke frankly about his selection philosophy ahead of a period in which Australia will not only seek to retain their ranking but also lift the World Cup at home in 2015 and hang onto the Ashes in England later in the year. The age of the squad is not a major concern to him, though he hopes to see more young batsmen pushing for inclusion in coming summers. Until then, however, the likes of Chris Rogers will remain verymuch a part of his plans.

"I don't think you can read too much into blokes' ages these days," Marsh said. "The game has changed so dramatically from 20 or 30 years ago whereby it's become a profession, and these guys are professionals, they work very hard on their fitness etc. They play cricket almost every day of the year and if they're not playing they're training or travelling. A 35-year-old today is certainly not like a 35-year-old 20 years ago cricket-wise, it's completely different. In an ideal world it would be nice to have a lot of young blokes in the side and we can't wait for that to happen - if you had three or four 19 or 20-year-old champion batsmen making 1500 runs in Shield cricket that would be fantastic, we would all want that.

"David Warner and Steve Smith have both held up very well over the last couple of series. Obviously Chris Rogers will not be around forever, he's like all of us getting older by the day. However the same guy has just made 241-odd not out in a run chase for 472 earlier this week [for Middlesex], so he wants to keep playing cricket for Australia, and while he's still in really good form it'd be very difficult to leave him out. We do have to plan ahead and we're just waiting for young players to step up and get a truckload of runs, that's what we need and want."

In the case of Smith, Marsh said the panel had chosen to have him concentrate on Test matches while he was still developing his game, but expected the 24-year-old to move into the team across all formats in coming months. Though Marsh did not name him as such, the tactically astute and mentally strong Smith is the man in line to become Australia's next long-term captain.

"Steve Smith is a hell of a good cricketer," Marsh said. "When we get to sit down and choose the side for the next World Cup I'd be very surprised if his name doesn't come up. He's also a very good T20 cricketer, but at the moment our policy has been he's just starting to establish himself in the Test arena, we've perhaps robbed Peter to pay Paul to a degree by saying 'well just keep him out of that for the moment. But we think Steve Smith will be a fine cricketer in all forms for Australia."

In addition to his selection duties, Marsh has also overseen the development of a unified coaching philosophy around Australia over the past two years. He reiterated his belief in the rigorous teaching of technical basics and their grounding in plenty of match-play, as no coach can help a cricketer to tweak a failing in the middle of an innings or a bowling spell.

"Within the game there are basics of technique in whatever you do. If you are taught the basics well early and learn them well, you've always got something to fall back on, because whenever you make a mistake I can promise the answer lies in the basics," he said. "The good cricketers are the ones who can correct things on the run - when they're out there in the middle you haven't got the coach to tell you to do this or that, you've got to work it out for yourself. If you've made mistakes you've got to be able to identify how to correct those mistakes on the move.

"I don't think our batting is as good as it should be for a nation of our strength. With the facilities we've got, with the coaching staff we've got in all states, with the talent we've got I don't think our batting is good enough. Technically I don't think it's good enough, and I think there's been a period where technique hasn't been taught as well as it could've been and I think we've got to get back tot he basics. All our coaching through Australia has got to get back to the basics of the game, and we don't want people to make their mark as a coach unless their mantra is first of all you teach the basics. It's the only way forward as far as I'm concerned."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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Posted by   on (May 4, 2014, 3:41 GMT)

@Ozcricketw, While Lyon has been no great standout bowler for Australia the past 8-10 tests. He has contributed and chipped in at getting crucial wickets at important times. Okeefe is a very tight accurate spin bowler. But he doesn't offer any more ATM skill wise than what Lyon already does. If Lyon does not contribute the next few Tests the same way he has been the last 8-10. Then I believe Okeefe will get his chance.

Posted by IndianInnerEdge on (May 4, 2014, 1:25 GMT)

Michael Clarke surely is the best captain going around nowadays, he does come across as a good tactician and his awareness of the game is just about the best nwadays. Aus always had a strong FC structure to produce the cricketers to progres to the next level. But the telling factor is the comeback of Mitcheel Johnson and the complete different dimension he lends to the bowling attack. Take him out, and am not saying that OZ will loose every match they play, but am saying that it will be more evenly matched. The main factor for OZ if they are to hang on to the no 1 spot like the teams of the 90's and early 2000's will be their support bowlers, and how they come through....all in all exciting times ahead

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (May 3, 2014, 13:48 GMT)

This is my test XI:

Chris Rogers, David Warner, Steve Smith (vc), Michael Clarke, Alex Doolan, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Steve O'Keefe, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris

It might seem harsh on Shane Watson but I think he needs some time on the sidelines. Once he comes back with some good returns, he should be the next cap off the rank, probably to replace Chris Rogers as Warner's partner opening the innings. Nathan Lyon is okay but Steve O'Keefe is much, much better and it defies belief to pick Lyon ahead of O'Keefe still. As for Faulkner coming in ahead of Siddle, in many ways it is harsh but history has shown that having both Harris and Siddle in the same lineup is surplus to requirements. If Harris is out injured, then Siddle comes in as his back up. Simple as that. Both Faulkner and Maxwell are in incredible form, too good to be ignored.

Posted by steve48 on (May 3, 2014, 9:30 GMT)

@landl47, as an Englishman, admittedly I don't know the full details of Smith, except that he was probably introduced before he was technically ready! I was reacting to Marsh comments about his recent handling. Selecting a young, raw talent is always problematic, and I will take your word on previous mistakes made with the lad, and other young Aussie talent, again it is the sentiments in this article, and the recent work done with Smith I was praising, and contrasting with our treatment of Root and Stokes. Certainly Smith looks to be a vastly improved cricketer, and if you watch the IPL, his intelligence and commitment is outstanding now. If he could land more than 2 of his leggies on the strip per over, what a player you would have, he can certainly bowl the odd peach now, amongst the pies! Ask Ian Bell!

Posted by   on (May 3, 2014, 8:06 GMT)

Mitchell Johnson made all the difference...then the new is a massive coincidence that Aus started winning the moment Johnson was selected. Brutal pace will always win games.

Posted by popcorn on (May 3, 2014, 6:28 GMT)

In my opinion,the turning point was John Inverarity.

Posted by JJJake on (May 3, 2014, 3:50 GMT)

The turn around in this side since boof took over is remarkable. Batsman have scored 17 test centuries in 8 tests Bowlers have taken 20 wickets 7 times out of the past 8 tests. Superb captaincy from Clarke

Posted by landl47 on (May 3, 2014, 3:24 GMT)

Sound thinking as always from Marsh.

@steve48: if you think Steve Smith has been well-treated and not messed about by Australia, you haven't been paying attention.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (May 2, 2014, 13:18 GMT)

Yes, there are a few young batsmen around in the shield now, now for performances. The stage is set and there are opportunities galore.

Posted by   on (May 2, 2014, 11:51 GMT)

@Steve48, even more bizarre, Root is now captaining Yorkshire! Yes, he is a talent but frankly they are placing way too big of a burden on him.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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