Tired Australia consider more breaks
Australia will consider giving players operating in both the Test and one-day teams more in-season rest so they can be fresh for the most important contests. For the second time in two years the home side lost the CB Series finals after dominating the preliminary rounds and Ricky Ponting said the not-so-changing face of the squad had contributed to the fatigue created by a hectic campaign.
Ponting spoke with Tim Nielsen, the coach, and Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, over the past week about the issue and subsequent result trend. "We've only got a changeover of one or two players between the Test and one-day teams," Ponting said after the second final in Brisbane. "That's really unusual for us.
"In the past couple of years we've had probably up to five or six changing over. When you have that it gives a bit more life to the group."
Resting players during the series was a delicate exercise as many of them had signed for the lucrative Indian Premier League, eliminating the power of their complaints of overload. Ponting missed the Twenty20 internationals and Matthew Hayden had a couple of games off, but a core batting group was employed throughout the series. Adam Gilchrist, who usually has a break during the tournament, did not take one as he completed his farewell tour, but the bowlers were rotated and the area was Australia's main strength.
"Not having much changeover now, the guys have been playing international cricket for a long time and had no opportunity to be able to get away from the rigours of the game," Ponting said. "Maybe there's some sort of trend with us. We dominated last year and lost both finals, maybe we have to look at giving some of our guys who have played both forms a bit more of a rest so they're fresh when the finals come around."
One problem with this theory is the World Cup and Champions Trophy are the only one-day tournaments that will culminate in deciders as the life of the Australian tri-series has expired. However, the team will play two five-match series against New Zealand and South Africa next summer and the policy could be moulded to suit the format.
India's influx of young talent provided a considerable boost to their Test contingent and while they improved with more one-day games, Australia's performances tailed off. "What they've done gives us something to look at down the track," Ponting said.
Australia have two holes to fill with the retirements of Gilchrist and Brad Hogg and there will be a couple of new faces if the team goes to Pakistan at the end of the month. Brad Haddin, the wicketkeeper-batsman, was part of the squad for the CB Series and the selectors have a choice to make over who will fill the vacant spin position.
"With those guys going out, we bring in some newer, fresher guys," Ponting said. "That's the way we evolve. I'm not sure if age ever brings you back to the pack. Skills are what bring you back to the pack. A lot of our more senior players have still got all the skills required to be one-day players for Australia."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo