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December 16, 1999
In response to a request from one of our readers, Graham van Tonder, we managed to arrange a quick interview with the convenor of selectors, Andy Pycroft, to answer questions sent in. Here are the answers given by Mr Pycroft, and we are very grateful to him for finding us time in what is an extremely busy schedule before he leaves for South Africa next week.
Q: How do the selectors reach a consensus?
A: We talk it right through, but never take a vote. We never have a situation where three selectors think one thing and two another. We talk it right through until everyone agrees; for example, last week we had such an issue, but we kept talking it through until we reached a decision - it just took longer.
Q: Do they concentrate on expected pitch conditions?
A: Absolutely. We not only look at the pitch, but also look at 'horses for courses', depending on the situation. For example, take the situation when Gary Brent did not play in the last Test against Sri Lanka. He bowled very well in the Second Test, but we needed a strike bowler, for two reasons. Firstly, we needed to win the Test to halve the series; and secondly, the stock bowlers had bowled well, but we were losing because we were not scoring enough runs, and therefore we picked Eddo Brandes instead of Brent because we needed a bowler to knock them over. I think the results show that we were right.
We also take into account match conditions and circumstances. This also means that we have not finalised the side for tomorrow [Wednesday] because we want first to assess the pitch and weather conditions. We normally have in our minds different combinations, and either finalise our team the night before or on the day. Of course we have input from the captain and coach, and then we make our own decision.
Q: Do they concentrate on the strengths of the opposing side?
A: Absolutely. For example, when we play a team like South Africa we are more likely to play a spinner, or an extra spinner, than we are against Sri Lanka, and we are more likely to strengthen our batting when playing against South Africa than we are against England.
Q: Do they simply pick the best side?
A: Yes, within certain parameters, and there may be political parameters. We consider Tests to be more important than one-day internationals.
Q: How much support or leeway does an out-of-form player receive before his spot is in jeopardy?
A: It depends on the circumstances. Players like Alistair Campbell and Grant Flower are more likely to keep their places than a fringe player because they have their personal records and experience behind them.
Q: How do they go about identifying upcoming talent?
A: At least one member of the selectors sits on the Under-19 selection committee; both Iain Butchart and I have done so in the past, and Iain is still on that committee. We also have input into the academy. One of the selectors [Trevor Penney at present] is the coach of the B side, so there is continuity there, and also we have selectors from all round the country. We also have the national captain who is playing at a high-density club. Obviously we watch league matches.
Q: What are the protocols for breaking a player into international competition?
A: Where possible, we play them in the less important games first, after they have already enjoyed success in the B team, unless it is an outstanding Under-19 player. Even then we try to play them in one-day internationals first, as we consider these as less important than Tests. There is always a problem in this country in that most of the cricket is played in the leagues, and we acknowledge that this is a big jump up to international level. League form is a guide to a player's ability, but it is by no means conclusive.
Q: What are the selectors' credentials, and who asks them to become selectors?
A: They are nominated by provincial and league representatives, and then chosen by the Board - you would have to ask them what they look for in a selector. All five of our present selectors are past players who have given good service over a long period of time.
Q: To whom are they answerable?
A: Firstly to the ZCU president, Peter Chingoka, who represents the Board, reporting through the chief executive, Dave Ellman-Brown. When we pick a side, the convenor takes the list to the chief executive, who takes it to the president, who confirms it on behalf of the Board. In the past we have had sides queried by the president, for political reasons, and we have discussed them with him. Again, we do not vote on it, nor is a team imposed on us, but we discuss the matter until we reach an agreement.
Q: Is there an accepted number of selectors, or does their numbers fluctuate?
A: It has fluctuated. This year we have five selectors, up from four. We always try to accommodate Matabeleland with at least one selector from that province, but it is up to the Board. In my own view three selectors would be enough normally, but with a heavy international season and with more sides needing to be picked at different levels, five is better at present.
Q: To what extent do they liaise with the team captain?
A: The captain plays a strong consultative role and his input is always taken into consideration when we select our teams. His views are important to us.
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