Australia in South Africa 2011-12 October 17, 2011

Sunset for Hilditch, sunrise for Australia

For all the dramas and disasters of Hilditch's five-year tenure as the part-time chairman of selectors, culminating in the loss of the Ashes, the wheel may be starting to turn
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Having presided over a ship that sank during the Ashes, Andrew Hilditch resembles a helmsman somehow still around to see the vessel raised to the surface.

To play the Test series against South Africa, Hilditch was able to name a team that included a teenaged fast bowler with rare gifts, Pat Cummins, retained the same spin bowlers taken on Australia's last tour, and omitted in Dave Warner a young opening batsman scoring mountains of runs because those ahead of him are doing equally well.

All these signs of rude health were pointed out by Hilditch on what was probably the final occasion he announces an Australia Test squad, for the appointment of the new National Selector, a full-time position remodelled according to the recommendation of the Argus review, is soon to follow. For all the dramas and disasters of Hilditch's five-year tenure as the part-time chairman of selectors, culminating in the loss of the Ashes at home last summer, the wheel may be starting to turn.

"Short-term success for the side is probably likely to come down to how our experienced players play," Hilditch said. "But the young talent we've introduced progressively I think but also with Sri Lanka and this squad, there's some really exciting young talent.

"So I think we're certainly going down the right path, Sri Lanka was a step in the process, South Africa's going to be even harder, but again a big, important part of getting back to No.1 in Test cricket. The big thing is the young players we're picking are actually impacting and look like they're ready to play, so it's a great thing."

Hilditch has retained his pacific exterior throughout a year of vast changes in Australian cricket, many of them geared towards improving the ways and decisions of the selection panel. Bizarrely considering how long he has held on to the job as a part-time concern, Hilditch says has always favoured the role being made full-time.

"I was frustrated in the sense we lost the Ashes, that was pretty devastating, but from a selection point of view I've always done it because I love cricket," Hilditch said. "I've been really lucky to have my job for as long as I have. It's my passion, it's not what I do for a living, I do it because I love it.

"I've continued to love it and we've done the best things we could possibly do in our own minds to try to help Australian cricket. I think [the selection position] had to become fulltime, as simple as that, which has always been my view. And it'll be a tough job for whoever takes it over but I'm sure they'll love it."

Many decisions made by Hilditch's panel have been heavily criticised, and a definitive list of mistakes or miss-steps would take time in recounting. Many revolve around the selection of spin bowlers, and it was a source of some relief to Hilditch that Nathan Lyon was able to grasp his chance so strongly in Sri Lanka.

"He did really well in Sri Lanka, obviously a big learning curve and South Africa will be no different, that's a really hard assignment for the whole team but also for Nathan," Hilditch said. "But we think he's up to it, at the moment we're investing more time [for him] in Test cricket than the other forms of the game and trying to get him as much experience as we can.

"The reality is we needed to find the best spinners to play for Australia and there's been some changes to the spinning stocks. Nathan's five-for on debut is a great start and we think Michael Beer can bowl as well. But they're both short on experience, there's no doubt about that and they'll be learning as they go along."

In the case of Warner, his absence from the Test squad gave Hilditch cause to discuss one problem of his time as chairman - few players produced the sorts of startling performances that demanded inclusion in the Australian team, an unsatisfactory state of affairs that has been changing in recent months.

"He went to Sri Lanka so he's close," Hilditch said of Warner. "But Usman [Khawaja] we thought definitely needed to be still in the squad and obviously Shaun Marsh took his opportunities in Sri Lanka really well. So there's actually quite a few batters at the moment, who are putting their hand up and deserve selection.

"So It's hard on those players but it is a good thing, we haven't been there for a while where people are actually demanding and pushing hard for selection and that's a positive thing."

There was one decision about which Hilditch was utterly unequivocal as chairman. That was his insistence that Michael Clarke replace Ricky Ponting as captain whenever the older man chose to finish, a view that was not always shared by the Cricket Australia directors to which Hilditch has reported.

"He's been fantastic," Hilditch said of Clarke, who led Australia with tremendous poise on his first Test tour as captain in Sri Lanka. "The one thing that has happened after the Ashes is there's been a lot of changes taken place. The review [means] there will be further changes, but the reality is we've had a change in leadership, a few changes in coaching positions as far as fielding coach and fast bowling coaches and a slightly different playing group.

"But what they have done is really worked hard and they've made a lot of progress so it's been very encouraging."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on October 19, 2011, 6:17 GMT

    @RJHB - I agree. I think Haddin does need to be phased out, but due to his great Ashes campaign with the bat, & improved keeping over the last couple of months, he may have till the India series. The thing about keepers is that its not all about their batting, it does include the "chirp" in the field, maintaining the fielding standard. Which was good in SL, needs to be beter in Sth Africa. I wouldn't of selected him for the ODIs in Sth Africa. I would of selected him for the Tests & then made a call on the NZ & India series.

  • RJHB on October 19, 2011, 1:18 GMT

    Warner has yet to prove himself in first class cricket, atleast over a summer or two. Besides, with Hughes, there's already one terrible technique in the side! I do understand where Hilditch is coming from now, hasn't always been the case. I get why the likes of Hussey and Ponting are still in the side, to try and keep the team competitive hopefully. But surely Haddin is one more we can roll over on, his batting seems shot, his keeping not what it once was and his age is reaching Golden Girls level! Plenty of promising keeper/batsmen around so surely this summer its time.

  • gogoldengreens on October 18, 2011, 9:46 GMT

    Looking forward to the end of the Happy Hookers infuence on the team.... How can Mcdermott put his stamp on the bowlers while Cooley is looking over his shoulder??? Warner is a great hit and giggle bat when you need to have 80 off 30 balls - cannot see the technique for opening the batting on a seaming pitch when you need to get to lunch at 0 for 50 and consider it a good job as Dave would smash one to gully or something silly trying to score a run a ball

  • AdoSR on October 18, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Many of the greats of modern cricket were introduced to tests at a young age or after very few first class matches. Tendulkar (16), Ponting (20), Lara (20), Warne (23 but only a year of first class). These were selected on talent alone, not proven performances, and learnt their craft at the highest level so as not to get too used to easier forms of cricket. Its rediculous to say that selecting young test cricketers will lead to disaster. Can't we let talent spotters spot talent and give them a go? I, for one, find it exciting to see a young talented cricketer on debut.

  • Meety on October 18, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    @popcorn - you forgot Gilly (as test captain) LOL! @Jo McGahan - I'm a fan of Lynn (shame he is injured), however I don't think Lynn is in direct competition with Warner. I know where you are coming from, but I think Warner is an opener/#3 batsmen, Lynn is more #4 to #6. Just my opinion. @Wozza-CY - slightly younger, but I'd throw in Cosgrove (44). As for Jaques, I thought he was awesome, but unfortunately he has never been the same since his back injury. The selectors have been right not to re-select him.

  • popcorn on October 18, 2011, 3:32 GMT

    I can see that the Chip Chop practice of last summer is over.Cricketers need to be given an extended run.As the saying goes, Form is temporary, Class is permanent. Mike Hussey is a classic example. There were calls for his head last summer. Now he is a well deserving permanent fixture.The only blemish is the removal of Simon Katich. Phil Hughes has paid off.Australia's unique, endearing philosophy of the past has been - YOU HAVE TO EARN YOUR BAGGY GREEN. It is and should be, very difficult to get into the Australian side. Also, cricketers are sent back to play domestic cricket, score runs, perform with the ball and come back into the side. Performance oriented.Damien Martyn, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke,Shane Watson are models to follow. Also, Australia is the ONLY country that has had ONLY FIVE TEST CAPTAINS in 25 years - Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke. Again, a reflection of solidity, and giving confidence. Australia will be No.1 by next summer.

  • on October 18, 2011, 2:37 GMT

    @bobagrorof/getaclue, im not saying that lynn should be picked right now just that i think he shouls be condidered ahead of warner who has played less than a season of sheild cricket and is not an automatic choice for his state, while lynn has shown he can bat when his team is in trouble to save a match, something australia has been lacking of late

  • Wozza-CY on October 18, 2011, 1:38 GMT

    There was a time when Oz teams were selected on many years of hard work as a youngster and come 28-31 you were considered to know your game well enough to slot seamlessly into Test cricket. Lehman, Symonds, Hayden, Martyn, Langer & M.Hussey to name a few. It seems we've 'skipped' a generation of players that are there or there abouts now but because they haven't had many opportunities may never get a decent go. Consider a this top 6 (FC avg beside) Rogers (51), Jacques (49) Bailey (39) Dussey (54) Voges (42) McDonald (39). It could prove for a solid test line up. Ironically these individuals may not even get another test.

  • TEST_CRICKET_ONLY on October 18, 2011, 1:30 GMT

    Warner's runs in T20 don't mean anything. T20 is the international equivalent of beach cricket, and it is a long way from test cricket. More to the point, why is Hilditch still here ? Hasn't he done enough damage ?

  • MinusZero on October 18, 2011, 0:23 GMT

    When will they start realising that playing well in shorter games does not mean you will be a good test player. Warner shouldnt even be considered, not unlucky to miss out. Even players such as Watson show this to be true. Plays well in the short form of the game but cant get the big scores the test team requires.

  • Meety on October 19, 2011, 6:17 GMT

    @RJHB - I agree. I think Haddin does need to be phased out, but due to his great Ashes campaign with the bat, & improved keeping over the last couple of months, he may have till the India series. The thing about keepers is that its not all about their batting, it does include the "chirp" in the field, maintaining the fielding standard. Which was good in SL, needs to be beter in Sth Africa. I wouldn't of selected him for the ODIs in Sth Africa. I would of selected him for the Tests & then made a call on the NZ & India series.

  • RJHB on October 19, 2011, 1:18 GMT

    Warner has yet to prove himself in first class cricket, atleast over a summer or two. Besides, with Hughes, there's already one terrible technique in the side! I do understand where Hilditch is coming from now, hasn't always been the case. I get why the likes of Hussey and Ponting are still in the side, to try and keep the team competitive hopefully. But surely Haddin is one more we can roll over on, his batting seems shot, his keeping not what it once was and his age is reaching Golden Girls level! Plenty of promising keeper/batsmen around so surely this summer its time.

  • gogoldengreens on October 18, 2011, 9:46 GMT

    Looking forward to the end of the Happy Hookers infuence on the team.... How can Mcdermott put his stamp on the bowlers while Cooley is looking over his shoulder??? Warner is a great hit and giggle bat when you need to have 80 off 30 balls - cannot see the technique for opening the batting on a seaming pitch when you need to get to lunch at 0 for 50 and consider it a good job as Dave would smash one to gully or something silly trying to score a run a ball

  • AdoSR on October 18, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Many of the greats of modern cricket were introduced to tests at a young age or after very few first class matches. Tendulkar (16), Ponting (20), Lara (20), Warne (23 but only a year of first class). These were selected on talent alone, not proven performances, and learnt their craft at the highest level so as not to get too used to easier forms of cricket. Its rediculous to say that selecting young test cricketers will lead to disaster. Can't we let talent spotters spot talent and give them a go? I, for one, find it exciting to see a young talented cricketer on debut.

  • Meety on October 18, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    @popcorn - you forgot Gilly (as test captain) LOL! @Jo McGahan - I'm a fan of Lynn (shame he is injured), however I don't think Lynn is in direct competition with Warner. I know where you are coming from, but I think Warner is an opener/#3 batsmen, Lynn is more #4 to #6. Just my opinion. @Wozza-CY - slightly younger, but I'd throw in Cosgrove (44). As for Jaques, I thought he was awesome, but unfortunately he has never been the same since his back injury. The selectors have been right not to re-select him.

  • popcorn on October 18, 2011, 3:32 GMT

    I can see that the Chip Chop practice of last summer is over.Cricketers need to be given an extended run.As the saying goes, Form is temporary, Class is permanent. Mike Hussey is a classic example. There were calls for his head last summer. Now he is a well deserving permanent fixture.The only blemish is the removal of Simon Katich. Phil Hughes has paid off.Australia's unique, endearing philosophy of the past has been - YOU HAVE TO EARN YOUR BAGGY GREEN. It is and should be, very difficult to get into the Australian side. Also, cricketers are sent back to play domestic cricket, score runs, perform with the ball and come back into the side. Performance oriented.Damien Martyn, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke,Shane Watson are models to follow. Also, Australia is the ONLY country that has had ONLY FIVE TEST CAPTAINS in 25 years - Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke. Again, a reflection of solidity, and giving confidence. Australia will be No.1 by next summer.

  • on October 18, 2011, 2:37 GMT

    @bobagrorof/getaclue, im not saying that lynn should be picked right now just that i think he shouls be condidered ahead of warner who has played less than a season of sheild cricket and is not an automatic choice for his state, while lynn has shown he can bat when his team is in trouble to save a match, something australia has been lacking of late

  • Wozza-CY on October 18, 2011, 1:38 GMT

    There was a time when Oz teams were selected on many years of hard work as a youngster and come 28-31 you were considered to know your game well enough to slot seamlessly into Test cricket. Lehman, Symonds, Hayden, Martyn, Langer & M.Hussey to name a few. It seems we've 'skipped' a generation of players that are there or there abouts now but because they haven't had many opportunities may never get a decent go. Consider a this top 6 (FC avg beside) Rogers (51), Jacques (49) Bailey (39) Dussey (54) Voges (42) McDonald (39). It could prove for a solid test line up. Ironically these individuals may not even get another test.

  • TEST_CRICKET_ONLY on October 18, 2011, 1:30 GMT

    Warner's runs in T20 don't mean anything. T20 is the international equivalent of beach cricket, and it is a long way from test cricket. More to the point, why is Hilditch still here ? Hasn't he done enough damage ?

  • MinusZero on October 18, 2011, 0:23 GMT

    When will they start realising that playing well in shorter games does not mean you will be a good test player. Warner shouldnt even be considered, not unlucky to miss out. Even players such as Watson show this to be true. Plays well in the short form of the game but cant get the big scores the test team requires.

  • getaclue on October 18, 2011, 0:22 GMT

    @jonesy2 - mitch marsh is a four-day hack. I dont think he barely averages 20 with the bat. Can slog in the final over of a T20 though. I guess that is what gets people into the Test team nowadays ..... @Joseph Mcgahan - Lynn has played all of one season...hardly a career of beating down the door. Give him a chance to prove himself

  • Gordo85 on October 17, 2011, 16:21 GMT

    I may have said this before but I like saying it because it is true. David Warner should never play Test cricket because he and David Hussey are very simular players they are twenty/20 specialists. That is not my opinion but I have heard everyone only rate David Hussey in twenty/20 and limited overs cricket. I have been watching David Hussey over the years make tones of runs in First Class cricket for years and it shows in his records. So yeah in other words Hussey should play a Test before Warner but I know now it is pretty unlikely due to the fact Hussey is older than Warner. However if one plays but not the other I will be furious with Cricket Austalia like I have been ever since 1999 and hense that is why I gave up going for them. New South Wales batsmen always make it before Victorian ones and most Victorian ones never get or have a chance at Test cricket. South Africa on the other hand is fairer when they select players. Warner makes the ODI squad with a weak average.

  • ashlatchem on October 17, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    few players produced the sorts of startling performances that demanded inclusion in the Australian team - James Hopes (Who I was never a great fan of) got shield player of the year last season in return he didn't get a new CA contract... Macdonald lost his contract as well.... I don't have the exact figures for his county season but they were mighty impressive... These guys weren't just knocking on the door in the last year when the Oz test team was actually LOSING they were blowing the door down.. I understand it's a mixture of youth and experience but surely your experienced players should be your country's best cricketers and these 2 right now are currently 2 of the best. So Hilditch is still selecting, the interim coach is the forming bowling coach and a guy with 3FC games gets selected to tour RSA...Where's the change?

  • bobagorof on October 17, 2011, 13:14 GMT

    @Joseph Mcgahan: I don't disagree with you, but I don't think Lynn has strung together enough games just yet to be considered. And Cowan will never play for Australia, there are too many other contenders who are doing just as well and are a few years younger.

  • Mary_786 on October 17, 2011, 12:40 GMT

    Warner needs to get more runs in shield cricket before getting selected, T20 doesn't count towards test selection

  • on October 17, 2011, 11:27 GMT

    Warner was called up for SL when Ponting went home. So he's being considered by the "former" selectors.

  • harshalb on October 17, 2011, 11:23 GMT

    Hilditch and Greg Chapell are two induviduals who must be made to contribute more and more to the Australian cricket so that the rest of the world gets some respite.

  • Mervo on October 17, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    And more please, "Stay way!"

  • jonesy2 on October 17, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    warners not in the test squad because usman is the reserve batsman. warner is obviously next in line probably along with ferguson and mitch marsh. but yeah good riddance to anyone who picks steve smith in at the number 6 spot.

  • on October 17, 2011, 10:28 GMT

    Warner SHOULD be in it! 2 ducks. Hello? What about the 2 centuries he got just prior to that? I wish it was more like the old days where the teams didn't change that much according to the format. The 20/20, ODI and Test teams all feel alien to each other. Get a core group to be "the Team" and stop stuffing around with all this chopping and changing. To me, he is a core player and should be there

  • Matt. on October 17, 2011, 8:33 GMT

    It only just clicked that Warner wasn't included in the test squad, pretty disappointing!

  • Okakaboka on October 17, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    Hilditch.....Don't come back....'ya hear!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Meety on October 17, 2011, 7:32 GMT

    Unfortunately for Hilditch, his tenure will be remembered for the "missteps", rather than the successes. The less said about Hilditch the better, onwards & upwards I say!!!!

  • on October 17, 2011, 7:10 GMT

    "omitted in Dave Warner a young opening batsman scoring mountains of runs" i hardly think t20 runs should carry any sort of relevance when it comes to test selection, and when it comes to first class runs i think guys like furgusen, lynn and cowan have to be considered ahead of warner as a reward for putting together more that 2 good FC games

  • on October 17, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    What Hilditch has done on his way out is ensuring people would be talking about him long after he is gone-By naming Cummins in the test squad.Assuming Cummins is named in the playing X1 Aus will have 2 players selected on prayer(1st being Johnson).Now thers no doubt Cummins should have played test cricket but it is the timing which is not convincing.If MJ strikes like he did last time he will be the darling again and if Cummins terrorises SAffers.. well..nothing better...BUT if not..imagine an off colour Johnson and a not ready Cummins in the bowling attack together...!!!Hopefully Cummins learns from the side lines and that is the bets possible out come...But SA tracks usually favour fast men..and may be stars will shine down at Cummins

  • gzawilliam on October 17, 2011, 6:42 GMT

    Hilditch doesnt need to explain the ommision of Warner.. There are a lot of players ahead of him in the test arena. Ferguson and voges just to name a few.. Warner doesn't look comfortable at all in SA at the moment anyway.. two ducks..1 a first baller.. the other a 9 ball duck.. not great reading for a test aspirant.

  • VivGilchrist on October 17, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I shout , "Go Away!"

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  • VivGilchrist on October 17, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I shout , "Go Away!"

  • gzawilliam on October 17, 2011, 6:42 GMT

    Hilditch doesnt need to explain the ommision of Warner.. There are a lot of players ahead of him in the test arena. Ferguson and voges just to name a few.. Warner doesn't look comfortable at all in SA at the moment anyway.. two ducks..1 a first baller.. the other a 9 ball duck.. not great reading for a test aspirant.

  • on October 17, 2011, 6:52 GMT

    What Hilditch has done on his way out is ensuring people would be talking about him long after he is gone-By naming Cummins in the test squad.Assuming Cummins is named in the playing X1 Aus will have 2 players selected on prayer(1st being Johnson).Now thers no doubt Cummins should have played test cricket but it is the timing which is not convincing.If MJ strikes like he did last time he will be the darling again and if Cummins terrorises SAffers.. well..nothing better...BUT if not..imagine an off colour Johnson and a not ready Cummins in the bowling attack together...!!!Hopefully Cummins learns from the side lines and that is the bets possible out come...But SA tracks usually favour fast men..and may be stars will shine down at Cummins

  • on October 17, 2011, 7:10 GMT

    "omitted in Dave Warner a young opening batsman scoring mountains of runs" i hardly think t20 runs should carry any sort of relevance when it comes to test selection, and when it comes to first class runs i think guys like furgusen, lynn and cowan have to be considered ahead of warner as a reward for putting together more that 2 good FC games

  • Meety on October 17, 2011, 7:32 GMT

    Unfortunately for Hilditch, his tenure will be remembered for the "missteps", rather than the successes. The less said about Hilditch the better, onwards & upwards I say!!!!

  • Okakaboka on October 17, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    Hilditch.....Don't come back....'ya hear!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Matt. on October 17, 2011, 8:33 GMT

    It only just clicked that Warner wasn't included in the test squad, pretty disappointing!

  • on October 17, 2011, 10:28 GMT

    Warner SHOULD be in it! 2 ducks. Hello? What about the 2 centuries he got just prior to that? I wish it was more like the old days where the teams didn't change that much according to the format. The 20/20, ODI and Test teams all feel alien to each other. Get a core group to be "the Team" and stop stuffing around with all this chopping and changing. To me, he is a core player and should be there

  • jonesy2 on October 17, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    warners not in the test squad because usman is the reserve batsman. warner is obviously next in line probably along with ferguson and mitch marsh. but yeah good riddance to anyone who picks steve smith in at the number 6 spot.

  • Mervo on October 17, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    And more please, "Stay way!"