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July 29, 2011
News : O'Keefe chases higher honours via Twenty20
News : Copeland, Lyon bring confidence, freshness - Chappell
Analysis : Hilditch still spinning his wheels
News : Lyon the bolter in Australia's Test squad
In Focus: Australian cricket under review
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of Sri Lanka
Cameron White, the Australian Twenty20 captain, says the rapid promotion of Nathan Lyon to tour Sri Lanka next month suggests the national selectors are employing an open door policy for the Test side, irrespective of the format a player makes his name in.
Lyon's selection, having played only four first-class matches and a handful of Twenty20 and limited overs matches for South Australia last summer, has illustrated how far the national panel is prepared to look in its pursuit of "champion" players.
White certainly sounded bemused when questioned on what Lyon's selection, alongside Michael Beer and Trent Copeland, signified for the rest of Australia's cricketers.
He concluded that it now meant that a player could be plucked from Twenty20s to play Tests or Sheffield Shield cricket to play Twenty20, as talent identifiers ceased to discriminate between formats and disciplines.
"Very interesting question. It is a tough one for me to answer," White told reporters in Brisbane before the Twenty20 squad flew out for Sri Lanka. "I guess if you are in the right place at the right time you can be picked.
"If you are in form and the selectors view that you are the right man for the job they can pick you. It seems as though the door is open for everyone in first-class cricket, one day cricket, and Twenty20 cricket to play Test cricket, if that makes any sense."
Both Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, and Greg Chappell, the national talent manager and selector, have stated that their present policy is to cast around widely in the hope that certain players will show immediate signs of becoming top class performers. It is an approach laced with risk and uncertainty, and far removed from that employed by the national panel when Australia was last struggling so markedly in the mid-1980s.
At that time the selectors identified a group of players with talent to support the captaincy of Allan Border, and largely stuck by them until results began to improve. The likes of Steve Waugh, Dean Jones, Merv Hughes, Geoff Marsh, David Boon and Craig McDermott emerged as the nucleus of a strong Australian side, that later became great when younger talent was introduced to a stable dressing room.
"We're picking the best team for Australia," Hilditch said when announcing the Test squad in Adelaide. "But we need some experienced players, which we think we have got, and we also need to find a couple of new champions in the next couple of years."
Australia's coach, Tim Nielsen, is not a selector, but he defended the scatter-gun ways of the panel, which is under heavy scrutiny as part of the Don Argus-led Australian team performance review. The review is due to table its findings to the Cricket Australia board at its next meeting on August 18-19.
"We are obviously looking for the spinner who can take us forward in all three forms of the game," Nielsen said. "To be honest no-one has taken their opportunity and made it their own yet. No-one has made their spot their own. And that is why we see some fluctuations in who is selected.
"Because whether it be through injury or performance we haven't seen one spinner really take the job on. Lyon and Beer now have the opportunity to stake their claim.
Nielsen did not see anything inconsistent about the rapid distribution of baggy green caps, particularly to spin bowlers. Twelve have now been elevated to the Australian Test squad since Shane Warne retired in 2007.
"We have come off a summer where we didn't have the success we would have liked," he said. "And it's pretty obvious we are searching for the mix of players we think will take us forward.
"We have seen a couple of players who are perceived to have jumped the queue because they have performed well when given the opportunity, and I think that is the way it has always been. If you are given a chance at domestic or Australia A level and do well the selectors will reward that."
Nielsen's role is also being analysed closely by the review, and his support staff has been significantly altered by the additions of Steve Rixon as fielding coach and Craig McDermott as pace bowling coach. The players have enjoyed the presence of more mentors with Test match experience, something Nielsen himself cannot call upon.
Rixon was appointed at the insistence of the new captain Michael Clarke, and Nielsen said the team now bore the stamp of the new leader.
"Michael's very clear on how he feels the team should be playing and the things he feels are important for the team to be playing that way," he told AAP. "We've got some new staff around the place, a new captain, a new vice-captain so all of those things lead to a different voice and a different idea.
"It's been really positive so far, I've really enjoyed working with those guys. I'm sure in the next little while, even if it doesn't transfer into wins straight out of the blocks, we're hopeful the new cricketers we've got in the team and the different direction we're taking will lead us back to the levels we want to be playing at and the standing we want in world cricket."
The Australian Twenty20 squad departs on Saturday for two matches on August 6 and 8, with limited overs and Test series to follow.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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