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August 29, 2011
Ricky Ponting believes the elevation of Australia's captain to a formal place at the selection table will eradicate communication problems between the players and the selectors.
Ahead of his first Test match since relinquishing the captaincy, Ponting has revealed he spent the entire term of his leadership arguing for the selection rights that have now been bestowed upon his successor Michael Clarke, in the hope that it would provide a vital link in the chain of communication between the players and those who choose them.
He also rejected instances of tension between the captain and his players on past tours, saying the new arrangement was superior to the older model of the captain and coach becoming the prime selectors on tour then not having a say at home.
"Absolutely no doubt in my mind [it will be an improvement]," Ponting said in Galle. "I pushed for it for seven years, for the captain to be a selector, and it's a really positive thing for Australian cricket and certainly for our team.
"Any communication breakdowns in the past could have been avoided if the captain was a selector. I know there was negativity 10-15 years ago about the captain and coach being selectors, but I think that could have been avoided with proper communication.
"I just think the players would appreciate much more honest feedback from the captain and coach on their game and where they fit as far as selection is concerned, so I think it'll work really well for us."
As part of its raft of recommendations for the betterment of Australian cricket, the Argus review pointed out the need for more "adult conversations" between the team and the selectors, and empowered the captain and the coach to be the link between the two groups.
Ponting said his desire to be a selector had not stemmed from receiving teams or squads that he did not like, and was more to do with the inadequacy of his own position to converse openly with players when he did not know what had been said at selection.
"It wasn't so much that [teams I didn't want] at all, it made it really hard for me to communicate with guys when I wasn't a selector," he said. "If my views were slightly different from the selectors' then I couldn't communicate in the right way, if that makes sense."
Several Australian tours a decade ago featured tension around the selection responsibilities of the "tour selectors", commonly the captain, vice-captain and coach, before a member of the selection panel was regularly taken on tours.
In 1997 Steve Waugh hinted that he did not want to be the man responsible for dropping his captain Mark Taylor from the team amid his lengthy form slump, while in 1999 Waugh and Shane Warne fell out badly when the legspinner and vice-captain was dropped from the team in the West Indies despite having his own vote at selection. In 2001 Michael Slater complained loudly of his treatment by Waugh when omitted for the final Test of the Ashes series at the Oval, and never played again.
Ponting was in the Australian team when each of those dramas played out, and said they resulted more from the temporary, on-tour nature of the selection arrangement than the captain's place in choosing teams.
"There's still five selectors, it's just that the captain and coach happen to be one of those, and they're not the sole selectors like they used to be on tour either," Ponting said. "That was the difference back then, they were the only selectors when you were overseas. They're just two of the five now.
"I can understand those things coming up, but I think for someone like Slater his axing would have come completely out of the blue, whereas if the captain knowing his role and the way the structure will be around our team now, maybe could've told him four Tests beforehand that if he didn't score runs or if things didn't improve then there might've been a chance that it might happen. They're the sort of things that I think can just be so much better around our game, and the fact we've gone in this direction now with the selection panel is a really positive thing for us."
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