Players around the country are shaking their heads at the appointment of Greg Chappell as an interim selector, five years after the Argus review removed him from the same position. They have a right to do so.
While it is understandable that Cricket Australia's board of directors found an internal candidate for this interim role, Chappell's decidedly mixed history with domestic cricket in particular makes it at best a curious call, at worst a further indication all is not well among the decision-makers at the top of the game down under.
Chappell was the prime architect of the Futures League, a development brainstorm devised to end the "clogging up of the system" perceived to have been created when the Sheffield Shield became more or less fully professional with the improvement of player wages in 1998.
The Futures League replaced the second XI competition, restricting teams to playing no more than three players over the age of 23 in any team, while also adding experimental playing regulations like first innings limited to 96 overs, scrapping the availability of the second new ball, and offering extra points for wickets taken by spin bowlers. Matches were played over three days instead of four.
It was a Rubicon moment, where the players started to feel that the Sheffield Shield was being devalued because the next tier down from what was thought to be the world's premier domestic competition had been stripped back to being an under-age tournament.
In particular, the over restrictions and reduction in game time from four days to three were devised to "encourage attacking cricket" but they effectively reduced opportunities for batsmen to spend time in the middle. That change in particular now looks to have been ruinous, given the current paucity of players cut out to bat all day.
The whole concept was skewered in the pages of the Argus review:
"The panel understands that the Futures League was designed to fill a perceived gap in the pathway for players aged 19-23 (i.e. between U19s and State/State 2nd XI cricket). Last season Futures League was therefore a 6 round competition with 3-day games, and permitted teams only 3 players of 23 years of age or over. Second XI matches occurred on an ad hoc basis.
"However feedback about the Futures League age restrictions was very strongly negative, both in relation to the standard of the competition and its effect on Grade cricket. The panel's preference, therefore, is that the Futures League revert to a 2nd XI competition."
The same document effectively led to Chappell's dismissal as a member of the national selection panel, as it was considered his other role of national talent manager should not permit enough time to also choose senior Australian sides. Chappell has recently downscaled his time in the national talent manager role to three days a week, after the appointment of the former Test wicketkeeper Graham Manou to oversee the junior talent pathway.
Interestingly, there were two attendees of the extraordinary board meeting (a telephone hook-up) who had a direct role in the Argus review itself: the former captain and board director Mark Taylor, and the chief executive James Sutherland, who vigorously defended the review's conclusions and recommendations on Wednesday. Curious, then, that the board settled on its current selection course.
So it is understandable then that players are questioning Chappell's return to the selection panel, albeit on a temporary basis. Cricketers are known to have long memories, and as one noted this morning: "I'm just trying to work out what the cut off age for the baggy green will be now..."