Hohns denies ageism as selectors reappointed

Trevor Hohns and Darren Lehmann oversee Australia's training session Getty Images

Australia's selection chairman Trevor Hohns has denied the panel are biased against older players after Cricket Australia confirmed Hohns, Greg Chappell, Mark Waugh and Darren Lehmann would remain selectors - albeit with Twenty20 selections streamlined to be the purview of Waugh and Lehmann.

Hohns, 63, who previously served as chairman from 1996 to 2006, has signed a contract that will take him through to 2020, while Chappell and Waugh are locked in until August 2018. Lehmann last year signed a contract taking his role through to the end of the 2019 Ashes tour, which will be preceded by the next 50-over World Cup.

The quartet had been named in an interim capacity to chart Australia's selection path in November after the resignation of the previous selection chairman Rod Marsh, who conceded "fresh thinking" was needed in the wake of a humiliating defeat to South Africa in Hobart, which was the fifth consecutive Test defeat for Steven Smith's team.

That result hastened the selection of several younger players, most notably Matt Renshaw and Pete Handscomb, the batting duo who slipped seamlessly into the XI during the home summer and have since shown encouraging signs on the current tour of India. While there was consternation among some players about the return of Chappell in particular, on the basis he has a history of favouring youth over experience, Hohns said the panel needed to be strategic in building a national team to be successful over time.

"We're not about having a team full of Under-23 players, we need a good blend of players, experienced players are definitely not ruled out, so there's no need for anybody to be concerned about that," Hohns said. "What we have right now, of course, and what we've attempted to do here is build a squad of players that can take us forward for some time to come, and we see by their ages that there are a lot of a similar age.

"History has shown us that good teams develop over a period of time but they develop because they've got players who play together and they're all of a similar age, and that's what we're trying to do here. As for that question, no, that's a [misconception] I would believe.

"We are responsible for putting the players on the field and trying to pick the right players for the right conditions, and obviously pick the right players to win games for Australia. Cricket in my view is Australia's national sport so it's only natural that people all over the country are going to have varying opinions and if they're talking about cricket I say that's good."

Significantly, the tradition of having a selector at every state match has seemingly been abandoned. The separation of T20 selection responsibility from those for Tests and ODIs means that there will be greater onus placed on state talent managers and coaches to communicate with the panel around Sheffield Shield and limited-overs performances.

At the same time, Waugh and Lehmann will be freed up to spend more time concentrating on finding the right team for a format that has been Australia's most problematic for some time. "I think it certainly makes sense to separate the T20 format of the game from the others," Hohns said, "because we are, in effect, trying to increase our performance in that format and also our ranking, of course, so it does make sense to have a little bit of a split panel in that area.

"That's our intention, to use the state talent managers a bit more. That will give the selectors, or the people on the selection panel, a little bit more flexibility as to who we go to watch. We might pick and choose a little bit more but we'll certainly have a presence at all games if we possibly can. It is an attempt to get everybody heading in the same direction and also gives our state talent managers the opportunity to have some input with their feedback to the selection of our national side."

Hohns acknowledged that the selections of Renshaw and Handscomb stood out as examples of what the panel was now trying to achieve. Other examples of youth being injected into the side have included the selection of the young Queensland batsman Sam Heazlett for the ODI tour of New Zealand. The search for an allrounder now seems to have replaced that for a spin bowler as the most vexing - Mitchell Marsh, Moises Henriques, Hilton Cartwright and Marcus Stoinis have all been part of the Test squad at different times over the past nine months.

"We obviously knew a fair bit about them and as I say we have all watched a lot of interstate cricket over the last few years so we did know a bit about them," Hohns said. "And of course when we made the decision to make several changes it was a little bit unknown, everyone accepts that, but sometimes when you give people the opportunity some grab it and some don't. It just so happens a couple of them have really grabbed it and done very well for us."

Questions have been asked of Waugh's multiple roles as a selector, television commentator and ambassador for the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, but Hohns deflected concerns about conflicts of interest. "I'm sure that's something Cricket Australia will deal with if they feel that it's inappropriate," he said.

David Peever, the CA chairman, said the changes to the panel's structure were the result of a review conducted in the aftermath of the Hobart result. "In making these decisions, the Board considered findings of a review conducted by CA management which looked at various aspects of the selection function, including the selection approach, the relevant structure and ensuring that we have the best possible candidates for the period ahead," he said.

"Trevor, Greg and Mark all have a vast amount of experience, we are pleased with their performance in the role over recent months, and are satisfied that this new structure will allow the Panel to be well supported by our national talent pathway and talent identification systems,. The head coach will remain involved in selection on all three formats, but the other selectors will take on more focused roles, enabling a refined selection process and clearer lines of accountability.

"We believe this new structure will enhance the performance of the selection function and deliver clearer accountability around selection and, at the same time, offers the Board the opportunity to review a two-person selection panel in the T20 format, and how well this works."