Australia's coach Justin Langer has conceded that the marginalisation of the domestic 50-over tournament to a pre-season carnival played over three weeks "is something we have to look at" after he watched the national team get thumped 5-0 by England in a series played precisely a year away from the 2019 World Cup.
Less than a week after Cricket Australia confirmed the tournament would stay in the spot it has been squeezed into since 2013, albeit with the removal of the developmental CA XI and the introduction of a novel finals series where all six teams take part, Langer said that consideration of the impact of domestic scheduling would need to be part of a range of discussions he would have between the end of the current tour and the start of the summer.
Recalling the previous format of the Australian domestic summer, where 50-over matches shared an even spread across the season with the Sheffield Shield, Langer said the mixture had promoted resilience and adaptability among players that was reflected at the international level. He noted that in more contemporary times, it was the Twenty20 Big Bash League that "reminds me a bit of what Sheffield Shield cricket used to be like, it was such a cut-throat, intense competition, and that really helped develop our players".
"It's really funny when you change roles," Langer told SEN Radio. "I've been well and truly entrenched in state land and looking at domestic cricket and how Western Australia can beat Victoria and South Australia. We look at all these things, we look at the CA XI that's played in the pre-season, and I was only thinking about it this morning - we haven't had a great couple of years in one-day cricket and maybe that's something we have to look at.
"When you're not getting the performances you'd like and you play one-day international cricket throughout the whole year, when you just have it in a three-week pre-season period, I'm sure that's something we can have a look at in the system. My view always as a state coach, maybe I was just old-fashioned, but I loved when you used to be able to play Sheffield Shield cricket followed by a one-day game. Then you're playing throughout the whole year and it was actually really good and enjoyable to play it like that.
"You had to adapt, and one thing I know about great players and great cricket teams, they have to adapt all the time. That said I understand why we're doing it, because for example we've just played five one-dayers and two practice games over two-and-a-half weeks. So the benefit of playing the current system is you get used to that tournament-style cricket. There's benefits for both, I enjoyed it as a player, playing throughout the year, but I understand the concept of it."
"We've got to work out whether Tim's [Paine] going to play his best cricket in white-ball cricket." Justin Langer
Among many elements of what Langer called a "baptism of fire" for himself and numerous young players, the former Western Australia coach said he and the selection chairman Trevor Hohns had discussed Tim Paine's uncertain future as limited-overs captain. Paine looked increasingly drained and stretched across the series, in which he cobbled a mere 36 runs over five games despite often promoting himself in the batting order.
"One of our huge priorities is making sure we get the leadership and the captaincy right," Langer said. "No doubt Tim's had a tough time here. He's done a brilliant job since South Africa in steadying the ship, he's an outstanding young man and he's also tough. You saw him get hit in the face in the second game, face full of stitches, it was reminiscent to me of a lot of the great Australian captains. But we've got to work out whether he's going to play his best cricket in white-ball cricket and if he does then he's a chance, and if he doesn't then we'll probably have to look somewhere else.
"There's got to be a reason why there haven't been too many wicketkeepers to have captained in a lot of teams but certainly in Australian cricket. One thing he's got is he's incredibly fit, he's got high capacity as a person, so he can pull it off, but it is a hard thing to do. We'll certainly have to look at it, no doubt. One thing that's been interesting and goes a bit against my thinking as well, Joe Root plays in the one-day team, but he's captain of the Test team and they've split that role with Eoin Morgan. I'm starting to recognise really quickly how hectic the schedule is in international cricket, so they're all things we'll have a look at.
"This is all new to me, all new to a lot of the guys in terms of the direction we're going to take, so I think we'll have a really clear look at all these things. It all happened really quickly with what happened in South Africa, Darren [Lehmann] resigning, then this tour was on us before we knew it. We'll have a really close look at a whole number of things when we get back from England and Zimbabwe next week, and move from there."
Langer listed the performances of Shaun Marsh, Ashton Agar and Nathan Lyon among the chief positives he took from the series, and also said that while England had played outstanding cricket in their unbridled, aggressive style, 12 months out from a World Cup was a long time to have to sustain it.
"They've been incredibly dominant. They've got a very settled team, a very confident team," Langer said. "If you look at it in this series, between them they had about 900 games experience and we had 350. Our bowling attack had less games overall than one of their opening bowlers, so they're a really settled team, good experience, very confident at the moment. I also know the game of cricket is a bit of a rollercoaster and it's hard to maintain that standard all the time.
"They're playing brilliantly, I have great respect for the way they've played... we'll be looking to work towards that over the next 12 months or even the next two or three years. There's been a lot of talk about strike-rates and the way they're going about it, but the next point of that is guys who are scoring hundreds, Bairstow, Roy, Hales, Jos Buttler literally in the form of his life, so they're all scoring hundreds. A lot of talk about strike-rates, but in the last game when we were 205, it took them 49 overs to get it, so the point of that is we have got a really talented young bowling group, but very inexperienced.
"Honestly, as much as we hate losing to England, there's been a lot of really positive things that have come out of this tour. Certainly been a baptism of fire." Justin Langer
"So up against a really hungry, in-form batting side, a lot of talk about strike-rates and the way they go about it. We'll look at it and we'll respect it, but I also know that Australians have been very good at one-day cricket for a long period of time, so we've got to make sure we learn strong lessons from what we've done well in the past as well."
Other issues swirling around Langer's mind include the need to replenish the ODI team with experienced players, namely the banned duo of Steven Smith and David Warner plus the injured fast men Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. "It's been tough no doubt but there's been some great learning," he said.
"On the surface it probably looks like a complete disaster, but honestly I can sit here, as much as we hate losing to England, there's been a lot of really positive things that have come out of this tour. Certainly been a baptism of fire, a huge learning experience particularly for our young players, and a huge learning experience for our whole squad. Hopefully they're better going forward from the experience."