Two years and four months after the decision was made to summarily remove Simon Katich from the list of contracted players in order to draft more youth into the Test team, Cricket Australia has conceded that it was a poor decision on their part.
The chairman, Wally Edwards, made the admission while stressing the importance of experience in the national team, and suggesting that the lack of it had been the major reason for a pair of dire tours to India and England this year.
Katich's dumping has been decried by many, not least by the man himself, and most recently, former captain Ricky Ponting called it "as dumb a non-selection as any during my time in the Australian team" in his autobiography, At the Close of Play. Edwards, who was not CA chairman at the time, said that the decision to remove Katich had been considered part of the team's regeneration, but must now be seen for what it was: a mistake.
"We as a board, and with management talk continuously about our transition, we knew we were going from a super side to a new side, and we worked very hard at it," Edwards said following CA's AGM in Melbourne. "There was a focus with the selectors and there was a lot of decisions made that in hindsight you probably wish they weren't. But they were made with an attempt to move from a very strong side to a new side.
"I would put the dropping of Simon Katich in that corner. That was a decision made by the selectors at the time because you had three guys - Katich, Ponting and Hussey - all the same age and three key batters who were all going to go at once. The selectors made a judgment call to try to transition through that and didn't get it right. Katich would've been a valuable player. But that's their call.
"The reality of life is experience is a big part in winning Test matches and you only have to look at the experience levels of the South African team, the English team and our team to see where we're at. I'm confident we're on the right path."
The folly of the Katich decision, made by a selection panel that included Andrew Hilditch as chairman alongside Greg Chappell and Jamie Cox, has been highlighted in recent weeks by his strong showings for Western Australia in the domestic limited-overs competition, long after both Ponting and Michael Hussey retired. The chief executive, James Sutherland, who endorsed the decision at the time, has now said that his experience was "invaluable" to the Test team.
"We are working through a cycle that will see the Australian team get back on top in the foreseeable future," Sutherland said. "People don't understand the challenges of developing a cricket team with only 11 players. Experience is invaluable at Test level," he said. "Unless you build experience and develop the hardness of playing Test cricket at the highest level, you cannot consistently perform. It's very difficult to manage that transition.
"What do you do with a team that is very successful? Do you put more young people into that team in order to create opportunities to blood youth, and in the process drop some of the greats of the game. How do you manage that transition? It's different in a football code where you've got 22 players and you can have five or six players who are there racking up games and getting experience. A Test cricket team is a different environment.
"But I'm not sitting here making excuses. We're very much focused on the future, and we're working on a transition that will see the Australian cricket team back to where we all want it to be."