Australia's selection panel will have no specialist bowling input after Merv Hughes was cut from the group. Hughes joined as Allan Border's replacement in 2005, but Cricket Australia's board was unanimous in letting him go as a result of Greg Chappell's full-time appointment in August
Andrew Hilditch, the chairman, is contracted until the end of the 2011 World Cup on a part-time basis while David Boon and Jamie Cox were also retained. All four selectors were top-order batsmen during their careers and while that doesn't mean they can't spot bowling potential, it does leave a lopsided group. James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, said the board was comfortable with the line-up because "the balance of the panel is not like a cricket team".
The board made the decision after a presentation from Hilditch in Melbourne on Friday. Sutherland said Hughes, who was disappointed with the decision, had provided valuable input and expertise during the past five years.
"Andrew was clear in his assessment that Merv had been a good selector and a strong contributor around the selection table, but that Cox, Boon and Chappell were the better options to continue on the panel," Sutherland said. "Unfortunately this means that Merv is no longer a member."
The departure of Hughes, who took 212 wickets in 53 Tests, is not a surprise, although Cox's spot was thought to be in danger due to his role as South Australia's high-performance manager. Boon also has a fulltime job with Tasmania, but Sutherland said the conflicts of interest had been discussed.
"The board has taken the decision that finding people who are skilled and qualified enough, and are available to fulfil the role of selectors, is very important," he said. "[Selectors] don't grow on trees, it's very difficult, and the level of commitment is quite considerable. The board has taken a view, in spite of potential conflict, that they can be managed."
Under Hughes' watch the bowlers Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus have developed, while the Test careers of Stuart Clark and Brett Lee ended. Hughes was criticised for mixing the selection role with his hosting of travel groups on overseas tours, and also had to battle to combine corporate duties with his larrikin nature. Hilditch's panel has received regular criticism for its confusing decisions and Hughes leaves with Australia's Test ranking at an all-time low of No.5.