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Wisden Interview

'The hardest part is to leave out a senior player'

Trevor Hohns speaks to Wisden Cricinfo

In 11 years as a national selector, Trevor Hohns has overseen one of the most successful periods in Australian cricket history. Never shy of taking tough decisions, he has been part of a system that has ensured a smooth transition from one era to the next, while maintaining Australia¹s pre-eminence in international cricket. Siddhartha Vaidyanathan caught up with him at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, where Australia are to due to play their tour opener:

Trevor Hohns: 'The timing has to be right to introduce a young player' © Getty Images
You were a player befoire becoming a selector - what do you think is the most critical element in the relationship between the two?
Communication has been very important. We need to be available for the players at all times, and be able to go and speak to them. And we're always looking for better ways to do our job. All of us in the selection panel - Allan Border, David Boon, Andrew Hilditch and myself - played during the same time in the 1980s. And what we're trying to do is do the job better than what we think it was back then.
How important is it for the selectors to have played in the same era and to have a similar mindset?
That's been important. But what I consider to be the most important factor is that when we started we hadn't long finished off. We were still in touch with the game and the players. I think that's been important. I hope that whenever any of the Australian selectors give it away or leave the scene, someone who hasn't long finished playing comes in as a replacement.
You played in a period - the mid '80s - when Australian cricket was going through a rough patch. How did the selectors do things then?
I don't know too much about it because I wasn't a selector then. But probably they thought they had to plan for the future. Sometimes you need to lose a bit to win a bit. They pruned some players that they thought probably weren't doing what was required to improve their game and weren't progressing as far as their own game goes. So they thought they'd start afresh and pick out the players they thought had not only the ability, but the determination and the will to win games.
Any differences in the process today?
We're always around at the games, which probably differs a bit from the mid '80s. We've made it known that we're happy to talk to the guys and want a bit of feedback, whereas back then it was difficult to approach the selectors.
Do you think the players feel more wanted now?
I hope so. I think they know where they stand. Whether they feel wanted or not, I think even the fringe players at least know where they stand. They know, and we make an attempt to tell them, that they are fringe players and they just have to continue to perform until the next opportunity comes up. And they are happy because they get some feedback from the selection panel.
We've made it known that we¹re happy to talk to the guys, whereas in the mid '80s it was difficult to approach the selectors'
Timing is such an essential factor in selection. Many players think they were picked too early. Some say they were picked too late ...
I don't think there is any formula in this. It's what you see and I suppose the hardest part is putting in place a decision that might mean that you are leaving a senior player out. And the timing has to be right to introduce a young player. What we're finding in Australia is, though we¹ve got some very good talent coming through, players - especially batsmen - are reaching their peak a little bit later. They are reaching their peak around 28-31, while many years ago it was around 24-26. I don't know why, but they just seem to know the game better by that stage of their lives.
What about players like Stuart Law, who never found a permanent place in the side?
Well, they are very, very important. Unfortunately, as I suggested before, there haven't been too many opportunities. We do have players who regularly score 900-1000 runs in the domestic season. But that doesn't guarantee them a place in the Australian side because there haven't been opportunities. So all they can do is to continue to score runs consistently and put their name up in front of the selectors when that opportunity comes around.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo