Australia’s selection policies under the microscope

11:19 PM ET

  • Andrew McGlashanDeputy editor, ESPNcricinfo


      Deputy Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England’s batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.

Cricket Australia will assess if the selection criteria used for the men’s team promotes potential too much over on-field performance, as the debate intensifies whether a group of players at state level are being overlooked when they could be better suited for a struggling Test side.

The recall of Marnus Labuschagne, who has averaged 28 with the bat this season in the Sheffield Shield and nearly 60 with the ball, and his elevation to the No. 3 position for the fourth Test against India, has again thrown the spotlight on what parameters the selectors use to make their judgements.

Australia head coach Justin Langer recently referenced that those players pushing for Test selection with the bat are only averaging in the 30s, which appears to ignore the likes of Matthew Wade (571 runs at 63.44) and Joe Burns (472 at 47.20), despite the ongoing struggle to find a top order that can compete in the absence of Steven Smith and David Warner. Of the top 10 Sheffield Shield run scorers so far this season, two of them are in the Test side (Marcus Harris and Shaun Marsh) while of the other eight six are averaging over 40.

“Over the last decade or so there has been some suggestion that perhaps potential may have played more of role in selections than previously and I think that’s a good question for us to ask,” Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia CEO, told SEN Radio on the second day in Sydney. “I’m not saying we have it way out of whack at the moment, but they are important questions to ask ourselves. Are we placing enough emphasis on performance – potential is important but, as they say, potential never won a game.

“A 35-year-old athlete today is probably quite similar to a 25-year-old athlete of say 20 years ago when I was playing and we have to be conscious of that. A lot of cricketers reach their potential in their late 20s, even early 30s. It’s really important to identify young talent, the next Ricky Ponting if you like, but for other players who are not the next Ponting, I think it’s important we have a system that inspires them to stay in it and inspires them to feel like they have opportunities when they are reaching the peak of their careers.”

The structure of the Australian domestic season will also be looked at, although it seems unlikely there will be any solution to the clash of the BBL with the Test summer which leaves players without any red-ball cricket to state their case of selection or recall, but Roberts denied that was a major shift in position.

“One of things we really need to look at is how do we give maximum respect to domestic competition as a foundation for our international teams both male and female, making sure our national programme compliments our domestic competitions rather than collide with them. That’s not easy, but we can really elevate the focus on our domestic competitions and make sure they are the best nursery for our international players.

“I wouldn’t suggest it’s a backflip or significant change of direction. We need to look at the challenge that is scheduling, how do we optimise that, how do we make sure the best players are available for domestic competition. We know international players have a very heavy schedule and we know their availability is limited, but we can do our best to optimise our scheduling to make sure it provides the best grounding possible.”

Roberts also said there would be ongoing discussions with Langer over how to prioritise the on-field demands of the next two years which includes the World Cup, Ashes and World T20. An indication of the juggle of resource taking place was the omission of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood from the one-day squad to face India.

“One of things I’ll be discussing with Justin, and I’ve started in recent weeks, is that everything is important but how can we make sure we are having our best possible crack at the ODI World Cup, then the Ashes and then T20 World Cup rather than the caravans just rolling on from one series to the next. We need to really determine what is most important and ensure Australian cricket is performing at its best at those junctures.”

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