The Australians looked far from dominant side against Sri Lanka in the recently concluded Test series, but the important things to come out of it was that they were looking to the future © AFP
The Australians looked far from dominant side against Sri Lanka in the recently concluded Test series, but the important things to come out of it was that they were looking to the future © AFP

 

By Adrian Meredith

 

I have been saying for some time now that Australian cricket wasn’t doing badly because key players had retired or because the talent pool was any worse. They are doing worse because of poor selections, poor coaching and generally a poor management structure.

 

It is true that retirements since 2007, especially of Glenn McGrath (intimidation), Shane Warne (spin option) and Adam Gilchrist (‘keeper cum batsman) have hurt the team, but they could have made up for them.

 

The talent pool in the fast bowling areas is deeper and stronger than ever before and with consistent selections and building a fast bowling unit, rather than individuals, they could have been better than McGrath.

 

They should stop playing spinners for the sake of a spinner and save them only for spin-friendly pitches and have the courage to play all fast bowlers on the right pitches and in the right conditions. As for Gilchrist’s replacement, it should be a pure ‘keeper, not a batsman. While Chris Hartley was the go-to man on Gilchrist’s retirement, Matthew Wade is now the guy Australia should be looking at.

 

Since the Argus review, Australia have seen a major overhaul in Australian cricket and the results speak for themselves. Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka was a tough series and Australia were underdogs. But thanks to Argus, the selections were better. With the captain giving his inputs in selection, Australia were able to pick in-form players.

 

Shaun Marsh has done well, Trent Copeland and Patrick Cummins have shown potential while Nathan Lyon made an impressive debut. While he probably didn’t deserve his spot, Phillip Hughes has produced, presumably on notice for his lack of performance before then. We have also seen the international debuts of two future stars in Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade, both of whom look to have long futures ahead of them.

 

The Sri Lanka series was tough and Australia were far from dominant. But the important things to come out of it were looking to the future. Now, in South Africa, they look to move on from it and to build. Australia will hope to win the series, which is a possibility but perhaps more important than that is to be competitive. A 2-3 or 1-2 loss is okay as long as they can do better in the future. They don’t want a whitewash, of course.

 

More than this, the structure that they are looking at is much improved. Whether Steve Rixon or Rod Marsh or whoever else end up as head coach is somewhat irrelevant, as this time around it will be a coach with experience and who is capable of doing well – unlike Tim Nielsen with precious little coaching experience who had never played for Australia and was an ordinary player in first-class cricket.

 

Similarly, Australia will have a chairman of selectors who is capable of doing well – unlike Andrew Hilditch who had a short and very ordinary international career and simply didn’t have the credentials to be a selector, let alone chairman. Selectors can still fail with this structure, as can coaches, but the Argus review is adding a professional element, as it is becoming more like a real job and less like just something casual. This can only be good for Australian cricket.

 

If Australia regain top spot in Test cricket, and retain top spot in ODIs over the coming 12 months, I think that other international cricket boards will look at having their own version of an Argus review and look at adopting the same kinds of changes. Cricketers themselves are professionals so it is high time that the management is too.

 

(Adrian Meredith, an Australian from Melbourne, has been very passionate about cricket since he was seven years old. Because of physical challenges he could not pursue playing the game he so dearly loved. He loves all kinds of cricket – from Tests, ODIs, T20 – at all levels and in all countries and writes extensively on the game)