For a body with such a heavy investment in the success of all of the sport’s forms, Cricket Australia seems to be trying its hardest to show the Australian public that it doesn’t value One-Day Internationals.
No managerial strategy in world sport has come under fire as much over the past few months as Cricket Australia’s rotation policy. Claimed by Australian coach Mickey Arthur and captain Michael Clarke to be in the best interest of the team and the fans, the rotation policy aims to reduce the world load of players, particularly young fast bowlers, in order to ensure the fitness, eligibility and discovery of Australia’s best cricketers.
The reluctance of the Australian public and media to buy into this new approach is an issue born largely from the snowballing of fanatical, hasty and misinformed public opinion, however there is also a lot of merit to the disgruntled feedback. To many, the idea of a rotation policy appears to be a revelation, a new idea put forward without consideration or evidence of success in less significant forums. The excuse that selectors simply don’t know what they’re doing doesn’t fit though, as during recent Test series’ against South Africa and Sri Lanka, rotations worked to perfection with the lone exception of Peter Siddle’s forced withdrawal from a series-deciding Perth Test. If anything, the policy has been positive, uncovering the tremendous talent of Jackson Bird and facilitating the partial redemption of polarizing figure Mitchell Johnson.
Upon the announcement of every Test squad, the eruption of disgust amongst Australian fans was notable, and widely validated, until the new recruit to the Australian side performed exceptionally. Not only did Cricket Australia take the risk in providing a player unselected in the previous Test with an opportunity, but the player almost always repaid the faith with a stand-out performance.
Australian Test Bowlers – 1st Performance After Being Selected Mid-Summer
Australian Test Bowlers – 1st Performance After Bring Rested
With depth to burn, Australia’s bowling rotation policy guided them through a relatively successful summer Test cricket, losing just one fixture against a sublime South African unit. The intent of Cricket Australia to offer opportunities to the nation’s premier fast-bowlers is more than understandable given the significant amount of raw talent to evaluate before the consecutive Ashes series’ later in 2013. At the end of the day, if selectors believe new additions to the side will perform, they should give them a chance to succeed at a time when stability and talent in other areas of the team fosters a winning culture.
On that note, whilst Australia’s previously problematic bowling contingent continues to excel, the retirement of Ricky Ponting, mysterious dropping of Michael Hussey and regression of Shane Watson has Australia’s batting and all-round prospects in decline. As such, during the recent summer of Test cricket, Australian selectors made changes only when they were necessitated through injury, form or retirement with few players on the domestic scene demanding selection as part of a rotation policy.
From consistency to complete anarchy, just three ODIs into a long summer of limited overs cricket, Australia have made five changes to both their batting and bowling line-ups. Such movements may indicate selection uncertainty, but more likely convey an opinion degrading the game’s 50-over format to a point whereby it is undeserving of a nation’s best efforts.
The dropping of Michael Hussey from what appeared to be a very marketable ‘Nationwide Farewell Tour’ was an appalling decision, depriving both the deserving veteran some well-earned recognition and the Australian side of its most dependable batsmen. His replacement in Usman Khawaja, undeniably a future Test cricketer was granted just a one-match opportunity before being replaced by the ever-disappointing Steve Smith. What is more, Moises Henriques, a man averaging 11.14 with the bat and taking a combined 2/122 with the ball in the Big Bash League, eventually replaced Smith, completing a selection process that does the fans of cricket in Australia an injustice.
Australia’s lack of international-worthy talent amongst its batting ranks means that an ODI series at the beginning of an incredibly busy 2013 should be used to grow and discover proven talent, not to undermine the confidence of players with undeniable potential. Khawaja’s unjustly short run this summer combined with the repeated snubbing of the in-form Tim Paine are not only travesties for these individuals, but for the game at large. Depriving the paying Australian public of an opportunity to see their nation’s finest in action is disrespectful, but more importantly, the knowledge that one of the sport’s governing bodies sees over 50% of the international fixtures this cricket season as an experiment doesn’t bode well for the future of One-Day International cricket.