Oz selectors accused of muddled thinking following series defeat to Proteas

December 31st, 2008 - 11:50 am ICT by ANI  

Melbourne, Dec.31 (ANI): Australia’’s cricket selectors continues to face flak in the wake of the national teams two-nil series defeat to South Africa.
The Andrew Hilditch-led committee is being accused of muddled thinking that has contributed in a large measure to the end of a sustained period of world domination in the sport.
That includes three successive World Cups, home-and-away wins against every Test-playing nation of note, a Champions Trophy and an undefeated home Test series run of 15 years, an achievement anybody would be proud of, but, when times turn sour, it’’s a double-edged sword.
The inevitability of Australias slide should not hide, nor excuse, the selection and management issues that have beset the team and exacerbated its decline. According to a Fox Sports analysis, Hilditch has presided over 15 successive changes to the Test team, suggesting on the one hand that flux is to be expected after the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and others; while on the other, it highlights Australias lack of preparation for those retirements.
The biggest cock-up of the summer has involved Australia’’s handling of mercurial all-rounder Andrew Symonds.
The Fox Sports report has described his removal from the national squad in July and his recall for the Test series against New Zealand and South Africa as mystifying and disgraceful.
It says that the selectors should be held accountable for the fact that Symonds played even one game for his country this season, as it was common knowledge inside Queensland that he was not in the right frame of mind to play Test cricket after his Gone Fishing saga.
He is no longer the player they think he is - his head is not right,” one Bulls player said.
If that wasnt enough, the fact Symonds barely scored a run for his state should have set alarm bells ringing. But no, Symonds was allowed to resume his Test career at the expense of Shane Watson, a younger man who excelled in India.
The communication over Symonds’’s fitness heading into Melbourne was risible. Chairman of selectors Hilditch said that Symonds was fit as far as I know the day before captain Ricky Ponting called his mate a day-to-day proposition. Roys inclusion was a throwback to the times when Aussie selectors could pick on autopilot and the team would do the rest. Those days are over.
Australias spin cycle is another glaringly obvious problem. Since Warnes exit two years ago, Australia has flirted with seven spinners and looks no closer to a resolution.
Jason Krejza was almost a chancy find in India, but, instead of counting their blessings, the selectors halted his career after Perth and incongruously plumped for Nathan Hauritz.
It is to be hoped that the selectors show greater faith in the likes of Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus, particularly with Lees days looking numbered. Australias next breed of Test quicks need to be developed.
The bottleneck created by Australias golden era has probably worked in Haydens favour, with the out-of-form, aging, opening batsman keeping his spot despite the likes of Phil Hughes, Shaun Marsh and Michael Klinger pressing strong claims.
Hayden warranted tolerance by dint of his imposing record, certainly while the home series against South Africa was alive, but Australias rebuilding should start here and now.
Batsmen younger and in better form have been axed by Australia in the past - Dean Jones and Mark Waugh are standout examples - and, unlike the attack, Australias batting is solid enough, if overall lacking in confidence right now. It can sustain the loss of a 37-year-old who has scored 79 runs in seven innings this summer.
Pontings critics have been out in force this series, but it is hard to see what the captain could have done to stop the rot.
He has always been a more defensively minded leader than Steve Waugh. His policies - to reintroduce night watchmen, to not enforce follow-ons, to set more cautious fields - were fine when Australia kept on winning, but somehow not when they were beaten by superior outfits India and South Africa.
But where once four or five genuine greats of the game were in the one team, only one remains: Ponting himself.
There is no dressing up the fact that Australia’’s salad days have run dry, and that times might get worse before they get better.
But unless the powers act with resolve and think with clarity, Australia’’s road back to the top will be unnecessarily long and winding, the report concludes. (ANI)

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