Australian public must needs to lay off Test selectors

Date: December 14, 2012 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Many of the problems that confront the Australian cricket team are primarily as a result of the lack of knowledge and nous possessed by the National Selection Panel (NSP).

That, by the way, is not my assessment but that of a great number of the cricketing public.

A few days ago I wrote a piece for this website about the recent form of Shane Watson.

Among the comments supplied was this one – “We need to look at our selectors, they do NOT know what they are doing. Who keeps hiring these clowns?”

It seems to be a pseudo national sport to take your wrath out on the selectors if you feel things aren’t running as smoothly as you would like.

So just who is the current bunch of ‘clowns’?

The chairman is John Inverarity, a man regarded as one of the finest captains to have played the first-class game in Australia – he led WA to four Shield and two domestic one-day titles.

He played six Tests for Australia and when he retired from Sheffield Shield ranks he held the record for the most runs in the competition’s history.

Professionally, before becoming the first full-time selector, he spent a career in education as a highly respected private school headmaster and developer of young men.

A man who openly rated him as one of the finest skippers of all-time – Rod Marsh – played under him for WA and now works alongside him as a selector.

Marsh is a bone fide legend of the game – 96 Tests and a world record of 355 dismissals as a keeper when he retired from Test ranks in 1984.

He then went on to head up, to great acclaim, Cricket Australia’s Academy in Adelaide.

Such was his success he was approached to set up a similar system in England.

Former international pace bowler Andy Bichel is also on the panel.

He played 19 Tests and 67 ODIs for Australia with his 7/20 against England in the 2003 World Cup a highlight.

He retired from first-class cricket as the third most productive bowler in Shield history with 430 wickets at 23 and a strike rate of 45.7, the best of the 33 bowlers to have claimed over 250 wickets.

The NSP is rounded out by coach Mickey Arthur, who engineered South Africa’s rise to world number one, and skipper Michael Clarke, who is winning ever increasing plaudits for his tactical nous with a young team.

It is hard to imagine a more competent or professional quintet.

Yet fans often disagree.

It makes sense that supporters question the abilities of current members of the Test team for they get to see them strut their stuff on television regularly, thus giving them an opportunity to form an opinion.

But it’s the often vehement arguments that are thrown up over players who they believe should be in the team that I find fascinating.

When you go to a Sheffield Shield match anywhere in Australia these days you are lucky to see a crowd – or should I say gathering – that reaches as many as one thousand.

Yet, despite the incredibly miniscule following that Shield cricket attracts nowadays it is amazing how so many punters can lay claim to knowing just who should be wearing the baggy green.

Save for the ardent fan – either pensioners or the unemployed given that a large majority of Shield games are scheduled for weekdays – there are not too many cricket followers in this country who can judge a player’s merits other than by using statistics.

It seems that whenever a player throws up a beautiful set of numbers he should immediately be considered for national selection.

It’s a good thing that Paul Keating doesn’t choose the team.

Unfortunately, numbers alone do not determine a player’s worth with respect to the next level.

There have been myriad examples of players who have boasted staggering first-class figures but, for whatever reason, have not made the appropriate transition to Test level – Graeme Hick, Mark Ramprakash and Michael Bevan readily spring to mind.

There have also been a vast number of players who were chosen by selectors who could see something that the fans could not because, again, they were just going off statistics – remember a bloke by the name of Shane Warne being chosen from nowhere to make his Test debut back in January 1991?

Whilst very few fans are present at domestic first-class fixtures in this country you can guarantee that one of the selection panel is.

Messrs Inverarity, Marsh and Bichel are charged with the responsibility of being in attendance whenever Shield matches are played.

It is their seasoned and experienced eye that provides the panel with far more than mere numbers ever will.

These men speak to state skippers, coaches, teammates and opponents in order to add to their dossier on players who are on the fringe of selection.

They are men with exceptionally strong CVs who know what they are doing.

And, most of all, they actually see what is happening.

So remember Mr and Mrs Fan, next time you want to plumb for a certain player to be elevated to Test status, take a moment and consider that, with few exceptions, all you have to go on is a set of numbers.

And numbers do not tell the full story.

That is why we have selectors otherwise we could just get Mr Duckworth and Mr Lewis to choose our Test team.

And if that were the case, let’s hope it’s raining.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 13 December 2012