Silence is Golden

Date: December 17, 2011 / Posted by control

Australia’s new-look five-man selection panel has only been in place for a few weeks but already some alarm bells are ringing. There was always going to be a perceived conflict of interest with the inclusion of both captain and coach to sit alongside Rod Marsh, Andy Bichel and new chairman, John Inverarity.

Following Australia’s capitulation in Hobart where it lost 8/74 to hand the Black Caps a seven-run win – their first in Australia in 26 years – the spotlight has intensified on the futures of several members of the team. With Phillip Hughes viewed by everyone as having been buckled into the ejector seat, the main point of contention surrounds a pair of 36-year-olds – Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.

Among the armchair critics, and a number of former players, they seemed to be on shaky ground with some saying both should be jettisoned or if one was to be given a reprieve it would be Hussey.

But, according to one selector the matter is not currently up for debate. Newly anointed coach, Mickey Arthur raised eyebrows during the week when he said, “We haven’t even come to any thought of how we might manage any exit for any of those players. In my opinion they still have big roles to play … the key for us is to get them firing on Boxing Day because they are the key”.

Manage an exit? Yes, they have been long-serving, highly respected servants of Australian cricket but do we take it from the coach’s comments that their places are secure for the immediate future because the panel hasn’t decided how to manage their exit?

In days past, players were told when their time had come regardless of their standing in the game – Allan Border and Ian Healy being two recent examples.

Greg Chappell more often than not represented the previous panel through the media, even though Andrew Hilditch was the chairman. The likes of new chairman Inverarity, Marsh and Bichel have to be sought out by the media should they wish to obtain a quote or an opinion.

Clarke, and to a lesser degree Arthur, are obliged to front the media and be quizzed. For the health of Australian cricket and to preserve ongoing cohesion inside the change rooms, it is imperative that the captain and coach remember which hat they are wearing at any given time.

Talk of selection needs to be countenanced behind closed doors with the other members of the panel. Journalists, as you would expect, will be seeking a salacious line or two whenever they can stick a microphone under Clarke and Arthur’s nose. But both men must keep their counsel. Clarke, in particular, is in the unenviable position of having to pass judgement on some of his close mates.

The Argus Review, commissioned in the wake of last summer’s 3-1 Ashes loss, recommended the concept of a five-man panel that included the captain and coach. Interestingly, three of the men on the five-person Argus Review were former Australian captains – Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. All are men blessed with abundant cricket wisdom.

For Australian cricket’s sake, let us all hope that the new quintet entrusted with arresting Australia’s slump can do so without fear or favour and that their deliberations are not played out before the media.