Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reaction to the Argus Report: Keep Calm and Carry On

by Ben Roberts

Hold your horses, keep a lid on it, do not get ahead of yourself, there is still a long way to go.

Yes Andrew Hilditch is now relieved of his duties as the chairman of selectors, Tim Nielson stood down and at the very least Greg Chappell has been chastised for inappropriately seeking to meddle in team matters. All three have a lot to answer for regarding poor performance, but do not start looking at them as scapegoats, there is more needing improvement in Australian cricket before it is out of the woods.

Cricket is by far and away the hardest game to govern effectively. To begin with are Australian cricketers employees, therefore beholden to the wishes of the CA board or are they private contractors able to ply their trade on terms that they set? If it was the former then no-one would play the game as CA is hardly an employer of choice, if it was the latter than we would have 10 to 20 Kieron Pollards coming and going with abandon depending on the direction of the fiscal winds.

What we do have is something that swings in the middle where the wishes of the national authority, state authorities, private enterprises (IPL and the like), and the ICC; not to mention the 'assets' in the middle the players who all have their own desires as well. You try and draw a line between the competing objectives of these parties and make it straight. If you can succeed I feel there is a role negotiating peace in the middle east awaiting you!

Throw into the mix now the latest initiative (yet to begin) is the Big Bash League where T20 becomes the central focus of the domestic fixtures. The BBL has required time, effort, and resources requiring the engagement of external parties (throwing another interested party into the governance mix) only for the Argus review to come out and criticise the focus on the quick buck in T20 over the longer forms of the game. Whoops!

We still have a CEO and Board of CA who appear dysfunctional and calls for a spill of positions will not die down for a while. The self interest extends further to the state associations who rightly, left to fend for themselves, will always make development and selection decisions based on the betterment of the state teams until there is some incentive to service the national side.

Finally despite the problems in the administration of the game how much of this can be blamed for the poor performance of the A grade cricketers in the Australian team. Did it really influence Messrs Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Haddin etc. to the point in which their performance appeared suited to levels well below first-class that Hilditch was delirious, Chappell arrogant and Nielson confused? Of course not. While not optimal, these guys have been hitting cricket balls since they were knee high to a grasshopper and have natural talent in bucket loads, they are responsible for their own performance ultimately. Plenty of cricketers from less fortunate environments then them have succeeded despite poor administrations (take for example their current opposition who had civil war to contend with also).

Despite the release of the Argus report, it will be a while before Australia can truly challenge to be top of the cricket world again. It starts with the current series followed by the coming summer. The winds of change have begun, but do not expect a hurricane.

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