Australia news February 2, 2017

Been there, done that, going nowhere?

Cameron White's criticisms of Australia's selection processes have raised the question of whether performances in the Sheffield Shield and Matador Cup are losing relevance
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Despite averaging 50-plus in three of the past four domestic one-day tournaments, Cameron White has only played one ODI since 2011 © Getty Images

On Tuesday, Cameron White pointed out a few things during an interview on Melbourne radio station RSN.

He pointed out that he was worried about the future and strength of Australian cricket due to the national selectors, in his eyes anyway, overlooking strong performances at state level. He pointed out that the BBL seemed to be the be-all and end-all, and that players could get selected out of the BBL for any format.

He pointed out that the Australia side sometimes resembled a "development team", and that player development should happen in domestic cricket, not at international level. He pointed out that it was futile searching for "the one", the next Ricky Ponting, say, because such players would emerge naturally anyway.

On Wednesday, the interim chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, pointed out a few things during a press conference in Adelaide, where he was announcing Australia's T20 squad.

He pointed out that Cameron White himself was a very young man when he was first picked in Australia's ODI team. He pointed out that it was the charter of the selection panel not only to pick players for now but also to have an eye to the future.

He pointed out that White had indeed been given plenty of opportunities, and that "it's probably fair to say he performed okay without being earth-shattering".

On Thursday, the Australian Cricketers' Association pointed out a few things in a press release. It pointed out that White was entitled to his opinion, and Hohns to his, but "to reduce the discussion to a negative critique of Cameron White's career is playing the man, not the ball".

It pointed out that White, as a long-time servant of the game and former captain of his country, deserved better. It pointed out that there was "a growing sense amongst players and the ACA that any public comment would be met with a disproportionate response by Cricket Australia".

One could point out that for a selector to say a player has had "plenty of opportunities" is perilously close to saying he will not be given another. One could point out that this sends a negative message to all players who have had a few matches and then been dropped: your cards are marked. One could point out that this is in stark contrast to the idea that cricketers should aim to improve every day.

One could point out that, so far in the current Sheffield Shield round, only two batsmen have scored centuries: Ed Cowan and Chris Hartley, both of whom are 34.

One could point out that Hohns, of all people, should know that cricketers often improve with age. One could point out that at 32, Hohns had a first-class bowling average of 42.21. One could point out that it was only after this that everything clicked for Hohns, and that Australia's captain Allan Border said he had "become a more complete bowler".

One could point out that Hohns did not play for Australia until he was 35, and that White is still only 33.

One could point out that while it is true that White has played 88 ODIs, he has been virtually exiled from the side since 2011, apart from a single match in 2015. One could point out that only since then has White peaked as a 50-over player, and that he has averaged 50-plus in three of the past four domestic one-day tournaments, and 70-plus in two of those.

One could point out that although Hohns is correct in saying White was young - 22 - when first chosen for Australia, he had by then already played 38 List A games, and over the previous two ING Cup tournaments was equal seventh on the wicket tally (he was at the time a bowling allrounder).

One could point out that Sam Heazlett has been chosen for Australia's ODI side without ever having played a one-day game for his state, rather was fast-tracked via the National Performance Squad. One could point out that Billy Stanlake was rushed into Australia's ODI side with only four List A games to his name. One could point out they were both picked out of the BBL.

One could point out that if Cricket Australia is forward-thinking enough to appoint independent board members to see policy matters objectively, perhaps it would do well to appoint selectors who likewise will view players with fresh eyes

One could point out that, in any case, White did not mention any player by name during his radio interview, did not highlight any individual's selection as unjustified.

One could point out that at no point did White suggest he himself should be in the team. One could point out that this debate is, in fact, not about White the individual at all, but rather about the priorities of Australia's selectors.

One could point out that two of the national selectors have come directly from talent management positions: Hohns was Queensland's state talent manager and Greg Chappell the national talent manager. One could point out that they only relinquished these roles - in which they were responsible for identifying and fostering young talent - in November. One could point out that another selector, Mark Waugh, still holds his position as "governor" of Sydney Thunder.

One could point out that Heazlett and Stanlake came through the Queensland pathways system that Hohns managed, and the national pathways system that Chappell managed. One could point out that if Cricket Australia is forward-thinking enough to appoint independent board members to see policy matters objectively, perhaps it would do well to appoint selectors who likewise will view players with fresh eyes.

One could point out that of Australia's ODI squad currently in New Zealand, only two players are aged over 30 - Aaron Finch, who turned 30 two months ago, and Shaun Marsh, who is 33. One could point out that this hardly constitutes an ageing side desperately crying out for an injection of youth.

One could point out that, for all the selectors' protests that domestic form is respected, none of the top 18 run scorers in this summer's Matador Cup have been rewarded with selection in Australia's ODI side since the tournament.

One could point out any or all of these things, but Cameron White did not: he simply made general observations about a trend he had observed, naming no names and pushing no personal barrow.

One could point out that players of his experience - men like Cowan, Hartley, George Bailey, Doug Bollinger, Daniel Christian, who have been there and done that, year after year after year, for their states and in some cases for their country - are the ones who make the young players prove their worth in the Sheffield Shield and the Matador Cup, and thus make these young players better.

And one could point out that, when they hear messages like White has this week, players in such a position might wonder: what's the point?

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simon on February 5, 2017, 1:33 GMT

    @ Shirl - That's not correct. David Warner was only picked for Aust in T20s before he had played 1st class cricket. He scored 165 or so in a List A game not long before he got picked in the T20 against South Africa and had made his List A debut about 2 years earlier. And he was only picked in the Test side after he had been successful in first class cricket.

  • Hamza Salman on February 4, 2017, 9:19 GMT

    I think there is enough evidence for any high-powered official ACB Committee to conclude Mr. Hohns has failed in his mandate and has not delivered according to the parameters of selection and fairness principles. When a Chairman of Selectors sends such writing-off signals for players who are topping a mainstream national league, it jeopardizes the utility of the whole set-up. There has to be a Commission formed to establish if the ACB official has diluted value of the cherished and pivotal Sheffield Shield through blatant implication, and how this practice has to be obviated in the future. White is performing so well, and it seems plain unfair and prejudiced act to disregard him from selection in such a fashion. White may well just have delivered his most lasting legacy statement for Australian cricket thus.

  • Ross on February 4, 2017, 8:58 GMT

    I would just like to point out that the Matador Cup has been relegated to a second tier competition that has no real relevance and I would also like to point out that age should be no barrier to being selected for higher honours. Look at Gilchrist and Hussey. In my opinion, Cameron White was right on certain issues but he was wrong on others. However, he has earned the right to have an opinion and that should have been respected by Mr Hohns & Co.

  • kgvenk5079052 on February 4, 2017, 6:59 GMT

    It is not question who said what & when , Still Australian domestic cricket is better & have a quality compared to other nations domestic cricket , many in the past as well as present who played that cricket raised & donned Australian baggy cap likes of Mark Waugh , Greg Chap pall in the past & Peter Handscomb , If some body speaks out of frustration that should not be given importance and I differ your views White . Many players even now were spotted in this competitions and given opportunity but if they do not perform repeatedly you can not ask them to continue for ever this is competitive sports not politics in third world countries .

  • Dave on February 4, 2017, 3:38 GMT

    One could point out that until very recently older players were given chances in all formats with mixed results. This led to a renewed focus of youth for the future. And while some selections leave you pondering the criteria, these are only in contrast to selections previously at the old end scale - Quiney, Ferguson to name but a couple. Hopefully the selections will even out and a blend of old + youth will emerge. Do we have players that can do what White does (as an example)? Yes his name is Maxwell. As far as Heazlett and Stanlake selections, Stanlake looks like a future layer if he can develop consistency. Can't make a call on Hezlett as haven't seem him oplay but I don't mind the selectors throwing a couple of wild cards in the mix to see. Whther that fails or not it has happened in the past - McGrath, Warne. First Class careers at the time which were mediocre and look how they developed.

  • herita7699756 on February 4, 2017, 2:43 GMT

    On ABC radio Grandstand today, there was a discussion forum on this particular topic. It came to light that the Australian selectors have admitted placing a good deal of emphasis on the Australia A and Youth pathway games, rather than the traditional weighting of shield performances. This would seem to favour the young, and those on Pat Howard's high performance programmes - Heazlett being the most recent beneficiary of this emphasis. Conversely, it would seem to disadvantage those older players still achieving good performances in shield games....as Cameron White rightly pointed out. In other words, what's the point of an excellent shield career these days? Well done on a timely, and excellent article Mr Coverdale!

  • Jared on February 4, 2017, 0:40 GMT

    @Shirl : As I recall Warner was picked for two-three ODIs before he'd played for NSW simply because we were between openers at the stage (I think it was post-Hayden) and he played the part well in the T20I he played which was off the back of domestic form. He was dropped pretty quickly because he couldn't convert his form into that format (didn't really until this year) and wasn't a regular for about three seasons of playing the Blues (and making enough runs to justify it) Warner's selection may have set a precedent but, IMO, every step of the way it seemed logical enough. It's not like Maddinson being picked off the back of one Matador ton after back-to-back poor seasons, Cartwright being brought in to relieve the bowlers when he's barely taken a wicket, Stanlake coming in and apparently being unable to send down his ten, or Heazlett getting priority over two former captains in great form because he's played six matches and got a ton. (In a 700+ run match) Selectors need a grip.

  • bharki3593187 on February 3, 2017, 18:16 GMT

    Performance in a high stake closely contested BBL game in front of a packed stadium does help estimate players' temperament and ability to handle pressure. However, while BBL is Cricket Australia's cash cow, the overall quality of cricket played is mostly mediocre. Teams are well-balanced and because of the nature of the format you often get close games. But the league doesn't fully test the skills, fitness levels for international cricket, especially outside Australia. At least in the IPL you're facing best batsmen and the best bowlers of the generation. From Steyn, Ashwin, Starc and Tahir to Kohli, Warner, Smith, ABD. BBL frankly is a league mostly of has beens, never beens and never wills and performances can be overestimated. Even fielding standards is BBL are generally poor. Sustained performances in domestic cricket and A tour performances should count a lot more.

  • Sriram on February 3, 2017, 13:30 GMT

    Its time we all understand that Franchise T20 is future of cricket. There is no way red ball and ODI will survive with Football gaining popularity all over the world. Its very hard to sustain the pressure of T20. Cricketers are paid way better for a few weeks of gig and why should they play all their life 4 day cricket without knowing if they ever will make it

  • Paul on February 3, 2017, 11:49 GMT

    Heazlett and Stanlake have played no Matador nor BBL. Shield rules, as it should.

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