Australian selection to be overhauled for T20 era

Kevin Roberts chats with Tim Paine Getty Images

Australia's selection panel is to be overhauled over the next six months, with the imminent retirement of Greg Chappell and the expiry of Trevor Hohns' contract at the end of the home summer ushering a generational change to better reflect the Twenty20 era the game has now spent more than a decade in.

Reshaping the way Australian teams are chosen is a key plank of the job for the new head of national teams Ben Oliver, who commenced his role at the outset of the Ashes series after a lengthy interim stint by Belinda Clark. Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has flagged it to be one of the first issues he and Oliver will address upon his return home from England, via a brief visit to Pakistan that is part of CA's wider efforts to improve relationships with other boards.

Nevertheless, there have already been plenty of moves afoot around the selection area, ever since ESPNcricinfo revealed that Chappell would exit at the end of the Ashes. Discussions have revolved around whether or not the current panel format should be retained or pared down to a single selection convener working with the national team coach Justin Langer and the state and Big Bash League coaches, and also the need for more contemporary voices, particularly relevant to T20. The likes of Cameron White and Michael Klinger have been raised as possible selectors, though there is also a view that selection, complete with an ever more comprehensive use of statistics and analytics, is a skill requiring more than playing experience.

"Certainly we need to take into account the sorts of experience that are required," Roberts said. "If you look at the shape of the panel now, one of the things we'd like to have more of in the future is more experience in T20 games as an example. So rather than targeting an individual person, it's really about determining what are the characteristics or capabilities we need among the panel and who are the people in Australian cricket who can fulfil those.

"I think it's knowledge of the T20 game, whether it be playing, coaching, and various other roles in the T20 game. So I probably wouldn't describe it as generational change but I would absolutely say it is a matter of having a really deep knowledge of T20 cricket. A lot of Australians have been involved in the IPL and the BBL as well and some of those are young, some are not so young. Really it's about the experience they've had as opposed to when they might've been born.

A hallmark of Roberts' tenure so far has been to repeatedly emphasise the need for deeper and better relationships between CA and the state associations, something he said needed also to be reflected in the way selection was done. "The main thing I would say is certain is that we need to deepen the links through the state system and domestic competitions and make sure that we've got the best possible view of all players who are in contention to play," Roberts said.

"What sort of form are they in, how's their physical health, how's their mental well-being. That's a key consideration these days in all walks of life and the same certainly goes for players. One of the benefits of splitting the old role and having Ben Oliver playing the national teams role and Drew Ginn the high performance role working with the states is Drew can then work with the states and make sure we've got a very clear overview of the top X number of players, their position in terms of form, physical and mental well-being and everything else that contributes to how they're going as a player. I'm really looking forward to that coming to fruition too."

"I don't think there's another leader in Australian men's cricket that could've done the job that Tim Paine has done over the last 18 months." CA chief Kevin Roberts

Following the successful retention of the Ashes, the next major goals for Australian cricket are the women's and men's Twenty20 World Cups on home soil in 2020, while balancing a sustained bid to contest the first World Test Championship final in 2021. Roberts was rich in his praise for Langer and the Test captain Tim Paine, declaring that no other figure in Australian cricket could have led the team through the choppy waters of 2018 and into the success of this Ashes tour.

"I don't think there's another leader in Australian men's cricket that could've done the job that he's done over the last 18 months," Roberts said. "I also think he's only been able to do that job because if you think about his challenges over the years he was almost out of the game for a number of years with a smashed finger. He gained some life experience during that time that's really set him up to be the leader that he is and without that I'm not sure he could've done it the way that he has.

"We've just been so happy with the way he's led from the front and there's no thought of succession planning at this stage. He's got our support to continue leading from the front the way that he has done so far. We couldn't be happier with the performance of Justin or Tim in terms of the cultural transformation of the men's team and what that's contributed to Australian cricket more broadly."

Most pointedly, the Australians have avoided run-ins with officialdom or opponents since the Newlands scandal, returning a clear rap sheet in terms of ICC code of conduct breaches for more than 18 months. "Look at the commitment they've made to make Australians proud, and also the commitment we've all made as an organisation," Roberts said. "We've said before it's a professional sport so the goal will always be to win and we shouldn't hide from that.

"The opposition should always know they're in a contest when they play against Australian but at the same time the non-negotiable expectation we have of ourselves on and off the field is we compete with respect. And Justin has really led that strongly, a values-driven culture. Tim has complemented Justin brilliantly and led with real courage. They deserve huge credit. There's been so many milestones in the way the men's team has performed on the field, but the way they've done it as well.

"If you look at the code of conduct charges, or the lack thereof, over the Australian summer, no code of conduct charges against the men's team - first time in many many years and not surprisingly that saw a similar trend right across Australian cricket because of the role models the men are. The women's team are obviously outstanding ambassadors for the game and for our country as well. It's brilliant to know I can sleep soundly at night in the knowledge we've got a men's team and a women's team living the sort of values and behaviours that we aspire to as a sport."

As for the use of the Dukes ball in Sheffield Shield cricket, something that better equipped the likes of Marnus Labuschagne, Matthew Wade and Michael Neser for their selection on this tour, Roberts indicated that CA should maintain a habit of ensuring players are bred to be versatile. "I think if you ask Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Steven Smith they'd say it's been tremendously successful, coming into this day Josh and Pat were averaging less than 20 and going for about two and a half runs an over and of course Steve has shot the lights out with the bat," he said. "In all seriousness we need to keep preparing our players to play in different conditions overseas, whether it be the swinging ball or the spinning ball."