Home > The Final Word > Up the creek, without a paddle

Up the creek, without a paddle

I know I did my much anticipated blog return only days ago, but the events of this week mean I felt obliged to do another.The blind faith that Cricket Australia has thrown upon this young brigade of cricketers is exactly that…blind. The past few days has shown exactly why Australian cricket has fallen as far as it has in the past few years. It has nothing to do with the talent or dedication of the players who represent this country, and everything to do with directionless leadership that the game in this country has suffered through since the loss of the greatest cricket generation in Australia since Bradman’s Invincibles.

I’m not going to dance around this subject now. Simon Katich is a wonderful batsman, and a man who will always be respected by peers and the public alike for the way he represented his club, state and country in cricket. While he may not have been as talented as some of the batsman of this era, he made the most of every opportunity he was given and fought tooth and nail to get the result. In my opinion, he is with Shane Warne as one of the best captains Australia never had. Katich is also a victim of Australia’s golden generation, in the mould of Stuart MacGill, Darren Lehmann, Andy Bichel, all wonderful players who would have been Test greats in any other era. But unfortunately he is stuck one era too late, with an game in this country which is leading us in circles.

I don’t want to single anyone in the administration out, mainly as I haven’t the slightest idea who is genuinely running the show at the moment, and I’m also unaware if there is any other story to this. I will make one observation though. People often refer to the Prime Minister as the second most powerful job in the country, falling behind the Test captain. The last 3 days prove just how powerful that job is. Now I don’t want to come out and say that this is all Michael Clarke’s doing, mainly because he doesn’t deserve this kind of attacks after only captaining one test match, but this situation wreaks of an inside job. There is no doubting that Clarke and Katich don’t see eye-to-eye. A lot of it dates back to Katich holding Clarke by the throat in the dressing room at the SCG after a disagreement about the singing of the team song. When that story broke, and the full details behind it, the respect for Simon Katich within the Australian cricket community grew massively, and the opposite happened for Clarke.

So when the game’s ‘leaders’ in this country came to decide who would be given national contracts for this season, the first with Clarke as the national captain, it is no surprise that the first man to go is Katich. Putting all the stats and performances aside for one second and attempting to take this at face value, it could be acceptable that they wanted to sure up an opening partnership into the future, and were looking at a younger player, a Phillip Hughes or Shaun Marsh. That is a fair enough call, but it is clear that this isn’t the case. The main gripe that Katich, and most cricketing critics have, is that they are clearly lying to us. They wanted a younger feel to the squad….then why did the 33 year old David Hussey RETURN to the contract list? A fair player, Hussey is not the future in Australia, yet the game’s administrators decided that he should get a contract, it just baffles the mind. Of the players who lost contracts, Katich, Marcus North and Adam Voges are over 30, yet there remains Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee (who is only playing the shorter forms of the game), and Brad Haddin who are all 33 or over. Shane Warne has hit it on the head, saying

“The one thing about Cricket Australia I would say, and the current (group): if you’re going to say you’re in transition, I think for the fans and the public and everyone out there who wants to support the Australian cricket team, let’s see some youngsters in there.

“Don’t hang on to the older guys in there, say ‘we’re in transition, give us a bit of time’ but have 35- or 37-year-olds still playing Test cricket or one-day cricket.

“Let’s stop sliding down to No.5 in the world; (if) we keep playing the same players but saying ‘we’re in transition’, it doesn’t work.”

And, as far as recognised openers go, Australia now has contracted, Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, and the uncapped Shaun Marsh. We have sacked our most experienced opener so we can build a solid foundation for the future…why?

So after ignoring stats and performances for a little while, lets return there. There used to be a time when you performed well, and as a result were rewarded with selection for higher honours. When you continued to perform at that higher level, you retained your spot. That era is now gone. Simon Katich is our best performing batsman for the past two years, stats show that. He is a leader in the team, and if you want commitment, just look at the fact he played two Tests in India with a broken thumb (and bowled with that), and two of the Ashes Tests this summer with a torn Achilles. His innings in Adelaide typifies commitment to a cause, and that alone should have seen him rewarded with a contract. Now we enter the most critical season in our recent history, with a pseudo-opener in Shane Watson who has run out more players batting than he has in the field, and an extremely talented, but raw, youngster in Phil Hughes, who is in desperate need of a stable old headed mentor – a role perfect for Katich. This just gives more weight to the argument that Clarke was in some way involved, and again shows how much influence he has in high circles, a dangerous proposition. Something like this would never have happened in the Steve Waugh era (some will point to the Ian Healy retirement, but his performances in the same time frame don’t measure up to those of Katich).

But finally, this decision, and the obvious inconsistencies which surround it point to a major problem, a lack of direction. This decision has been made by someone who didn’t think too hardly about it, and as a result, we’re left in a fairly tight spot. Unfortunately the signs of this have been around for a while, even just going back to the recent proposition to eliminate the Shield final in favour of a longer Big Bash league. That was scrapped luckily, but if we continue much further with this stupidity, it might not be long before we’re languishing further down the ICC rankings in all forms of the game. I hope for Katich’s sake, and my own enjoyment, that he leads NSW to another Shield title this year, and scores tons of runs. It is clear that he will never play Test cricket again, but that would be a just reward for someone who puts in this much, and a little jab to the people who have let him down.

I will always support the Australian team, I am Australian and I love my cricket. But we are directionless at the moment. We are stuck on the middle of a highway without a map, and the worst thing is those leading us are too stubborn and ignorant to ask for directions.

You can see the Katich press conference from this morning below

  1. Anonymous
    August 1, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Its true that the selectors are ruining the squad with horrible selections. Just read an article which quotes Cam White as saying that it seems that the selectors are now picking players not based on their best format, but on their “form” in ANY format. Better yet they could be moving into picking people from different sports, maybe even different jobs!! As I said in my previous post, I could chuck pies (mince and cheese is preferable) up and probably make it into the side, even though my cricketing days are long gone now.

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