Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Learn from the Aussies, mate

"I had to look at the calendar, I thought it was April 1," said Jason Gillespie on being informed he had been offered a new contract to play for Australia. The 33-eyar-old fast bowler has lately been creating havoc in county cricket after being out with injury and loss of form. It just goes to show that for the best team in the world, it's form and fitness that count, not age and seniority. The most important thing is to get the best players out there, give rest to players when they need it, keep out injured players, and generally manage the team in a transparent and fair way. New players should only take the place of unfit or out-of-form players. Arbitrarily giving new players a game or two against weak opposition like Bangladesh has been done in the past too, and has done nothing to build our bench strength. That's simply not the way to go about it. Team building means to identify new players with potential, induct them into the team when opportunities come, and then give them enough time to prove themselves before reassessing their worth - not suddenly running around like headless chicken looking for new players, as India and Pakistan are doing after their World Cup debacles. Cricket Australia was the first to announce a new set of players after the World Cup. These are not spring chicken that Australia thinks will serve them in the next World Cup. They are the best set of players currently available to help Australia keep winning. As for the future, the domestic circuit has been made strong enough to ensure quality in the supply line. The 25 players chosen know they will play for Australia for at least a year, which gives them confidence and security to concentrate on their game. Conversely, players in the wings know that they will have another crack next year at getting a Cricket Australia contract if any of the contracted players don't shape up during the year, because the administration can be ruthless in dropping players regardless of seniority. In India, we've taken a step backward by abolishing the contract system which means players will be chosen on a series to series basis, which is unsettling. It shows the indecisiveness of the selection and administration. It means we're not in a position to say these are the 25 players who can play for India for a year from now, and these are the guys who are out and can go back to domestic cricket for a year to try to improve or regain form. It also means more power to the administrators and selectors, as everyone hangs on to every sattement they make for clues to who's in or out. More discussion on this in an earlier post - A punishment for success.

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