By George, what a radical move!
Current player Bailey's inclusion in the Oz selection panel is unique and it shows how serious the men from Down Under are on T20 WC
A current player — George Bailey — becomes a national selector! How radical is that? It's not overly surprising from one front and that is, such moves are expected in Australian cricket. For, the men from Down Under have always been at the forefront of change and almost every innovation in the game has emerged from the Southern Hemisphere.
Bailey is part of the three-member panel which also includes Trevor Hohns and coach Justin Langer and he adds value through his T20 experience. Many pundits find no gain in being cynical of the move since Australia recognise that they have not done as well as they should have on the international arena in this format, which is becoming increasingly popular thanks to their Big Bash league. Also, with the next T20 World Cup to be held on their shores next year, they want to be counted as the team to beat.
Anything can happen with form and team requirements, so I wonder whether their T20 squad will feel the need to include Bailey and what happens when there has to be discussion on him. He'll probably leave the room and let Hohns and Langer discuss his merits.
Has a selector been asked to play for his country? Yes. It happened in 1956 when England's Cyril Washbrook was asked to leave the room by his co-selectors (Gubby Allen, Les Ames and Wilf Wooller) while discussing the squad for the third Ashes Test at Leeds after an Australian win at Lord's. Washbrook, then 41, returned to find out that he was included in the side for the next Test. He had last played for England five years earlier during the 1950-51 series in New Zealand. He didn't take his customary position at the top of the order but batted at No.5 to score 98 in his comeback innings which contributed to England winning by an innings and 42 runs. He played two more Tests in the series, scoring six and zero in the Manchester and Oval Tests respectively in an Ashes-winning summer.
Back to Bailey. "His extensive experience across all formats, and deep knowledge of T20 cricket, will be invaluable as we head into a home T20 World Cup (next year) and beyond," Australia's head of national teams Ben Oliver said on Wednesday.
Doubtless, Australia's selection committee has an interesting look about it — a current player, the coach and a chairman who has been around for ages. The inclusion of the coach in the panel is highly debatable since if the coach doesn't see eye to eye with a player, he can always bat for his ouster at the selection meetings. Be that as it may, the longevity of chairman Hohns is extraordinary. The former leg-spinner who played seven Tests for his country — all in 1989 — first became a selector in 1993 before being appointed chairman in 1996. He held on to that post till 2006 and returned in 2016. He is expected to be around till 2020.
Hohns's first stint as chief selector coincided with a glorious period in Australian cricket that witnessed two World Cup wins (in 1999 and 2003), a period in which they were the number one Test side too, the only blots being the series losses to India in 1998 and 2001. I met Hohns at the Brabourne Stadium before the start of the 2004-05 Test series. He was comfortable with the fact that he had played the least amount of Tests as compared to his co-selectors Allan Border, David Boon, Andrew Hilditch, who had a combined experience of 281 Tests.
Hohns has taken some low blows in the form of criticism. His unpopularity rose when he had to tell Steve Waugh that he was no longer needed in Australia's one-day squad after a lukewarm show in the 2001-02 VB Series. Mark Waugh too played his last game for Australia when Hohns was chairman. When Hohns's committee dropped Brad Hodge and preferred Damien Martyn for the 2005-2006 Test series in South Africa, Mark didn't hold back while talking to the Herald Sun and Sen Radio. "I think the board need to have a very hard look at Hohns, that's where the issue is. He's been there for a decade, which is a very long time to be in charge of picking our cricket teams. There have been some funny selections lately," said Mark.
Hohns appears on 22 pages of Steve's 801-page autobiography, Out of My Comfort Zone. And while the author appreciated the fact that it was hard at times for Hohns to discuss selection issues with a former teammate (Hohns and Steve were part of Border's 1989 Ashes-winning squad), he didn't resort to diplomacy while writing about his ODI ouster. "I fully realise selection is not just based on statistics but also on gut instinct, but I felt cheated that they had strung me along to within 12 months of the 2003 World Cup and then terminated my career without so much as one discussion," wrote Steve.
In our 2004 chat, I asked Hohns about the various attacks he had copped including one from the late cricketer-turned-broadcaster David Hookes, who once said that when a player is given a New South Wales cap, the selectors also slip in the baggy green. Hohns put that down to a tongue-in-cheek remark, but on the other criticisms, he said: "At the end of the day, we are in a position to select teams. People in pubs have got their own opinions as well but lot of times, and at most times, they don't know what goes on in the background and they make presumptions."
Looks like Hohns's latest colleague in the selection committee will have no problems dealing with media barbs. What better for Bailey than to have a fellow selector with a 16-year experience in the job.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
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