A baffling decision

IN recent times I have battled to understand just what the Australian cricket selectors are trying to achieve.

Now the timing and the decision to omit Steve Waugh from the Australian one-day team has me totally confused.

The announcement was pre-empted by someone leaking that Steve had been dropped from the captaincy and this may have accounted for the timing of the announcement.

Leaks have not been uncommon in recent times about selection matters and grave suspicion has been cast at the members of the selection panel or the Australian Cricket Board directors.

Hardly a week goes by in Australian cricket without a story appearing from favoured journalists, about matters which should not go further than the selectors' meetings or ACB's top officials or board members.

This is now greatly resented by the players and rightly so for often the matters leaked have not been discussed with the players and they find the leaks and subsequent massive press coverage humiliating.

Now Australian cricket and Steve Waugh in particular have been thrust into a major controversy which could have so easily been averted by better planning.

At present conjecture rules the headlines about who will or will not figure in the one-day squad.

The first ODI is sometime away and there should have been plenty of time for the selectors to get their act together and announce the full team as a fait accompli.

Certainly there would have been some controversy if Steve Waugh was not in the party but at least it would have been done in a dignified manner.

I have been involved in many critical meetings in regard to the future of Australian cricket. This is but a vital, constructive way of planning for the future of Australian cricket. Tough, but fair, honest and clear- thinking are the vital ingredients in conducting such meetings.

For sometime now I believe the selectors have been in a dilemma about who should be involved in these meetings.

At one time the Australian coach and captain would proudly attend or at least be kept fully informed of what was discussed at such a meeting.

Unfortunately, in the last few years, there seems to have been a breakdown in confidence between the captain and coach and the selectors.

It first surfaced when Mark Taylor was captain and having a bad trot before and during the 1997 England tour. At that time, the coach, captain and vice-captain on tour were also the selectors.

Taylor's form wasn't good enough at that time but the tour selectors couldn't summon the steel to drop the captain.

On the following tour to South Africa the Australian selectors didn't want Taylor to play in the ODIs but once again his mates couldn't drop him. The selectors were not pleased.

Shortly thereafter, the Australian selectors adopted a two-team policy and Mark Taylor's one-day career was over.

It was also at that time the ACB announced that the chairman of the Australian selection panel must be part of selecting all teams overseas. In 2000 coach John Buchanan was removed as a selector on overseas tours and just recently Steve Waugh was stood down as a touring selector and all teams will now be named by the Australian selectors and it is hoped one of them will be on every tour overseas.

I find this most disappointing and shows little faith in the captain or coach's ability to select teams.

It will probably also reinforce the two-team policy, one for Tests and the other for ODIs.

I have opposed this thinking believing that invariably the best Test players with the odd exception also play the best limited-over cricket.

The selectors have thought differently and have gone into ODI's without established opening batsmen and allrounders, who really haven't been good enough to succeed at the highest level.

You might get away with makeshift openers on the flat wickets of the sub- continent, but not in Australia where the new ball does more.

Our openers were our Achilles heel this season and will also struggle in South Africa, where the wickets give side movement to the fast men. Steve Waugh has paid the price for the selectors' folly.

If, as they have suggested they are looking to the future they now must select a team based on common sense and an understanding of how ODI matches are won and not try to re-invent the wheel with ill advised theories.

While a new broom is always an attraction, you must make sure that the old one can't still do the job better.