Just when should you drop old favourites?

WHILE I do not agree with the omission of the Waugh brothers for the one-day series in South Africa I do have some sympathy for the selectors. Theirs is always a thankless job and never more so than when a successful and popular era loaded with old favourites is coming to an end.

Just when you should drop old favourites is never an easy decision and it is seldom taken easily or without due consideration.

I have no doubt the selectors anguished over their decision as did I and the other selectors when Allan Border's time was coming to an end.

Allan was older than the Waugh boys when the selectors sat down with him in Hobart and discussed his future. We were concerned about his form and the length of time he was taking to get his runs. While it was ideal when a match was to be saved, his batting was lacking momentum when we were trying to attack.

At that time he also knew our stand about any player who wanted to pick and choose his tours. This had caused problems in the past when Greg Chappell, then captain of the Australian team, was allowed to miss tours even though he was fit.

Border agreed with our thinking on this and said he would play in the upcoming Australian season and then retire before the Pakistan tour. We were happy with this and it allowed us to plan for the future.

Everything went quietly during the season, but at the end of it Allan wanted to change his mind and play on, but not go to Pakistan.

The selectors stood their ground and finally Allan agreed to announce his retirement.

He was very peeved about this and instead of releasing his decision through the ACB, gave a great scoop to a mate who worked for Channel 7, an opposition TV station to the ACB's official telecaster Channel 9.

All hell broke loose and the selectors and the ACB were roundly, and I felt unfairly, criticised for the handling of the matter.

It has been a similar situation this time. The dropped player did not leak the story, but it still got out when it should not have. This has created a huge media scrum, which has not been in the interest of the players, selectors or cricket.

It is obvious Australia must look to the future. We do have an ageing team and the Australian selectors have the right to start planning now.

With the huge money now available players will not drop themselves, as they did in the semi-amateur days.

It probably cost Steve Waugh $A200,000 when he was dropped from the one-day team and Mark would have lost around the same figure.

What does concern me is how the selectors are replanning. I applauded the selection of the 20-year-old Shane Watson, a batsman who bowls briskly, for the South African tour, for he can be slotted in to the tour matches to gain experience.

I worry, however, for rookie Queensland off-spinner Nathan Hauritz being thrown into the cauldron of one-day international cricket. Only 20, Hauritz looks a good off-spinner. He can flight the ball, is accurate and can impart spin, too.

Given time in the first class arena (he is now only in his initial year of first class cricket), he will develop into a fine bowler.

But to throw him straight into the ODIs is asking a lot and do we really need to do this at this stage?

Patience is perhaps the greatest criterion when rebuilding. It takes time and we shouldn't forget the old adage that it takes about five years to be an overnight success.

The other area that worries me is whether we have too many strokemakers in our latest mix.

Any form of cricket requires strokemakers and those who right the ship when times are tough.

Australia's problems in the recent World Series were brought about by a lack of runs and particularly from the openers and top half batsmen.

Jimmy Maher has been a fine journeyman Sheffield Shield player. At 28 he is neither old nor young. Is he a better choice than Justin Langer who forms with Matthew Hayden the best Test opening combination in the world? I doubt it.

Give me regular good openers in any form of cricket, for they will always do better than makeshift combinations when the going gets tough.

There is still plenty of time before the World Cup, but not if the Australian selectors start chopping and changing. They have decided to go in a certain direction and they must give this new team a chance.

There will be many who will disagree, as I do, with the current selection. But in the end the selectors must have confidence in their judgment and back their choices.