Who'll replace Hohns?

DEAN JONES (with wife Katie) has an intriguing cricket brain.-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR DEAN JONES (with wife Katie) has an intriguing cricket brain.

There is a rush of applicants for the one vacancy in the Australian selection panel.

Trevor Hohns' resignation as Chairman of the Selection Committee of Cricket Australia caught everybody by surprise. But it has also brought to fore a rush of applicants interested in the job.

Could this be because it is such a high-profile job? Or because Australia is the best team in the world and a selector's job should be an easy one? Or is it because selectors get paid these days? An Australian selector's job is not easy. Perhaps this is because just about everybody in Australia considers themselves wiser in cricketing matters than the incumbent selectors.

Trevor Hohns has done an outstanding job as an Australian selector for the past 10 years. Even though Australia has done remarkably well in his time, he has still had to put up with some strong criticism. Interestingly enough, some of his most vocal critics are now in contention to replace him on the panel. Being chairman of a selection panel requires a sharp mind, good all-round knowledge of the game, compassion, bravery, and an all-encompassing love for the sport which, in turn, helps in an impartial view of all players, no matter whether they are from your home state or play the style of cricket you like or admire.

Politics obviously comes into the picture. Too many administrators feel that if they nominate a selector from their home state, his job is to ensure that as many players from the state are selected as possible.

Lawrie Sawle was perhaps the fairest chairman of selectors I have known. Even though he had a casting vote he never used it unless every aspect of a player under consideration was worked through and discussed at length. Invariably, when he was chairman, the selection panel arrived at a consensus without the need for a vote. Sawle was amazingly fair and never ever favoured players from his home state. This was illustrated when after a selection committee meeting in Melbourne I accompanied Lawrie back to his home base, Perth.

I had opened the batting with Lawrie for Western Australia for some years and we had been great mates for 30 years at the time. Just outside Perth, I said, "You must be looking forward to getting home and being with your wife and family." "Normally I would," he replied. "But, have you realised there is no Western Australian in the team?" I hadn't, and throughout the two-hour selection meeting I had not felt the chairman was angling for a player from his state.

As a former Western Australian player I knew how parochial the Western Australian public were and how critical they would be that Lawrie hadn't obtained a place for at least one Western Australian in the team, no matter whether the player deserved it or not.

Trevor Hohns has done a wonderful job for Australia. Many will say that his was an easy job — after all, Australia had so many wonderful players. True, but he always had to look to the future and he did this admirably. It is much more difficult being a selector these days than in the past for not only does being dropped from the team mean a player has lost his prestigious position in society, but his financial security has also been put at risk. Obviously, everybody wants to play on longer these days to make as much money as possible. Seven to 10 years as an Australian cricketer should ensure you are set up for life.

The last three Test captains probably all wanted to stay on a little longer then they were allowed. But, in all the three cases, I think the timing was just about right. Perhaps, they might have been allowed to continue in the job a year longer than what I thought was required. The selectors terminated the one-day careers of Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Michael Slater and Steve Waugh but continued their Test careers. The suggestion was also given to Ian Healy, Mark Taylor and David Boon that it was time for them to retire. All these judgements were pretty sound and done with the desire to bring new blood into the team.

I cannot say `younger blood' because players stay on so much longer in the game today that youngsters seldom get early chances and most new players are approaching 30 before they make the team. Trevor Hohns has juggled the transitions wonderfully well and his clear thinking and forceful leadership will be missed and hard to replace.

Quite a few people have indicated they could be interested in the vacant position. I am intrigued by Dean Jones' interest. Deano has perhaps the most intriguing cricket brain of any player I have known. He knows the rules inside out and always seems to have a twist to how they could be used to the benefit of the team. Many of his views are right out of left field. Some of them are right out of the planet, and they ensure a lively exchange and guarantee attention.

I quite like the idea of a left-field selector. Jim Higgs, also a Victorian and a former Australian leg-spinner, was a selector at the same time as I was. His views were often guaranteed to stop a meeting in full flight as we had another consideration on the table and one that generally led to a spirited debate. He was good for our selection team and I am sure Deano would keep fellow selectors on their toes. Unfortunately, I can't see him being chosen as Mervyn Hughes, a fellow Victorian, is new in the job and his report card is good. There is no way the other states will vote for two Victorians, or two from any other state for that matter. Darren Lehmann has thrown his hat in the ring for the second time in two years. He was rejected last year because he was still playing and I feel he will be disappointed again.

I agree with this policy. For even though I feel Lehmann would be unbiased in his selection thoughts many wouldn't think similarly particularly if a young player gets in from his state. Steve Rixon and Geoff Lawson have both said they would be interested if circumstances permitted.

Lawson has extensive media interest at present and he would have to probably give up on these if he is to be considered. I can't see him doing this.

Steve Rixon has been a strident critic of selection decisions for some time and I am not sure how some of his fellow selectors will react if he got the job. New South Wales haven't got an Australian selector at present and they haven't had someone for many years. Queensland have had Trevor Hohns for over 10 years and also Allan Border for a few years. So you can be assured that they will be pushing hard to get another Queenslander on the panel. And so will be NSW.

Personally, I would like a selector from a different era to those we have today. Boon and Hilditch were teammates in the Australian team as were Merv Hughes and David Boon. I think a player from a different era to those three might bring in some new and even old thoughts, which could be of great advantage.

If you like a bet though, Geoff Marsh, the former Australian opening batsman and former coach of Zimbabwe and Western Australia and a former Australian Selector, might be worth putting a rupee or two on. Marsh is well respected and liked in Australian cricketing circles and he would do a very sound and conscientious job.