Cricket Australia has made the right call by appointing Greg Chappell as its first full-time selector and national talent manager — but just who should make way for him appears to be as equally as intriguing.
Chappell’s elevation into the four-man panel means Jamie Cox, Merv Hughes or David Boon will have to make way for the batting legend. Selection chairman Andrew Hilditch, who did not apply for the new role, retains his position until after next year’s World Cup.
Cox and Boon were unavailable for comment at the time of publication, while the outspoken Hughes had already said he wanted to continue in the position but was frustrated that the trio had yet to be informed just who would depart.
For its part, Cricket Australia says the issue will be settled once a review is completed by general manager of cricket Michael Brown. A final recommendation will be made in time for the board’s October meeting.
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What, however, was of most importance was that CA found the right man for the full-time role — a welcome development in a time of major on-field transition for the Australian team.
Gone are the days of the stable era under Steve Waugh and the early years of Ricky Ponting’s tenure. With three top-order batsmen — Ponting, Mike Hussey and Simon Katich — all aged 35, more change is imminent.
The development of a specialist Twenty20 team, not to mention the traditional one-day side, means there is plenty now to consider. No longer is it acceptable that there is not a selector at a domestic match, let alone an international fixture, for the money involved in the sport demands a more professional approach.
Chappell’s new role should bring just that, along with an eye for talent, as his excellent work — by all accounts — as the coach at the Centre of Excellence indicates.
In some ways, it’s a case of back to the future, for Chappell, 62, was a national selector during the dark years of Australian cricket in the mid-1980s.
But his ability to scratch beneath the surface was evident then. It was he, remember, who was responsible for selecting Ian Healy on the 1988 tour of Pakistan after the young wicketkeeper had logged just six first-class matches.
Chappell also was instrumental in plucking Peter Taylor — “Peter Who?” was the memorable tabloid headline of the time — from relative obscurity for the final test of the 1986-87 Ashes campaign in Sydney.
It was also during that period when the national selectors, under the chairmanship of highly respected Laurie Sawle, settled on a nucleus that would steadily develop and provide breakthrough victories in the 1987 World Cup and the 1989 Ashes.
“Of all the selections we made between 1987 and 1994, I think the first one — the 1987 World Cup squad — was the best,” Bob Simpson, a coach and selector of that time, recalled in his autobiography, Simmo — Cricket Then and Now.
“Further, we identified a core of five cricketers — Allan Border, Geoff Marsh, Steve Waugh, David Boon and Craig McDermott — around whom we’d build the Test and one-day teams.
“These guys were all talented cricketers, but more importantly they were ambitious and mentally tough men who treasured wearing the baggy green.
“Soon, Dean Jones, Merv Hughes and Ian Healy were incorporated into the nucleus.”
Chappell resigned from that role in 1988 for a couple of reasons — publicly it was always said he was disenchanted with the way the game was heading.
Again he finds himself with the responsibility of locking in a nucleus that will dictate Australia’s fortunes this decade. That Australia has slipped from first to fourth on the world rankings this year highlights the work that needs to be done.
“There’s no rush to push anyone out the door. You have to earn the right to play for Australia, that’s something the whole selection panel is conscious of, and will bear in mind going forward,” Chappell told reporters after he was officially welcomed into the new role.
Players have long complained about a lack of feedback from the national selectors.
Chappell should be able to ease this concern, for there’s no excuse about business commitments leaving the selectors, at times, unreachable — a major point of frustration with Hilditch, a successful South Australian-based lawyer who is now establishing his own firm.
Chappell will now become the panel’s spokesman and relocate from Queensland to Melbourne for the role.
Players seeking feedback will know there they stand — just ask the once mighty Sourav Ganguly who had his captaincy terminated at the recommendation of Chappell during the latter’s controversial two-year stint as coach there.
Indeed, as a former Australian captain in 48 of his 87 Tests, leading batsman and not to mention his time in the political hotbed that is Indian cricket where effigies of him were burnt and he was even criticised in Indian parliament, Chappell has experienced the gamut of emotions cricket can offer.
He knows what it’s like to one minute feel indomitable on the field, the next almost clueless with the bat and mentally broken and alone in a hotel room — as he was after the infamous under-arm incident.
Off the field, Chappell has also experienced the good — and not so good — life dishes up.
Selecting him was the right call by CA. Now Chappell, as he is fully aware, must put the runs on the board.
*Back Page Lead is a sports opinion website that provides sports content to Crikey.