REVIEWING THE REVIEW
Wednesday 24 August 2011
The release of the Australian Team Performance Review is a watershed moment in recent Australian cricket history.
Chaired by Don Argus and including the wise cricketing minds of Allan Border, Malcolm Speed, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, the review broke Australian cricket down to its bare bones then recommended ways to shape it back together again.
Ironically, the day of the release, last Friday the 19th of August, the playersâ€™ association - the Australian Cricketersâ€™ Association - was holding its annual delegates conference.
Myself and Luke Feldman, as Queenslandâ€™s representatives, and captain James Hopes, were confined to a conference room for the best of two days to discuss the major issues in todayâ€™s game.
The ACA, formed in 1997 and led stoically by Paul Marsh, represents the voice of the players.
It is operated on behalf of every first-class and Australian cricketer and aims to muster everyoneâ€™s thoughts, ideas and opinions into one and help achieve the best outcomes for the game.
Like any good team really, the ACA is about a unified group that works to achieve goals.
The players come together, determine the best way forward, then Marshy does a brilliant job mobilising this with Cricket Australia on behalf of the group.
I said ironically earlier, because a number of the recommendations put forward by the Argus review are supportive of the playersâ€™ views and were indeed the favourable results the players were hoping for.
The one that stood out to most of us was the section on improving the selection function.
I said in previous columns how difficult being a selector would be, so the point Iâ€™m making is not one of criticism of the current selectors at state or national level.
Far from it.
What seems to be a strong, stabilising way forward though is the recommendation that playersâ€™ selection is fundamentally and on the whole based on performance.
As the review put it:
â€œIt is critical that superior performance is rewarded at all levels. Players must earn their positions in the time-honoured way of making runs, taking wickets and showing that they are ready to play at the next levelâ€.
Many players have said over the last 18 months or so they have felt confused about where they stand in the pecking order, why they may have missed selection or what they need to do to achieve higher honours.
This has, and always will, occur and will occur at club, state and national levels.
But this recommendation is clear as crystal and assures accountability of players to perform and selectors to pick those players to perform (I say assure because it guarantees it about as much as it can given the subjective nature of selection).
The players have nowhere to hide if they are underperforming and thatâ€™s the way it should be.
Likewise, those who are putting their hand up with consistent runs and wickets should feel the selectors are paying close attention to them.
In any ways, if this charter is given its full weight, and I know the players believe in it, then it is a big step forward for CA, its administrators and the players themselves.
Other recommendations that were endorsed by the playing group included changes to Test cricket to ensure it was the number one priority, Futureâ€™s League and 2nd XI matches, grade cricket, Australia A and improving team culture.
Having said that, it would be naÃ¯ve to think that the singular view of the playing group swayed these topics in the final direction the Argus review put forth.
In fact, Iâ€™m hoping these changes were the result of EVERY stakeholder - players, coaches, administrators together - because if we are all on the same page then thatâ€™s so much better.
At the end of all of this, we are all simply working towards enhancing the game of cricket in Australia.
I also disagree with a few comments from within some circles about the biggest concern being that there was a review in the first place.
We could argue that some of these issues would have been handled better over time and not left to bubble under the surface until a fully-fledged examination was required.
But I say excellent work by Cricket Australia to put themselves out there to the public and its fans and courageously say â€œhereâ€™s where we can do things better, hereâ€™s where players need to step up, hereâ€™s how we are going to improveâ€.
Like any review process, there are a lot of things said.
The important step now is the action taken.
CA and the ACA will now get together to make sure these recommendations are implemented before sitting down to nut out the next Memorandum of Understanding.
In my experience as a playersâ€™ rep, this current negotiation will have slightly less issues to contend with volume-wise (probably a testament to the healthy way CA and the ACA have worked on previous MOUâ€™s).
But the issues it does have are heavy, with significant impact not previously seen in Australian cricket.
That is, we are a bit blind to what will be the outcome of each potential way forward.
This refers in particular to Twenty20 and the Big Bash League, and the introduction of private investment.
As such, CA and the ACA have a delicate time ahead, making sure they agree upon the best way to structure it and how best to fit T20 into Australian cricket.
There is a tightrope to walk and only once chance to get it right.
If they can do this, and I believe they will, then the BBL will be the firecracker event it should be and compliment a newly revitalised Test, ODI and domestic cricket scene based upon Argusâ€™ recent recommendations.