Channel 9 selects the team for Cricket Australia? Well … duh!!!!!!!

It has been another interesting day in Australian sport. Probably one of the most of interesting pieces of news and one that has been responded to almost immediately by Cricket Australia has been the position taken Channel 9 with respect to the selection of the Australian cricket team.

For those who missed it, the Managing Director of Channel 9 Jeff Browne told a business lunch in Sydney yesterday that as part of the network's record $400million winning bid for international cricket rights, he expected to have a say in both team selection and in the scheduling of fixtures during the Australian summer.

James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia has been swift today to retort:

“Cricket has a long-standing and successful relationship with the Nine Network, but team selections and scheduling are matters for Cricket Australia''

No matter who you believe, and frankly I am prepared to believe the MD of Australia's largest television network over a CEO who has presided over the biggest decline in standards of player behaviour seen in the Australian game in my memory during his 12 years at the helm, one only needs to examine the players currently being selected by Cricket Australia to represent this country to see that whether or not it is Channel 9 selecting the team, marketability of players has become a factor in the selection process.

 

In this regard I am already on record apropos my contempt for the selection of players such as Glenn Maxwell and David Warner without, frankly, a semblance of form or even a solid first class career behind them. In the case of Warner, many are quick to forget that he had not been selected by his state for a first class game before he was first selected to play for his country.

 

That said, it is the other piece of cricket news today that really shows how far down this track the powers that be at Cricket Australia have gone in the name of marketing. Again for those who missed it Cricket Australia announced today a squad to tour Africa in July and August to play 3 first class games and a series of 5 one day fixtures. Here is the squad announced:


Smith (c) Finch (vc) Agar Ahmed Coulter-Nile Doolan Hazlewood Henriques Maddinson M. Marsh S. Marsh Maxwell Paine Sandhu Sayers


There are undoubtedly a number of players in this team who deserve their opportunities to represent Australia A. Doolan had a brilliant season for Tasmania as did Henriques for New South Wales. Sayers is a bowler of the future and was unlucky in my view to not be in the full blown Ashes squad.

 

That said: I refuse to believe that some of the other players selected in this team have been selected because of their exemplary form in first class and other domestic cricket in Australia this season. Now don't get me wrong: there are some players in this team who have the potential play for Australia in the years to come; of this there can be no question. However, you can not tell me that some such players are not in this team because of their marketing appeal rather than form.

 

Take the case of Gurinder Sandhu: no doubt he is a fine cricketer and, indeed was selected as state cricketer of the year last season for New South Wales. Kudos to him for having such a great start to his career. However, is he, off the back of two first class games in the Sheffield Shield really in the top ten fast bowlers in the country? That must be what his selection in this squad must connote must it not? I know he took 14 wickets in those first two first class games but how can that be enough to assess whether he is that good as yet? The simple answer is that Sandhu already has a marketing contract with Cricket Australia. They are pinning their hopes on “diversifying” the bandwidth of their marketing message by using the image of Gurinder Sandhu in their marketing material. In order to do that they have to, of course, select him don't they?

 

How must a player like Luke Butterworth from Tasmania be feeling in the face of this selection news today? Off the back of a season in which he played every first class game and took 45 wickets at an average of 20.89 runs per wicket he is seemingly not even in the frame to be in the top 10 bowlers in the country according to the selectors. Of course, he does not have a marketing contract with Cricket Australia.

 

For that matter, what about Trent Copeland who took 30 wickets for his state in 8 first class games last season and is bowling the lights out in the English Country competition this season? He has been a faithful servant of the game in this country and did nothing wrong when he was called up for the baggy green but, seemingly, because he is not a marketable commodity. Can anyone else come up with a cogent reason why he is not in the best 10 bowlers in the country? I have wracked my brain and can not.

 

I am not, repeat not, attacking Gurinder Sandhu: I hope he succeeds but I find it to be an abomination that players who clearly are ahead of him in both experience and the pecking order on form in domestic cricket are ignored because they do not fit a demographic that Cricket Australia wishes to market too.

 

So if you are surprised that Channel 9 think they can pick the team, then consider this: what reason have Cricket Australia given them to think otherwise? A marketing contract leading to selection on tour to represent this country despite there being other more qualified and in form players available for selection can only be an indication that selection for Australia is clearly for sale. I never thought I would see this day and to say that I am disappointed that it is here now would be an understatement.

 

And don't even get me started on Chris Hartley not being in the Australia A team!

 

2 responses

  1. I’m only going to address the Sandhu issue here for the sake of brevity – my thoughts on the others sections would do nothing but detract from the crux of your argument.

    I think you are misunderstanding the purpose of the Australia A team. It is not a team selected to win every single game they play – in fact, the results of Australia A games have absolutely no meaning outside of the few diehard cricket fans (like us) who are concerned with who wins and who loses. They are contextually void – no ranking points, no championships, no trophies (bar the 1994/95 Benson and Hedges World Series, that is).

    Australia A is, and always has been, a vehicle to further the interests of Australian cricket – to develop players, let others reclaim form and give our cricketers the experience they need to succeed at Test level.

    Luke Butterworth is a very good player. He is also nearing 30, and barely gets above 135km/h. Now I’m not one for pace determinism, however the odds of Butterworth having a Test career where he takes 300 wickets at 25 is highly unlikely. With the proper development and a bit of luck, that could be Sandhu – he has the raw talent, and Australia A gives him a chance to develop with the international coaches. They know what Butterworth provides (from Shield and former Australia A exploits) and realise he is unlikely to get a Test call-up.

    (As a side note, Trent Copeland is also currently undergoing ankle surgery, for the record, and given he is looking at returning to county cricket once he has recovered, selection in the ‘A’ team does nothing but change the timezone he’s playing in)

    Tim Paine, rightly or wrongly (I subscribe to the latter) is seen as the heir apparent to wicketkeeping – the guy we have in reserve to compete with Matthew Wade for the gloves once Haddin retires. He has missed a lot of cricket over the past few seasons, and as such they clearly want to give him as much time in the middle as possible. I’d argue the non-selection of Hartley is characteristic of a systemic problem where wicketkeepers are seen as batsmen first, glovemen second, and as such isn’t endemic to Australian cricket.

    Everyone selected in that Australia A side to tour Africa (Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch excluded) has the potential to be a hugely successful Test cricketer. They are the players the Australian set-up wants to work closely with. Gurinder Sandhu will benefit immensely from this trip – Luke Butterworth would not.

    tl;dr
    Australia A isn’t a 2nd XI based on Shield stats, it’s a development squad aimed at making us better than we are now. Sandhu is a perfect fit for that.

  2. Have been enjoying your blog recently mate but I have to argue with this one.

    Jeff Browne said that “people at home want to see the best players playing and we urge Cricket Australia to pick the best players every time”. I submit that this is what you do in this blog on a regular basis – it’s just that we all have different views on who the “best players” are. At no point has he said “We want CA to pick the most marketable players”. Actually, I don’t recall David Warner ever appearing in a KFC commercial. If you ask me, if we pick based on Marketability, Ellyse Perry should be in the side. She’d also be a far better bowler than some off the blokes we’ve been picking in the ODI/T20 sides.

    You also need to clarify your comment that: “Warner, many are quick to forget that he had not been selected by his state for a first class game before he was first selected to play for his country”. He was picked to play a T20 game based on T20 form. He backed that up in his first game with 89 off about 40 balls. When he made the test side, it was off the back of hundreds for both NSW and Australia A. Now that he’s out of form, he should be dropped in favour of a bloke who’s scoring 50’s and 100’s – C.Rogers.

    As for Maxwell, I believe he belongs in the T20 and ODI sides but not tests, and I know you disagree and you think he shouldn’t be selected for the St.Kilda 3rds. But I have to point out, when he was selected for the Test side, it was for a game in India, televised by Fox Sports. Why would channel 9 have anything to do with that? Or for that matter, the selection of Gurinder Sandhu in an untelevised A series in Africa? I believe the response to yesterday’s Browne comments was an over-reaction.

    Channel 9 knows that when Australia wins, the ratings are good. That’s why they want the best players in the side – to win. That’s it. There’s no grand conspiracy.

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