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Criticism of Hilditch gains ground after Argus report

August 20, 2011 - Sydney

Now with the Argus review out in the public domain, the criticism and assessment of outgoing chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch is gaining ground.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the kindest assessments of Hilditch paint him as an intelligent but busy man who is uncomfortable in the spotlight and struggled to keep his finger on the pulse of Australian cricket.

More brutal assessments accuse him and his colleague, Greg Chappell, of incoherent selection policies and bafflingly poor communication.

So the story goes, Hilditch recently phoned a member of team management in Sri Lanka to inform him Aaron Finch would be left out of the Twenty20 team. When Hilditch was asked why, he said the selectors felt Shaun Marsh was a better proposition against the destructive fast bowler Lasith Malinga. Malinga, however, was injured, and had been publicly ruled out of the series.

The exchange suggests a scarcely believable lack of awareness, and while cricket insiders laugh in telling the story, its theme is a common one when the topic of selection is raised.

Dissatisfaction with feedback from the selectors was a striking feature of the review, and players who did speak to Hilditch often felt he had little grasp of their domestic performances.

One experienced batsman was told he could enhance his prospects by opening the batting for his state, but had been doing just that for some time. Others were sent back to state cricket, never to hear from the selectors again.

This contrasts with recent insights from England's Stuart Broad on his side's rise to No.1.

"Management and selectors are very good at putting faith in the people they believe can do the job and stick with them," Broad wrote in a newspaper column.

"We never have to look over our shoulders but there is no complacency. You are never hung out to dry. If someone is perceived to be needing a spell out of the team, there is no sense that they are being discarded or being banished back to county cricket ... It is made perfectly clear what you need to do to get back," Broad said.

In Australia, Chappell, stripped of his selection role, was widely criticised in interviews, and had become an increasingly powerful figure since returning to Australian cricket.

Having angered India's ageing stars as coach by favouring young players, he was seen as the bad guy in the sacking of Simon Katich. He was also held accountable for weakening the domestic system through the relentless promotion of youth.

One player said this encouraged selfish cricket because he was always peering over his shoulder.

The Argus report calls for a coherent selection policy backed up by "mature conversations", whether players are in or out of the team.

The report said: "It 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 level. At the same time, potential cannot be overlooked: there must be room for some intuition in selections."

The report also said: "Players must be held accountable when they are not performing. They must be given appropriate feedback along the way, including encouragement, acknowledgement of their strengths and full and frank assessments of what they need to improve. This is not the case at present across Australian cricket, or at least not to the desired level."


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