With the exit of former Australian Test gloveman, Rod Marsh as chairman of the Australian selection panel, it is a very appropriate time to consider new options for the national selection system.
While I am not close to Australian cricket as I once was, I do hear from time to time from people who are. Players, coaches and high performance say that change is needed.
I know from my time as a head coach, I found one of the biggest interferences to running the team and developing team culture was the clutter of voices who were authorised to talk to players on critical matters, such as selection or non-selection.
I had no personal problem with any of these very decent and well-credentialed gentlemen. It was simply they were not in and around the team, except for short periods. And so their decisions, either spoken publicly with team announcements, in private conversations by phone, or no conversation at all leaving an athlete bewildered, caused unnecessary tensions, conflicts and obstacles to team development.
Consequently, I see now is the chance to lead the game by challenging an age-old system that was formulated pre- coaches, pre-technology, pre- 3 game formats, pre-women’s cricket, pre-increased international schedules, and pre-high performance talent development approaches.
Cricket certainly lags behind other sports such as AFL, a number of Olympic sports and many of the franchised major sporting associations overseas such as EPL, NFL.
Like all talent and performance management systems in sport or business, the system needs to –
1. Be totally aligned with the vision and future directions of the organisation; otherwise, individuals are hired or selected who cannot help drive the success of the team or the business;
2. Provide the most accurate and efficient feedback communications to staff or athletes about their performance so that the individual can continually develop his or her game;
3. Overcome methodologies which have bias towards certain types of individuals, such as those that promote or demote on age, or a limited skill set, or their marketability, or emotive or sentimental reasons
In order to do so, the sport, the business, or in this case the Australian cricket, requires satisfying two main pre-requisites:
I. There is a clear vision for how Australian cricket wishes to play the game, across different formats, and for men and women.
II. In order to chase this vision, and in the shortest time possible, there is an agreed set of Core Skills (technical, physical, mental, tactical, team, leadership) upon which all players in the talent development pathway, from entry level to international, are measured.
What does such a performance management system provide –
- From a playing, coaching and sports science perspective, everyone becomes very clear on what demonstrated game skills an individual player is being measured against in order to put himself or herself in best position to be selected as an international player, and what to continue to do to retain selection;
- Head coaches of international, national, domestic and youth programs become the key person to be responsible and accountable for running their respective programs;
- With greater accountability and responsibility for a program, the head coach will ensure accountabilities across all athletes and staff within the program;
- There will be greater collaboration between the programs to ensure easier transitions as an athlete moves into older age groups, or between formats of the game. The collaboration involves more open communication supported with technology;
- An athlete’s performance plan can become a very real tool of assessing the progress, or otherwise of the individual, thereby having ramifications for selections and contracts
I do not think there will ever be the perfect selection system.
I began this process when Director of NZ Cricket. I removed all the selectors and setup a National Selection Manager position whose principal role was to create a robust information and data system that to aid the Head Coach select his or her teams. The system,
- Took direction and advice from the National program head coach
- Relied on the input of all Head Coaches of provincial teams
- Utilised input of the High Performance Centre coaches
- Used two impartial scouts, Martin Crowe and Glenn Turner for the men’s program
The advice and data received was based on players demonstrating core skill measures in game, as well as ‘gut instinct’ and intuition – akin to a combination of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball” and Clint Eastwood’s 2012 movie “Trouble with the Curve”.
There is no doubt that the system met with resistance because it meant change.
Players did not think that they would be seen as they were used to selectors being at matches watching – even though coaches see them more regularly, and know where their games are at.
Coaches did not like the extra responsibility and accountability.
Captains felt that their status was being eroded, even though the Head Coach actively sought their views.
The Players’ Association did not like the change as it dramatically affected the contracting system.
And of course the selectors who were no longer on the payroll were in disagreement as well.
I would hope that at this juncture for cricket here in Australia, CA greets the New Year with brave and bold decision making around the game.
If it has this approach, then for me, the gloves are off when it comes to reviewing the current selection system.