So Australia got knocked out of the ICC Champions Trophy by England on Saturday night. In a lot of ways we were pretty stiff. Our first two matches were rained out without a result. Our batsmen hardly got a hit and we got just a single point out of each match. That meant we went into the match against England having to win to progress. Normally that’s a scenario Australia excels in. Unlike South Africa say, Oz almost always wins the must-win matches. It brings out the best in us.
This time we went into the match slightly underdone because of the lack of match play, but I was still reasonably confident. Midway through our innings we were looking good before the middle-order collapsed to post a reasonable score, but not nearly as much as it promised to be. As it turned out despite some early wickets England won pretty comfortably, and fair play to them. We’re out (as are, once more, South Africa).
So, the circumstances worked against us, but there was fault elsewhere too. I go on and on about this, but that’s because it’s a constant issue: selection. For the life of me I can’t understand why Moises Henriques was asked to bat at 4, and Chris Lynn was left out of the team. For a start Henriques is not an international standard number 4 batsmen. Secondly, Lynn has prodigious talent at the short forms of the game. We saw it in the Big Bash, and again in the IPL leading into this tournament. He’s ballistic, just about the cleanest and biggest hitter in the world, and is also an exceptional fieldsman. Surely when everything is on the line you pick your most dangerous side?
I was prepare to blame Mark Waugh for this. I loved Waugh as a cricketer, but as a selector he has a big NSW bias. The elevation of Henriques, I thought, had his fingerprints all over it. But no, turns out it was at Steve Smith’s insistence. I reckon the captain should have an input into selection, but not the final say. Smith, the NSW skipper, is naturally biased towards his own team-mate. It was a mistake throughout the tournament and, who knows, might have cost us a spot in the semi’s.
The other, intangible factor, is the current dispute between the players and the board. I’m inclined to the players side on this, but think the best solution is some kind of compromise. It’s been dragging on far too long, and the blame for that is largely the ACBs.
It’s hard to know what impact that had on the team’s performance, but I suspect only marginal. Still, it has been unsettling and, at times, unedifying. What I’ve taken out of it is the belief that the board (as opposed to the administration) is out of touch, arrogant, and not terribly competent. I’m sure that this dispute will finally be resolved, but after that I think there’s a strong argument that the board should be overhauled.
By the way, same goes for the board of the ARU, who are ridiculously and dangerously incompetent. Doesn’t surprise me overmuch. My experience of boards is that they are made up of highly competent professionals mixed with a filler of entitled duffers.