Square driving cricket selectors

Just so they can never complain that I didn’t furnish them with my humble views on how to convert the Skoda of cricket teams into a Ferrari (well, maybe an Alfa Romeo will do for a start), here are a few pointers on how to select the NZ cricket team:

  1. Pick team members by the position they play! One keeper is required, and bowling typically consists of 4 pace and 1 spin bowlers, leaving 5 specialist batsmen positions. NZ selectors too frequently deviate and pick the ‘best players in NZ’ at the time, meaning they have at times fielded a horribly unbalanced side with only 2 bowlers capable of topping 130km/hr. 
  2. At least 1, and preferably 2 or more, of the batsmen should be capable of bowling a few overs at international level, e.g. Chris Harris, Scott Styris, Craig MacMillan, Nathan Astle are all specialist batsmen who can bowl several useful overs and often take wickets. By contrast, Paul Hitchcock is a medium pacer who is neither batsman nor bowler – an allrounder.
  3. Set a process for players to follow to get selected, even if they are not aware of it. That is, resist the temptation to look for ‘the next Tendulkar’ or child prodigy – I’m talking to you, Sir Richard Hadlee! Age group players should progress from their club to provincial teams, to the A side, then NZ side. They have plenty of time to prove themselves over a few seasons at these levels, and still have a decade or more in the national squad.
  4. The above point requires NZ cricket and selectors to respect the A side, organise a better schedule of training and matches for it. The basic idea should be to pick a joint NZ-A side squad of 25, train together and play against each other regularly in training – perfect chance for comparisons of rival players for a position. Organise A side matches against other good A sides and as warm-ups for touring national sides. This all bloods the next replacement players (for retirement, injury, etc) without the current ‘sink or swim’ model (what was Daniel Flynn picked for 1 Twenty20 match for?@#$).
  5. Weight your selection criteria to allow for strength of competition the player is playing in. In other words, a provincial batsman with 20 average has an effective average of 30 if playing in a competition you rate as 1.5 times harder than the U-19 competition, say. This means you may pick a player with lower stats in a tough competition ahead of a ‘blazing new talent’ in a weak competition.

All this is a good start – the most important point being the first. At one point recently NZ had 3 keepers playing (McCullum, Vincent, Sinclair), meaning we were weak on back-up bowlers.

Point 2 is also vital – NZ is currently weak in back-up bowlers, so even though we have a good 5 bowler lineup, only Styris of the batsmen can bowl at international level. As even the best bowlers have off days (or overs), there is a need to select genuine batsmen who can also bowl (Ryder may now fill this role – though his short-cut selection may see his inexperience lead to typical Kiwi crumbling).

Incidentally, the point about all-rounder Hitchcock does not mean he is useless, or shouldn’t be picked. Just that all players need to be good enough to be picked at international level in 1 area (batsman, keeper or bowler), with skills in other areas being a bonus to be considered in selection. These extra skills are what lifts a good side to be great (the batting of Chris Cairns, bowling of Harris, batting of Dick Hadlee himself).

Final point – obey the law selectors! Do not discriminate against players based on their age!!! This kind of stupidity has seen the still-talented Harris, Fleming, Styris and MacMillan all leave one form of the game or more (Steve Waugh quit after similar whining in Oz that he was ‘too old’ while still scoring heavily). You’re too old when you body starts letting your performance slip, which is what should be focussed on, not the age.

So, a typical team at the moment might be:

  • Keeper – Brendan McCullum
  • Spinner – Dan Vettori (Jeetan Patel for injury at the moment)
  • Pace bowler – Jacob Oram
  • Pace bowler – Chris Martin
  • Pace bowler – Michael Mason
  • Pace bowler – Kyle Mills
  • Batsman – Lou Vincent
  • Batsman – Matthew Sinclair
  • Batsman – Scott Styris (also bowls)
  • Batsman – Jamie How
  • Batsman – Jesse Ryder (also bowls)

Note 3 keepers again – not hypocrisy – this can be done so long as they (Vincent & Sinclair) are genuine batsmen, and there enough batsmen able to bowl a few back-up overs.

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One Response to “Square driving cricket selectors”

  1. All too predictable « Square Drive Says:

    […] bowling the opposing side out (the reverse is true for tests). This question relates heavily to my earlier post highlighting the need for position based team […]

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