Ashes not done, but eyes turn to new challenges
Australia's domestic summer begins later this week with off-field challenges to confront as well as those on the field
Andrew Ramsey at The Oval
15 September 2019, 12:41 AM AEST
The final reckoning of the 2019 Ashes remains in abeyance, although the headline numbers seem indelibly etched with a day or two to play, but already Cricket Australia's attention turns to the next challenges.
That is not so much the personnel needed to buttress Steve Smith's batting, to improve their horrendous DRS record and provide something for the team's overworked seamers and spinner to bowl at when the home summer gets underway.
For those not involved in the men's Ashes campaign scheduled to finish on Monday (should the fifth Test at The Oval run its full distance), that first engagement of 2019-20 is the Marsh (no relation) One-Day Cup due to start on Saturday (Sep 21).
The initial men's international fixture is the three-match Gillette T20 Series against Sri Lanka from October 27, while the Domain Test summer kicks off against Pakistan at the Gabba from November 21.
But before then, an enforced change must be made to the men's team selection panel with former Test captain Greg Chappell announcing earlier this year he would step down after the Ashes campaign.
With the T20 Internationals against Sri Lanka (plus a further three against Pakistan preceding the Tests) and Australia to host the ICC Men's World T20 tournament from October next year, the shortest format will now command a sharper selection focus.
CA Chief Executive Kevin Roberts indicated on Saturday that while the make-up of the selection committee was unlikely to undergo radical change, he expects the next iteration to reflect the ever-growing influence of the T20 game.
And while another ex-Test skipper, Steve Waugh, has repeatedly been mentioned as a valuable addition to the panel given his return to the team-fold during this Ashes series, Roberts claimed the key criteria were practicalities rather than personalities.
Waugh's twin brother, Mark, had been deployed as lead selector for men's T20 cricket prior to his decision to step down last year and Roberts noted it was an opportune time to include someone with hands-on T20 competition experience, not simply inject younger blood for the sake of generational change.
Selection chair Trevor Hohns boasts no direct T20 playing or coaching experience, while Langer's involvement in the 20-over game came through his title-winning tenure with Perth Scorchers in the KFC Big Bash League.
"Certainly we need to take into account the sorts of experience that are required," Roberts said prior to the resumption of play at The Oval on Saturday.
"If you look at the shape of the panel now, one of the things we'd like to have more of in the future is more experience in T20 games.
"Rather than targeting an individual person, it's really about determining what are the characteristics or capabilities we need among the panel and who are the people in Australian cricket who can fulfil those.
"I think it's knowledge of the T20 game, whether it be playing, coaching, and various other roles in the T20 game.
"So I probably wouldn't describe it as generational change (to the panel) but I would absolutely say it is a matter of having a really deep knowledge of T20 cricket.
"A lot of Australians have been involved in the IPL (Indian Premier League) and the BBL (in Australia) as well.
"Some of those are young, some are not so young. Really, it's about the experience they've had as opposed to when they might've been born."
While the immediate post-Ashes public discussion is likely to revolve around Tim Paine's captain's call at The Oval coin toss, and the decision to stick with the foot-weary new-ball attack in that game despite having fresh soldiers in the sheds, the broader debate will examine more strategic matters.
As has been faithfully documented, the 2019 Ashes retention blueprint represented a triumph of long-term planning and logistical expertise.
The four-month UK sojourn, which included the ICC World Cup, also brought an increasingly visible role for men's team mentor Steve Waugh and another former skipper, Ricky Ponting, in a short-term stint as specialist ODI assistant coach.
Roberts acknowledged that the workload imposed upon men's team coach Justin Langer in the wake of the Cape Town controversy and the unprecedented demands posed by the extended northern summer could not be sustained.
To help his rest and reinvigoration, Langer will take a deserved break in Bali with his wife, Sue, at the end of the Ashes before turning his focus to the Australian season.
Roberts conceded that so intense have been the demands on Langer and others in leadership roles within the men's team that the sort of support provided by Waugh and Ponting would become a crucial element of the coaching structure's "evolution".
Although he stressed that any tweaking of the current set-up would not involve wholesale changes, such as separate coaches for the individual formats.
"I would envisage we'd see more of that type of thing (Waugh and Ponting's involvement) so that you have a permanent coaching staff and then you have the experts being plugged in at certain times over the journey," Roberts said.
"I think it's been really important that Justin had his hands on the wheel for these first 18 months or so that he's been in the role, but as we look forward we need to keep evolving that model.
"Justin's the head coach of the Australian men's cricket team, and that's absolutely the way that we wanted.
"But we're conscious of his wellbeing and the wellbeing of all of the support staff, as we are of the players too.
"We'll keep evolving, but it's not something we've thought about turning on its head or anything like that."
Alongside Langer, the heaviest on and off-field burden over the past 18 months has been shouldered by Paine, who inherited the captaincy amid the darkness and despair of Cape Town.
Having led Australia's successful retention of the Ashes urn, and found some belated batting form during the decisive fourth Test at Old Trafford, Paine has proved his value and quietened most of his critics.
In addition, the form woes that have afflicted recent appointees as Test vice-captains Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head plus the heavy workload undertaken by other deputies Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood leaves selectors with few alternative options as skipper.
With Steve Smith unable to hold a leadership position for a further six months, Paine will continue as Test captain (fitness willing) for at least the coming Australia summer with Roberts' full endorsement.
"I don't think there's another leader in Australian men's cricket who could have done the job that he's done over the last 18 months," Roberts said of Paine, who became the first Australia captain in 18 years not to oversee a losing series against England in the UK.
"We've just been so happy with the way that he's led from the front and there's no thought on succession planning at this stage.
"He's got our support to keep leading from the front the way that he has done so far."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: Australia won by 185 runs at Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval