Aussie domestic structure still among world's best: CA
England system may currently be "working more effectively" but CA cricket operations and scheduling chief maintains Australian structure remains strong
21 May 2021, 05:07 PM AEST
Cricket Australia's head of cricket operations and scheduling, Peter Roach, concedes Greg Chappell's sweeping vision of a revamped domestic structure has merit, but maintains the current system remains among the world's best.
Chappell last week outlined to cricket.com.au a series of major changes, including a more concentrated block of the Sheffield Shield competition and an increased volume of 'A' games, he deemed necessary for Australia to ensure it stays apace with global rivals India and England.
At the crux of Chappell's critique was that Australia's cricket season would be vastly different if it were being designed from scratch today, particularly with the the prime December-January window once occupied by the Shield now firmly the domain of the KFC BBL.
Roach points out that changes to the men's domestic one-day tournament, including the addition and subsequent removal of the Cricket Australia XI, as well as tweaks to the Sheffield Shield final rules have shown the governing body's willingness to adapt in recent years.
While the CA XI experiment was short-lived, the changes designed to enliven the Shield final have been generally well-received.
Roach pointed out logistical challenges to some of the suggestions made by Chappell, who retired from his post as CA's national talent manager in 2019, but he admitted changes would be considered.
"Like anyone, I enjoy thinking about whether there's a better way to be doing what we're doing," Roach, who has overseen the jam-packed Australian men's and women's 2021-22 international schedule announced this week, told cricket.com.au.
"I think we'd be naïve to think our structure today, which is roughly the same as it was 10 years ago … is going to be right forever. Is it right today? There's lots of different opinions.
"What we do know is these things are spoken about often amongst the fraternity, of which Greg was an active part of until recently, and we'll continue to chat about them.
"What we do know is that there are a lot of countries that would give their left arm to have our male domestic structure – to have only six teams, to play 10 hard Shield games (per team each season) plus a final.
"England's system has from time to time been criticised for too many counties and playing too much, but maybe at the moment that system is working more effectively than ours and we need to take a look at that and see if there are things we can learn."
Chappell called for an increased frequency of games to be played by Australia A sides, envisioning an annual schedule of games to be played after the BBL either at home or abroad.
While pointing out strong 'A' sides have turned out in tour games against Pakistan and India over the past two seasons, Roach said it was difficult to find windows to schedule whole 'A' series, and it's a further challenge to find one without pulling out the best domestic players from existing competitions.
"Everyone sees the merit in a strong and vibrant 'A' series program that works in conjunction with a strong domestic program," he said. "Sometimes a reason for playing a lot of 'A' series is because you don't believe your domestic products are strong enough.
"I'm not casting aspersions on other countries that do or don't play A series – but we think our Shield cricket is as good as anywhere in the world, and 'A' series are best used to complement those."
Chappell's solution is for the Sheffield Shield to start earlier and finish before the BBL begins, but Roach says that could have a knock-on effect on the benefits of playing cricket abroad.
"We need to balance our own thinking with the opportunities that are created overseas for players. We've got the IPL and we've got the Hundred among others, we've got county cricket, which has forever and a day proved a great learning tool for Australian cricketers," he said.
"So if we started to move our season, it does come with ramifications in terms of what we can allow our players to go and experience, and it also shortens pre-seasons which are times when players can actively engage in improvements to their game, so there are some things to weigh up.
"At the moment we've got Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head and Marcus Harris, three of our top batsmen, playing county cricket. If you extend the Shield season, do they still get that opportunity?
"They're some of the things we just need to work through. It looks good with the blinkers on, but does it actually work with some of the other opportunities?
"We would also be lessoning the number of opportunities our players would get to play on our Test match venues (which aren't available in the football seasons). Do the benefits of moving the domestic season outweigh those?"
Roach admitted there were "valid questions" over the distribution of men's talent around the country, with Chappell suggesting less populated states could benefit from an Australian Football League-style draft system.
But Roach pointed to South Australia's renewed focus on interstate recruits, as recommended by a recent review into their high-performance program, as evidence there is a greater willingness than ever for players move for opportunities.
"We've seen that around the country for many years, not just the smaller states, there's been some movement in those bigger states as well," he said.
"So is player movement happening? Yes. Can it happen better? Potentially. Is it likely to happen more in the future? You would think so.
"Look at player markets around the world – players are moving more than they did 20 years ago. Is it moving as quickly as people thought? Maybe not.
"If I was looking to the future, I would think even with the current rules which as they stand do allow for pretty easy movement, there'd continue to be more movement rather than less."