Qantas Tour of South Africa
There's no issue with communication: Hohns
Australia's National Selectors clarifies reasoning for overlooking Chadd Sayers for South Africa and player communication
30 January 2018, 12:25 PM AEST
Chair of Australia's National Selection Panel Trevor Hohns has refuted the enduring belief there is a 'pecking order' from which Test teams are chosen and clarified the communications protocols with players that have been questioned in recent weeks.
Hohns described as "a bit of a nonsense" the criticism of selectors' communication with players that arose after South Australia seamer Chadd Sayers was overlooked for the upcoming Qantas Tour of South Africa and then voiced his disappointment at not being told why he was left out.
But Hohns, whose panel attracted significant criticism prior to the Magellan Ashes Series in which their reshaped team ultimately triumphed 4-0, explained the rationale behind the selection of the 15-man touring party for South Africa.
And he conceded it was "unfortunate" that he had missed a phone call from Sayers when the South Africa touring party was announced because he was aboard a flight, and that Sayers had then conducted a radio interview in which he aired his disappointment before the pair had an opportunity to speak.
"Most players know these days that I don't mind if they have a gripe in their (media) interviews, but at least talk to me first or wait until I've spoken with them," Hohns told Melbourne radio station SEN's Gerard Whateley today.
"There's no issue with communication as far as I know.
"Every player around the country, if they feel aggrieved or they want some feedback, it's an open line of communication and we even encourage state coaches to encourage their players to ring me directly.
"They have my number.
"Our communication lines are quite stringent – we ring players who are in the side, and we also ring players who are dropped out of the previous side.
"I think the communication issue is a bit of a nonsense at the moment."
The fact that Sayers, who has been the leading wicket-taker in the JLT Sheffield Shield over the past three seasons, was not a member of the Ashes squad meant he was not among those contacted directly by selectors when the South Africa touring party was named.
Hohns said selectors chose teams and squads depending on the requirements for each playing XI in the unique conditions that they face, rather than according to a non-existent 'pecking order' whereby players were supposedly ranked and simply slotted in when the next vacancy arose.
As a consequence, the much-scrutinised bowling selections for the four-Test South Africa campaign were made with like-for-like replacements named as cover for the four front-line bowlers who had performed so well during the Ashes.
Given that pitch conditions in South Africa are expected to be similar to those in Australia, uncapped Western Australia quick Jhye Richardson was named as back-up to pace pair Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins because he consistently bowls at more than 140kph.
Sayers does not fit that bill, but is considered a seam option should Australia's top-ranked Test bowler Josh Hazlewood break down.
However, Tasmania's Jackson Bird is also viewed as a like-for-like replacement for Hazlewood and was part of Australia's Test touring teams to India and Bangladesh last year, as well as an inclusion for the fourth Ashes Test at the MCG when Starc was injured, and was therefore preferred for South Africa.
Hohns had previously explained that the same rationale applied to the selection of left-arm spinner Jon Holland for the South Africa series as he was rated the next-best front-line spinner behind Nathan Lyon although he is not expected to play unless some mishap befell the incumbent spinner.
"There's no such thing, I don't believe in a pecking order," Hohns said today.
"It's a matter of who suits what we want on any given tour or for any given Test match.
"In Australia, because the team performed so well during the Ashes series, obviously those players were going to be retained (for South Africa) and they deserved to be retained.
"Then we look at what other type of player we need.
"In Chadd's instance, he's operating in a territory where there's Jackson Bird for instance, and he (Bird) was the reserve bowler all through the summer, all through India (last year) so he probably had the jump on him (Sayers) there.
"There's always going to be conjecture and discussion about who should and who shouldn't be in the side.
"We expect that, and quite frankly I encourage it because it's good if people are talking about the game.
"But certainly some criticism at times possibly isn't warranted."
Hohns rated the Ashes campaign as "a resounding success and probably better than we could have expected or hoped for", but conceded the Gillette ODI Series that followed – which England won 4-1 – was disappointing.
Despite being the reigning World Cup holders in ODI cricket, Australia's failures in past weeks sees them slump to fifth on the world rankings in the 50-over game, and they are now also rated number three in Test cricket (behind India and South Africa) and seventh in the T20 format.
It means they must find considerable improvement in all three formats if they are to reach their publicly stated ambition of being the number-one ranked nation across all three genres, with the Australia women's team also currently ranked number two behind England.
Hohns said today one of the keys to finding that improvement for the men's outfit was to reduce their reliance on captain Steve Smith (player of the series in the Magellan Ashes) and his deputy David Warner, both of whom struggled for consistent runs during the Gillette ODI competition.
"We can't rely on him (Smith) and we can't rely on Davey Warner all the time," Hohns said today.
"So the others now need to step up to the plate and really start to perform consistently for us."
Qantas tour of South Africa
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Jon Holland, Jhye Richardson.
Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3