Soul-searching Australia turn to former captains

Former Australia captains Allan Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh will join a review panel charged with finding ways to make the national team more competitive following their humbling Ashes defeat to bitter rivals England.

England retained the coveted urn after handing out three innings defeats in the five-Test series that concluded in January, stunning the national side and sparking calls by local media and pundits for an overhaul of the game’s administration.

The panel is to be chaired by prominent businessman Don Argus, a former chairperson of resources giant BHP Billiton, with former International Cricket Council and Australian Cricket Board chief Malcolm Speed as deputy chairperson, Cricket Australia (CA) officials told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

“I do want to stress that this review is not about individuals,” CA chairperson Jack Clarke said. “It’s about setting up processes, structures, systems to give Australian cricket the best chance of sustained future success. It will not be a witch-hunt.

“We normally do a review anyway, but not such a high-profile review.
We haven’t done it for some time.

“Australians don’t like losing; I don’t like losing either I’ve got to say.

“There’s no point sneaking behind a bush to do this, we’d much sooner be up front and tell the public what’s going on.”

Record streak
Border, who took over from Kim Hughes in 1984/85, helped Australia turn their fortunes around after a lean patch in the early and mid-80s, before handing the reins over to Taylor, who cemented Australia’s status as the world’s top Test side throughout the 1990s.

Waugh carried on Taylor’s success from 1998/99, captaining a team many regarded as one of the best of all time, while leading Australia to a record streak of 16 Test victories before his retirement in 2004.

Although enjoying initial success under current captain Ricky Ponting, Australia have struggled to replace a golden generation of players including bowling greats Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, who retired in 2007.

The team has slumped to fifth in the ICC Test rankings, but are still holding on to their top ranking in one-day cricket and are in the process of trying to defend their World Cup title in the subcontinent.

Clarke denied the review was a concession that the game’s administrators had failed to manage Australia’s transition.

“I don’t think it’s an admission of anything. I think it’s just prudent corporate practice whether you’re running a cricket organisation or running BHP, to be quite frank.”

“At no time in history have we had so many great players leave at once. Australia have been in this place before, but have always got out of it.

“We want to make sure we get out of it very quickly and have a rosy future.”

The panel’s findings were expected to be passed on to the board in the second half of 2011, Clarke said, adding that separate reviews into the governance of the game and into CA’s finances would be carried out concurrently.

Australia’s struggles in the Test arena have seen pundits and former players line up to criticise the game’s custodians over issues ranging from team selection to talent development.—Reuters

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