‘It’s a shame’: NSW cricket slammed selection policy
As the largest state with the strongest club competition not just in Australia, but arguably anywhere in the world, New South Wales traditionally produces the lion’s share of Australian representatives.
During the Boxing Day Test, former Australian fast bowler Stuart Clark blasted on ABC Radio, saying Cricket NSW was “fascinated with picking 19-year-olds and not those who have won the right to play”.
Look at BBL12. Every game live and commercial-free while playing on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
Clark sits on the board of the Sutherland District Cricket Club, home of Steve Smith, Shane Watson and young Sam Konstas.
As the lower level of national cricket, the freshman year is generally considered the traditional proving ground for future professional cricketers, but rubs shoulders with underage pathway and academy programs run by state associations.
Cricketers Josh Brown and Paddy Dooley have excelled in the Big Bash this season for the Brisbane Heat and Hobart Hurricanes respectively, exceeding all expectations.
Brown works full time making cricket bats, while Dooley is a corporate lawyer by day.
Players, coaches and grade administrators are furious with the situation in New South Wales, leaving players they believe deserve higher honors on the sidewalk and looking elsewhere for opportunities.
One top first-year hitter, who wished not to be named, told news.com.au: “I felt like I had no opportunity.
“I was told ‘we are watching you’, but with no feedback or movement.”
Another top first-year bowler said: “I feel like New South Wales won’t offer me anything no matter how I go this year.”
“I don’t know what they want me to do.
He says he hadn’t spoken to Cricket NSW for four years before he was recently named as injury cover in a representative game.
“When they select players who perform in first grade, it’s only at the end of the season in dead rubbers or when a lane player gets injured,” the bowler said.
“If you score one hundred in a national tournament against teenagers, you’re virtually guaranteed top honors or a contract.”
“It’s a shame right now,” said a first-year assistant coach.
“Certainly lanes given preferential treatment, grade results don’t mean anything.”
“They (Cricket NSW) feel they have invested in players and therefore feel compelled to select them,” said a managing director.
A first-year captain says the detrimental emphasis on lane cricket over open-age men’s cricket is not a problem unique to New South Wales.
“It should come as no surprise that the Stars and Renegades are the two worst performing teams at the Big Bash, and they are also both run directly by Cricket Victoria who have a vested interest in proving the viability of lane schemes,” he said.
The sustainability of selecting players as young as 12 for representative state teams who remain central to the elite path has also been questioned, with a freshman head coach saying “he has to have empathy for players who develop late.
“There are loads of players in first and second years who could play Big Bash or first class cricket tomorrow, who are not seen because opinions about them are formed when they are 13, 14, 15 “, the first- said the quality coach.
The perception that quality cricket is being pushed aside is not limited to the best players at each quality club, now officially called Premier Cricket after a 2016 directive on Cricket Australia.
Sam Perry, speaking on the Grade Cricketer podcast about Heat batsman Josh Brown, said: “I think quality cricketers have been really maligned on a professional level.”
“If you come to cricket and you don’t do 17s and 19s, you end up not being accepted by the commentators.”
“You would think he was playing barefoot in his driveway with a wheelie bin and a tennis ball,” Perry said.
Co-host Ian Higgins joked: “I think they should change the name to something maybe grander, like ‘Premier’ cricket.”
Chairman of Cricket NSW Managers and Head of Men’s Cricket, former Australia international Michael Klinger, said it was “very clear that if you do well in Premier Cricket, those who knock on the door will have those opportunities”.
Asked about Stuart Clark’s remarks on ABC grandstand, Klinger said: “Absolute respect for Stuart Clark and for his position in the game which is huge, but all he had to do if he wanted to was give me a call and have these talks.”
Klinger says there is a very clear communication structure between the head coaches of the 20 Premier Cricket clubs in New South Wales and the representative coaches.
“We have a feedback system that every head coach has access to, get back to me every week, and most coaches use it very well,” Klinger said.
“Every Monday I get information from the head coaches – what I ask them is information like wicket conditions, who have performed well from their team but especially from the opposition.”
Klinger says there are many examples of players going through the Premier Cricket system and being rewarded for their performance at this level.
“Blake Nikitaras is the perfect example, broke the gate with runs after returning from injury, got picked in the second XI, got hundreds there, then made his debut for New Wales from the South.
“Matthew Gilkes is another one I can vomit, he came back, did hundreds of Premier Cricket times – he even had a Shield game that ended on a Friday, then came back and got 200 balls on 150 to help UNSW win a game in a chase, and has been back on the Shield team ever since, all with a broken finger.
Asked about clubs such as Manly-Warringah and the Northern Districts which have had particular success in producing players who win representative honours, Klinger said: “The Manly and Northern Districts are part of a group of clubs extremely open and good in their communication with myself. and New South Wales coaches.
“They are very good at giving us feedback on how they and the opposing players are playing against them, they are two of the clubs that are leading the way.”
Klinger also says the selection committee, made up of himself as chairman, David Freedman, Anthony Clark and interim head coach Greg Shipperd, attends freshman games weekly.
“I went to Manly against Sutherland this week, and between three selectors and the coach, we see games every week,” Klinger said.
As for New South Wales sitting at the bottom of both domestic competitions at the moment, Klinger was optimistic about the Blues’ chances of making the Sheffield Shield final, and disputes that they are too reliant on youth.
“There are still four Shield games to go, if we win all four games we can still make a final,” Klinger said.
He pointed to the squad selected for the Blues’ last game against Victoria at the Junction Oval, which featured no players under the age of 23.
“Where’s the kid in there?” asked Klinger.
“We (also) have Greg Shipperd on an interim basis now, that will be a big influence, and there are now a lot of players pushing very hard at Premier and Second XI level.”