Former BHP chairman Don Argus, whose landmark review of Australian cricket charted a course back to world domination. Photo: Nic WalkerEXCLUSIVE
Don Argus, whose landmark review of Australian cricket charted a course back to world domination, says there is no quick fix for the problems laid bare in India, and implored selectors and administrators to ”hold their steel”.
Although largely supportive of Cricket Australia’s efforts to implement many of the recommendations in the Argus review of team performance, tabled in response to the 2010-11 Ashes disaster, the former BHP Billiton chairman cautioned against panic, expressed concern about the lack of emphasis on spin bowling in the coaching structure, and warned the schedule of the Big Bash League must not detract from Australia’s Test objectives.
In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Argus said the report’s ultimate goal – to restore the Test team to No. 1 by 2015 – was ”absolutely” still achievable.
He said the harrowing results in India – defeats by eight wickets and an innings and 135 runs in the first two Tests – demonstrated how deep-seated Australia’s problems were to begin with.
”I think they have been quite bold in implementing a lot of the stuff and going down the recommendation path in the report,” Argus said. ”Everyone wants instant success … and the trouble when you go through a transition or succession phase is that impatience manifests itself into a bit of emotion.
”Up until this series, the guys have done pretty well in trying to unearth new talent and things like that. Everyone is going to have to hold their steel here to get the ultimate outcome, because if you start thrashing around in water then you drown, and up until now I think they’ve held it pretty well.
”I think India is probably the toughest environment of all to blood new talent and that’s what is happening over there.
”I’m not that despondent. I think it’s probably teaching the selectors a lot more about the strengths and weaknesses of the squad. I don’t think they could put together a better squad.
”They’ve tried a lot of people and you can add a few here and a few there, but they’ve gone about a process quite systematically that will
get us there in the end, but it was never going to be a short-term fix.”
Almost two years after the Argus report was released, its architect backed CA’s controversial injury management methods, and called on former players who criticised to ”give up their day jobs to offer their services to go and help”.
On selection, he said John Inverarity’s panel had, ”by and large”, adhered to his philosophy that dictated ”players must earn their positions in the time-honoured way of making runs, taking wickets and showing that they are ready to play at the next level”.
But he acknowledged the selection of Xavier Doherty for the second Test in India, after taking just two Sheffield Shield wickets at an average of 80 this season, was an exception.
”Selectors will sometimes make subjective judgments for whatever reason … I’m sure they can justify their selections. Up until probably that one [Doherty], they’ve stuck with what they’ve said they were going to do, and I think that has paid off for them,” Argus said.
”They’ve won in the West Indies, they’ve comprehensively won two series at home [against India and Sri Lanka, but also lost to No.1 team South Africa], and they go to the toughest environment in the world with an inexperienced side in those conditions, and it’s tough.”
Of the need to reduce the impact of the BBL on the Test summer, he said: ”If you deviate from your priorities, if you compromise on your plan … you’ll always get caught out. If Test cricket is the No.1 game, and we say it is, that’s the way it is.”
On coaching, Argus said there was scope for a dedicated spin coach on tour, a job currently performed by assistant coach and former wicketkeeper Steve Rixon. ”Whether they’ve got enough concentration on spin bowling is probably debatable … but if there’s a weakness, you’ve got to do something about helping to develop someone that can [address] that weakness.”
As Michael Clarke prepares to move up the order to paper over the batting woes, Argus said CA could only have prepared for the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey by resting star batsmen from the Test team, which would have provoked an even greater public outcry than rotating fast bowlers.
Argus said he had not given up on success in the Ashes this year and stands by the ambition of Australia returning to No.1 by 2015. ”I wouldn’t compromise on that at all. It’s like a five-year plan in a company – if you commit to something, you’ve got to get it, and all these players have committed to it.
”I don’t believe in blind faith. I believe in a lot of hard work, and it doesn’t come tomorrow. I think there’s a lot of effort going into getting this team to its goals. I’ve got great faith they will get to where they want to get to.
”Stay the course, but also recognise the challenges that are there. We tend to fall back into thinking we’ve still got this side with seven champions in it. Maybe that will come again, but that just doesn’t come overnight.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.