What The Matrix?

Posted on August 25, 2011 by

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Jarrod Kimber is the Editor of Spin Cricket and also half of the double act The Two Chucks. And that is while he is not authoring best-selling books and taking the mickey out of anyone and anything over at Cricket With Balls. Jarrod agreed to share his views on the recently released Argus report that took a comprehensive look at restoring Australia’s past success in the game. This interview was conducted Guest Contributor Sunny Mishra via email.

Sunny Mishra: The Argus Report suggests there is a silver bullet for fixing all that ails Australian cricket. What are your thoughts on Matrix management?

Jarrod Kimber: There are no magic bullets, except for those little vibrating ones. It’s a flawed, but also positive attempt to fix some of the problems in Australian cricket. By no means does it get anywhere near finding all that is wrong, but it is also not all bad. Look beyond the corporate wank speak and you can see they are trying to make Australian cricket more professional and ensure that someone is responsible. The problem is that it does not stop Cricket Australia (CA) from turning around and putting in another fantasist egomaniac like Greg Chappell into that job. Because behind all the “processes and skillsets”, the people that have been hired are not the best and the brightest but obvious and stupid. As for Matrix management, it seems like an outdated “let’s get the most out of our best people” style of happy-clappy, American business way of doing things. It sounds far more like ‘Matrix Reloaded’ than the original film.
SM: The national selector is now a permanent position and the captain and the coach have also been added to a 5-man selection panel. Can the latter be relied upon to make the right calls when it is unlikely they will have any first-hand experience?
JK: I suppose that all it is doing is changing the unofficial selections that Punter did and make it official. That said, Clarke is getting a tough gig. He has not made a test run for a while, is probably the least popular new captain in modern Australian cricket and now is made a selector. And who likes selectors ever? It’s odd to think that Steve Waugh who didn’t want to be a selector as well as captain, now believes it’s the best way forward. I don’t think it’s a great new system but compared to having Merv Hughes as a non cricket watching selector, it’s probably a step forward. It’s also a lot of people. I mean any more selectors and you might as well make it a reality show on Channel 9 with a phone-in voting system as Mark Nicholas babbles on to fill the time while Australia decides.
SM: What are your thoughts on the expanded role of the national coach? Is it fair to say that the role has now grown into a managerial position when the players really need is the coaching basics?
JK: I am not even sure what was the role of the coach under Tim Nielsen. According to our man Argus, the coach in the future should be involved in things like strategy and planning. So, um, what was Tim doing? Was his role to keep Katich from choking people? I don’t think a modern cricket coach needs to be a coach per se, they need to be a general manager or director of coaching. Australia has a bowling, batting and a fielding coach. Their roles are to make sure that players’ techniques are in order. Tim’s job is to make sure that his coaches are doing their jobs and that the captain goes out on the field completely ready for the situation at hand. It seems all Tim did was to be nice to the players and not annoy anyone. You don’t need a review to work out that as the coach he was in almost every way out of his depth. What the report does not get into is why he was given a 3 year contract in the first place. He had overseen a general decline without ever really admitting that anything was wrong.
SM: Do you believe there is a dearth of talent in shield cricket or is it that the talent is not being recognised and given a chance at the highest levels?
JK: I would say there is more young talent in Shield cricket now than there was five or even ten years ago, but I wouldn’t say it is in a better place. For all the talk of how shit Australian management has been, some of it has been luck. The U23 second XI competition may not have been the stupidest idea ever, but when it clashed with the exodus of senior players for the ICL, it turned very ugly. And no one did anything to rectify it. There always have been old Shield stalwarts who play on even though there is little chance of them making the team. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Siddons, Dodemaide, Scuderi,Tucker, Young, Marsh, Emery, McNamara, Cox, Hill, Love and Berry are names who played on with little hope, but made Shield cricket tougher. Now why aren’t the next crop of youngsters making the team? Well look at the average age of the Australian top order over the last couple of years. Other then brief flirtations with Smith and Hughes, it’s been pretty old. The bowling is a bit different as it is a younger set and Siddle got a break early, as did Peter George. I think as Michael Starc, Darren Pattinson, and Patrick Cummins get fit, we might see them get into the side more often. Still these guys are just making it now and there weren’t many young cricketers pushing for spots 3 or 4 years ago.
SM: From your experience in playing grade cricket in Melbourne, is it still a good pathway to selection or our young cricketers would be better served at the Center of Excellence from an early age? Are the states really interested in producing test players?
JK: My experience was mostly me being shit, so I am not sure it means much. I think different players need different things. I think some players are over-coached at academies and just need to learn by playing while others need that extra help and refinement. Warne was better without it, Hayden was better for it.  When I spoke to Craig Howard, he said that he never saw a spinner come out of the academy who was not worse than when he went in. I mean are young players even asked if they want to go the academy? Maybe their club coach or state coaches are better. There are some pretty good former cricketers coaching club sides in Australia. If I was a young leggie, I would probably want to play for Peter Sleep’s side in Adelaide rather than be shipped off to John Davison’s spin coaching academy.
SM: Do you think the players still believe in the primacy of test cricket? Is that still the ultimate goal for an up and coming cricketer?
JK: Now I could be wrong because it was a while ago and I generally take very little notice of things like this, but didn’t the Australian players when surveyed vote overwhelmingly that test cricket was still their favourite? Other than the odd special case like Dirk Nannes or Shaun Tait, it seems that even players like David Warner love test cricket. So why wouldn’t that be the ultimate goal? One day that might change, but for now I see no reason why test cricket shouldn’t be their number one priority. I would say the fans would want that as well. Also, one day cricket is dead again, isn’t it? And you can only play about two T20s a summer under the current ICC rules. It seems odd to think that either of those are going to be more important than test cricket. Either way it doesn’t matter because as long as they fix grade cricket, then everything will take care of itself. That’s
what the report says anyways.

You can also hear Jarrod talking to Gideon Haigh about the whole issue, here.

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Guest Post by Sunny Mishra

 Sunny is a keen Sehwagologist and even keener test cricket enthusiast. While he is not fixing the odd backyard game or learning the vagaries of LBW law, he is often found pointing fingers on Twitter.

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