'Selectors don't talk to me': top order battle frustrating players

Relations between players and selectors are again being tested as the intense competition for places in the Test side reaches its climax in the next few days.

Australia's top order selection battle has provided great fodder for the media and generated tremendous public discussion, but the tension is mounting in dressing rooms around the country.

You can understand why selectors wanted to put batsmen on notice and to "know there is pressure", as Cricket Australia's team performance boss Pat Howard said in the days before the start of the Sheffield Shield. After all, they will face even more scrutiny once the Ashes start.

But The Tonk is hearing of growing angst among players unhappy with the uncertainty and lack of communication coming from Trevor Hohns' panel.

Usman Khawaja and Ed Cowan are among those who have publicly questioned selectors in recent weeks but there are even more murmurings behind the scenes - even before there are winners and losers.

Wednesday is shaping as D-day as that will be when players will be told of their selection, or non-selection, for the first Test, before the public announcement on Friday.

There are some who believe two rounds of shield cricket on top of what selectors should already have gleaned from previous seasons should have sufficed.

The lack of communication from selectors is also a source of frustration. This is a problem not limited to this selection panel. It was highlighted as an issue in the 2011 Argus review, which said the "evaluation of, and communication with, individual players" was a "critical responsibility" of the selection chairman.

The Tonk has been told a story of one fringe player who, when asked if he had heard from Hohns' panel, said, "selectors don't talk to me".

Given that building relationships has become a key factor for successful coaches in other sports, it is hard to fathom how cricket has allowed its players to feel they are not getting enough feedback from key decision-makers.

Players have been left bemused by some selectors watching shield games remotely, particularly Fairfax Media's story about national talent manager and selector Greg Chappell missing a shield game to play at a charity golf event. Although this was signed off by Howard, players are wondering how the shield can be so important for Ashes selection yet not warrant precedence over a golf event, albeit one in the name of charity. Some are seeing this as another example of how players are treated differently to CA staff.

Women covering ground

Big pay rises and now the first-ever day-night Ashes Test played by cricketers of either gender - the women's game has certainly come a long way.

The strides made are articulated as well as anyone by former Australian captain Belinda Clark, who was at North Sydney Oval for the first day of the Test on Thursday and the night before became the first woman to be inducted as an honoree of the Bradman Foundation.

She told attendees of the gala dinner at the SCG of a weather-affected one-day international between Australia and England at Lord's in 1998. "When it began to rain the covers came on and they went on the wicket two over from us. It was the [Middlesex men's] county wicket and there was a game on the next day or the day after," Clark said.

The Marylebone Cricket Club had that year taken ownership of a newly designed hovercraft cover and it was "flown" to the county strip promptly.

"After they'd finished that they dragged a big sheet out and covered our pitch," Clark said, explaining that the women had to be content with the old-school hessian and tarp covering.

"It was a little bit frustrating, but we won so that made it better."

Train wreck revisited

Just in case they had forgotten the torture of losing 5-0 the last time they were out here for a Test series, England have been offered a revealing retrospective of that horror tour from the voices of those that endured it. The recounting of a fiery team meeting in Brisbane by Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar and Boyd Rankin rams home just how successful Mitchell Johnson had been in eroding the confidence of Alastair Cook's tourists.

Panesar, speaking to the BBC, said "verbals were exchanged" and coach Andy Flower and batting coach Graham Gooch were involved in the heated discussions.

"In the team meeting I said, 'if we don't admit this bloke has got the wool over our eyes, a quick left-arm and we don't know how to play it, we'll lose 5-0'," Swann said.

"It was almost like a finger-pointing session. Gooch had a go at me and Broady for not scoring many runs. And as Stuart pointed out very succinctly, we go in at eight and nine for a reason. If we go in at 300-6, we'll get you another 100 runs. If we go in at 80-6 and Johnson's only bowled three overs, we're not, mate.

"And that wasn't taken well. 'Don't blame our batsmen, it's your fault, you've got to chip in down the order'. The wheels had fallen off: who can we blame?"

England's capitulation was perhaps best summed up by Rankin, who watched the carnage from beyond the boundary until getting a start in Sydney for what remains his only Test.

"It felt like they didn't know what to do about Johnson," Rankin said. "I remember somebody said, 'I'm not sure I'm at the races, I might be better packing it in'."

Poms spun out

Daniel Fallins, the young leg-spinner who wreaked havoc against England on the first day of their tour match in Adelaide and ended up with a five-fer to remember, was almost overshadowed by his father when he made his List A debut at Hurstville Oval three weeks ago.

The 21-year-old's old man, Peter, won rave reviews for sticking out his left mitt to take a one-handed grab in the crowd off the third of three straight Matthew Wade sixes for Tasmania against the Cricket Australia XI in the JLT Cup.

The limelight is certainly back on Daniel after the impact he has made against Joe Root's men in his first-class debut.

Cricket in the blood

Speaking of family connections, the new SCG grounds manager Justin Groves, who started on Monday, has a decent one. He is the grandson of the late Phil Ridings, the Australian Cricket Board chairman of the early 1980s, who as a batsman and captain of South Australia many years earlier was held in such high regard that he had the south gates of Adelaide Oval named after him.

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This story 'Selectors don't talk to me': top order battle frustrating players first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.