Greats furious at Simon Katich sacking
Peter Lalor, in the Australian, 9 June 2011
LAST time Simon Katich was sacked he scored a 200 for his county, a 300 for NSW and then set a record for runs in a Shield summer. This time he put down the phone and tore up the training track, leaving the young NSW squad gasping in his angry wake. Heaven help the next bowling attack he faces. The Test opener received a call from selector Andrew Hilditch telling him his career was over in the middle of a Blues fitness drill at the SCG on Monday. A dark but determined cloud set over the session. Katich was a frightening sight as he processed the news and raged through a beep test. When it was done he had set the second fastest time for the squad. Not a bad performance considering he is coming off an achilles injury and the bloke who went better, Moises Henriques, is 11 years younger.
Former Australian greats lined up to condemn the decision to axe the best-performing batsman in the country yesterday. Michael Slater believes it’s Hilditch, the chairman of the selection panel, who should be sacked, not Katich. Radio host Alan Jones said the same thing, and so did a host of lesser-known voices on social media sites. Mark Waugh is dumbfounded and says Katich was just the man for the challenges ahead. Bob Simpson was of a similar mind. Slater, a former Test opener himself, said the more he thought about the decision, the angrier he got. “He’s got that guts, grit, determination; he is an old-fashioned cricketer” he said. “To me he sums up what Test cricket is all about. They have shown him no support whatever. Statistically for the past three years he has been our best performer, then he gets injured and doesn’t play for the rest of the summer. The new opening combination with the youngster (Phil Hughes) doesn’t set the world alight and we lose the series.”
Slater said he could understand if Hughes had grabbed his opportunity while Katich was injured, but that was not the case. “It hasn’t happened, it’s not even close to happening, so you are saying to the most prolific run scorer for the past three years ‘you are too old, move on. “The selectors are going down the worst line, the most dangerous line, and it has got to the point where Andrew Hilditch as chairman of selectors has to go. This is the final straw. It is a ludicrous decision.”
Simpson is a man uniquely qualified to comment on the situation. At the age of 41 he returned to cricket to captain NSW and Australia during the World Series division. He averaged 53.9 in his return series against India. Simpson was the man who helped Katich get his technique in order after Hilditch told the batsman in 2007 that he was finished in Test cricket. “I was shocked,” Simpson said. “When you are regenerating a team you are looking for three or four players who are reliable and will do their job and you start with the opening batsmen. If you have two great opening batsmen you are on your way.”
Cricket commentators around the world point out that the best batsman in the game last year was Sachin Tendulkar who is two years older than Katich. “Age shouldn’t be brought into,” Simpson said. “In Simon’s case he has proved himself and been successful since returning.” Katich and Shane Watson average over 50 as an opening partnership, a figure only beaten by Simpson and Bill Lawry. “I tell you it’s nice to be number three when you know the openers are going to do that for you,” Simpson said. “It’s the sort of start a young team — any team — needs.”
Waugh told Fox Sports that he too found it a hard decision to comprehend. “Given his record it’s got to be seen as a bit of a shock to everybody,” Waugh said. “I know he’s 35, but who’s to say he hasn’t got a good 12 to 24 months left in him? It’s a bit of a shock for sure. There are three or four circumstances that have come together and unfortunately he’s had to pay the price. “There are three guys over 35 in the top six; Mike Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Katich. Obviously that’s got a lot to do with it and the selectors don’t want three players leaving at the same time. “But who’s to say Hussey won’t be there in two years or Ponting or Katich? They might not go at the same time. There might be 12 months separating them when they do go.
“Shane Watson wanting to open and being so successful, that’s another factor. Phil Hughes coming back and making a century in the Sheffield Shield final, that’s another factor. And also his injury last year. All those circumstances have come to a bit of a head and he’s paid the price.” Waugh was dropped at 37 but says age should not be a factor. “There are some tough series ahead and that’s why it’s even more of a reason why it’s a tough decision to drop Katich because he’s been our most successful player at the top there,” he said.
Simon Katich takes swing at Cricket Australia selectors
Malcolm Conn, in Adelaide Now, 10 June 2011
TEST opener Simon Katich has slammed a national selectors’ decision not to renew his contract as “absolutely ridiculous”, saying “if you pay peanuts you get monkeys”. The 35-year-old was cut from Cricket Austra’s 25-man contracted players list for the 2011-12 season on Tuesday despite being one of the national team’s most consistent players leading up to last summer’s Ashes series. Katich didn’t hold back at a Sydney media conference today as he lambasted Cricket Australia and the selectors over their treatment of him and other players in recent seasons. Katich confirmed he had explored legal action for wrongful dismal. Asked about three part-time selectors on the four-man panel, including chairman Andrew Hilditch, Katich replied: “If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.” Selectors earning as little as $40,000 who combine their duties with full-time jobs are deciding the future of players earning up to $2 million.
Hilditch told Katich he had been dumped during a four-minute phone conversation on Tuesday. “It didn’t come as a total shock on Tuesday, only because I know how they operate, because I’ve been through this situation before,” said Katich, who was previously dropped from the team four years ago. “I’m extremely disappointed and frustrated at the decision but I also want to make it clear I know I’m not the only player to go through this in the last few years because of inconsistent selection policies.
“I’m just hoping something good comes out of this situation because I actually think the decision was absolutely ridiculous,” added Katich, who felt it was time for a full-time selection panel. Katich, who has scored 4188 runs at an average of 45.03 from 56 Tests, felt the decision to axe him was based on age not form but that hadn’t been stated for legal reasons.
Katich denied that his dressing room tiff with recently appointed captain Michael Clarke two and a half years ago had any bearing on his sacking. “I dont think that was an issue. We had a professional relationship.” Katich said he could not agree with the reason offered to him by selectors for not renewing his contract, given his opening partnership with Shane Watson has been mainstay of the team in recent years. “To be given the reason that it is because the opening partnership needs to bed down for 2013 (Ashes series) when …it’s been one of the bright spots of our team the last two years, I find it very hard to believe that,” he said.
Katich said a strength of Australian cricket had always been picking the best available team for the next Test. But he believed that policy had changed to look also at potential because the team had been losing and he was a victim of that. A serious Achilles tendon injury suffered during the second Test against England last summer hampered Katich’s recent performances. He said he had been working hard over the past six months with NSW medical staff to return to full fitness. “I certainly wasn’t going to waste their time if I wasn’t completely dedicated in making myself to being available and fully fit for the tour of Sri Lanka in August,” he said. Katich said he’d considered retirement but wanted to continue playing out of respect for NSW Cricket and his state teammates. “I want to repay that faith that they have shown in me and hopefully we can have a very good season coming up,” he said.
He was also considering an offer to play English county cricket and he did not actually shut the door on a return to international cricket. Katich said he’d take exactly the same approach as he did when he was dropped from the Australian team four years ago. “When it happened four years ago, basically my whole mind set was to go out and enjoy my cricket wherever I was playing,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to play for Australia again and I’m going to have exactly that same mindset. “I owe it to my teammates because when you walk out on the park you are not only representing yourself but your team and there’s no way in the world that I’m just playing on to make up the numbers.
“I’ve never played my cricket like that.” Katich announced he will continue to play for NSW out of respect for the state’s cricketers and administrators but admits that at 35 his international career is over.