Simon Katich speaks out: “Indecisive, inconsistent, ridiculous”

From The Australian, 11 June 2011

SIMON Katich has gripped Australian cricket by the throat and given it a fearful shaking. He claims inconsistency from selectors and administrators is partly to blame for the Ashes failure and labelled his axing as “absolutely ridiculous”.  The opener believes that years of incoherent selection decisions has destabilised the side and confused players, claiming he has spoken out in the hope that changes will be made. Katich said the use of a part-time selection panel on small wages was unprofessional.”You pay peanuts, you get monkeys,” he said.

The gritty batsman came close to quitting in the wake of his sensational axing on Tuesday, but resolved to return to cricket and captain NSW out of respect for his state teammates. Veteran cricket commentators said they had never heard a player – they are restricted by the fear of fines and of losing their place in sides – take aim at the administration in the way the opener did yesterday.

 Katich opened the dressing room door on years of frustration. The NSW captain appeared to speak for Nathan Hauritz, Brad Hodge, James Hopes, Jason Krejza, Phil Hughes and every other player who has been hurt by erratic selection policies in recent times. “There needs to be more consistency,” he said. “The facts are a week or two before the Ashes a squad of 17 was named. Now, in my opinion, if you can’t know what your best XI is a week before our biggest series then that to me reeks of indecision. The fact that we’ve had 10 or 11 spinners in the last three years, that to me is another indicator of the inconsistency in selection.” “There’s been rules for some and rules for others.”Katich was asked if he thought the selection merry-go-round during the summer had destabilised the side during the Ashes. “I have got no doubt it did and I am sure there are other players who would say the same thing because there are so many guys looking over their shoulders about whether they were going to play or not,” he said. “If you compare it to how England prepared, they were settled, they played the same team in all their warm-up games and it was no surprise that they had a very good campaign.”

Katich believes chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch’s claims about why they sacked him are a smokescreen.

“As soon as he told me the reason, which was what was being trotted out in the press about wanting the opening partnership to be bedded down for the 2013 Ashes, that got me steaming,” Katich said.

“To hear that when our opening partnership has been one of the strong points in the team and something that Watto (Shane Watson) and I enjoy doing.

“This is not just about me, it is about a number of players who have felt aggrieved at the way they have been treated by the selectors in particular and not just the selectors, but by Cricket Australia because there’s people above the selectors who make decisions on their futures and also the players’ futures because they ratify the decisions that are made.”

Katich believes he was dumped because he was 35 and there was a feeling the side could not carry him, Mike Hussey, 36, and Ricky Ponting, 36, but pointed out that India, the No 1 ranked side in the world, has even more senior players.

The batsman did not mention national talent manager and selector Greg Chappell by name, but pointed out that he had form in trying to axe senior players in the past. The opener took a swipe at Chappell, who was formerly the coach of India, when he was asked about the 38-year-old Sachin Tendulkar and his brilliant form.

“He is an inspiration to all of us older guys, because he was written off a couple of years ago, ironically by one of our selectors, and the fact is he has proved him wrong,” he said.

“He has gone out there and scored 200 in a one-day game – that’s a world record.

“Obviously, his last Test series was unbelievable – I think he averaged over 80. There is no reason why age should be a factor. It is your mind and your drive.”

Katich said the selection criteria had apparently changed since he began playing.

“When I got picked for my first tour, in 1999, you got picked because of your performance. Now it seems that that’s changed and it’s not only about performance, it is about potential,” Katich said. “As far back as I remember, the team was picked on trying to win the next Test match that we were there to play, obviously with an eye to the future. But the strength of Australian cricket has been about picking the best XI guys who were available at that time.”

Katich said he did not think his infamous 2008 dressing room spat with the new captain Michael Clarke had anything to do with his axing.

The chief executive of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland, said he understood Katich’s comments and that people were allowed their views but was unhappy that the selectors had been attacked.

“My view and the Cricket Australia board’s view is that it is right for people to be able to make their subjective judgments but it crosses the line when there are any suggestions about the integrity of individual members of the selection panel, the panel as a group, or the processes they engage in to make these selections,” Sutherland said.

“I am not necessarily saying Simon has entirely called them into question in that fashion but Cricket Australia stands by them in terms of their integrity and the process they go through.”

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