Even Lillee would need spell these days, says Charlesworth

ONE of Australia’s most versatile elite-level coaches, Ric Charlesworth, has emphatically endorsed Australian cricket’s contentious rotation-based selection philosophy.

The inclusion of Tasmanian bowling all-rounder James Faulkner for Monday night’s Twenty20 loss to Sri Lanka took the tally of Australian representatives this summer to 33 in the 13 matches played across the three formats.

The spread of appearances exceeds last summer’s tally of 29 players in 19 matches.

In the past five years the only season in which more players were used was 2010-11, when a total of 34 were selected in 18 matches as Australia unsuccessfully sought to reclaim the Ashes and then prepared for the World Cup.

Charlesworth, a former Sheffield Shield stalwart for Western Australia who has held top-level roles in cricket – he was New Zealand’s high-performance manager from 2005 to 2007 – AFL and hockey, hailed the emergence of fast bowler Jackson Bird in the summer’s last two Tests as a tangible benefit of not relying on a clique of elite players.

”It would seem to me that the workload, the number of games played in the different formats, [requires rotation],” he said. ”I was arguing in the 1990s we needed separate teams almost, and that’s started to emerge [now].”

”People don’t really believe they can do it until they’ve done it, and unless you provide them with a lot of opportunities you don’t find that.

”Unless people get an opportunity to play you don’t really find out about their mettle.”

Charlesworth played 47 first-class matches for WA between 1972 and 1979, juggling a domestic-level cricket career with an international-level hockey career that took him to four Olympics. He played more than half his matches alongside John Inverarity, now Australia’s chief selector, and about a third with fast-bowling great Dennis Lillee.

The former opening batsman said Lillee was the fittest and hardest-working teammate he encountered during his cricket career but nevertheless predicted that ”if he had to play all the [current] different varieties of the game and field with the quality that’s expected now, that it would not be an easy task at all for him”.

As coach of the national women’s and now men’s hockey teams, Charlesworth has been an advocate of rotation, on the basis that ”if you want a sustainable performance then you need depth and flexibility”.

”The spin-off from that was many more people believing – and knowing – they could do it,” he said. ”You never picked your best team until the big series or the big competitions. That’s one of the issues cricket has to face, that every time Australia plays there’s an expectation it has to win.”

Charlesworth lamented that cricket was ”neanderthal” in some areas, such as rotation and the depth of statistical analysis, compared with sports such as baseball. He commended his former teammate Inverarity for his much-derided emphasis on ”informed player management”, the term Inverarity prefers to rotation.

”There’s a whole range of people in Australian cricket who don’t think you need a coach. Either cricket’s wrong or every other sport in the world’s wrong,” Charlesworth said. ”In baseball you manage your pitchers. In cricket you manage your fast bowlers I would’ve thought, and even the spin bowlers depending on what their loads are. To be fit for bowling you need to bowl – I have no problem with that – but how much is the issue.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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