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Mickey Arthur’s new look Cricket Australia introduce alien approach

Australia coach Mickey Arthur's suggestion of introducing squad rotation could be a stroke of genius, writes Matthew Wiggins

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Squad rotation could help Australia cope with a hectic schedulePhoto: Paul, via Wikimedia

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Squad rotation is common in many sports but cricket is certainly not one of them.

Over a long, hard gruelling football or rugby season managers need to use the depth of their squad to keep players fresh and get the best results.

But Cricket Australia’s first ever foreign coach, who is part of a brand new set up, has proposed to introduce the alien concept to his side’s selection policy.

Mickey Arthur, who spent five years coaching South Africa, has suggested a squad rotation system may be implemented in order to manage players effectively through a prolonged playing schedule.

“We need to keep rotating guys through the summer because there is just so much cricket, guys are going to break down and we need others ready to come in at any given time,” he told Cricinfo.

The rotation system is not something the international cricket world has ever really seen before. Players have been rested for entire series’ in order to get some much-needed rest and relaxation but a game-by-game rotation has never really existed.

The introduction of central contracts allowed Test sides to manage the workloads of their players far more efficiently. No longer were players finishing a Test for their country before joining up with their club sides days later.

However, it is clear that Arthur, along with his skipper Michael Clarke and the remainder of the Cricket Australia management, have identified a rotation system as the best strategy to become successful in what has become a hectic cricketing schedule chocked full of Test matches and ODIs, with little time to recuperate.

This could be a stroke of genius from Arthur. Rotating a side that is desperately short on experience could ease the pressure on the group of young players currently selected. The policy would also allow Australia to blood many new players and ready them for the experience of Test match cricket.

Never again would Australia suffer a chasm like the one left when Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and co. called time on glittering careers. The replacements would have already featured and there would be no need for the infamous “transition period”.

However, not everyone is convinced. Mike Hussey spoke recently that he thought rotation could disrupt the form of a player as well as his confidence, but from Arthur’s message along with comments made by chairman of selectors John Inverarity, it seems the policy is imminent, set to stay and applicable to both batsmen and bowlers.

Aside from Hussey’s concerns there are other down sides too. Every football team is tarnished with at least one dire signing, a multi-million pound flop that did the squad no favours. There is a real danger that this could happen to Australia, aside from the multi-million pound wastage.

How long is a player given a run in the side for before he is rotated? What if Australia are too quick to select a player and waste too many Tests on him before moving on to someone else? Will ageing players need to play beyond their peak in order to add valuable experience to the side while younger players are rotated?

These questions clearly show that the rotation policy is entirely unknown in cricket. How Arthur and the selectors handle the situation will be interesting. The South African only introduced seven new players into the Test side during his five years as his national side’s coach but has called for maturity from the Australians in handling the prospect of being rotated out of the side.

Rafael Benítez and Claudio Ranieri, two of the most renowned squad rotators in football, will testify that keeping a squad of players happy is never an easy task. But if Arthur can get his squad to buy into the idea, it could not only see Australia rise to the top of world cricket again, but change the face of the sport forever.

If they don’t, Australia’s first foreign coach may also be the last.

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