Shane Warne was clearly a pretty decent cricketer in his day, but what he knows about cricket administration could easily fit on the back of a prescription for weight control drugs. We’ve gone out of our way to avoid writing anything much on the Warne Manifestos, largely because since everyone else on the internet has taken so much joy in laying the boot in over them, we didn’t think there was much point. That and the fact we’re far too busy hassling gin companies over Twitter to send us free samples (free samples received: zero).
But one point does need to be taken to task, particularly in light of Australia’s barnstorming run to finish off their domestic international season. In the first part of his proposed six billion part manifesto (at least till he gets bored of the whole thing), Warne claimed that ‘rotating and resting players will never work’. In an article teeming with self aggrandising bullshit, this really took the cake. Rotation does work and has been proven to work. Why else would Australian cricket have employed it for well over a decade (i.e. from well before they went to shit), and the policy have similarly been adopted by every national association the world over?
We should make it clear that we’re not saying there is no issue here, when clearly there is. Over-working players is a concern, just as is under-working them. Particularly in the case of fast bowlers, playing consistent cricket helps them become accustomed to the workloads the sport places on their body, but too much cricket also risks complete break down. This is why rotation is a delicate issue that needs the input of not just sports scientists but also ex-professionals to be handled properly. But to say rotation doesn’t work is patently ridiculous. Why doesn’t Warne ask Dennis Lillee for his opinion on the matter? We’re pretty sure Dennis would have loved for there to have been a rotation policy in place back when he was playing.
But an even more relevant example can be found in the way the Australian team has closed out their domestic season. This has been a pretty shitty season for Australia as far as injuries go, which has meant far more players have been selected than the selectors would have wanted. We can only assume the call-up of Kane Richardson was the result of a desperate last minute consultation of an ouija board, since it clearly had nothing to do with cricketing reasons. But whatever the reasons for it, the heavy rotation of players has meant that Australia are now absolutely buzzing at a time of the season where they are usually being run into the ground by more enthusiastic touring outfits. Those currently in the ODI squad don’t have one eye on the tour to India, but are playing for their spots here and now, and it’s having a tremendously positive impact.
Warne claimed that rotation leads to the players becoming insecure and selfish. In certain circumstances that is probably true, but it’s not what we are seeing here. Sure the Windies haven’t been all that competitive, but that’s largely because their hosts have not let them be (and the fact that most of the Windies are more interested in picking up Twitter followers than scoring runs). Instead of facing a team worn down by six Tests, five ODIs and two T20s, the tourists faced an outfit that charged out of the blocks ready to make an impression. That’s the sort of outcome that a well managed rotation policy can provide.
Despite this success, this is a discussion that won’t soon disappear particularly when people keep sticking a microphone in front of outspoken ex-players like Warne. We imagine Jeff Thompson isn’t a fan either, but happily everyone learnt to keep microphones well away from him long ago. There is a danger also of the debate merging with another of Australia’s recent fads, that of playing horses for courses. During the Ashes tour in particular Australia will seek to play an XI best suited to each particular venue, a fact some will no doubt jump to label as rotation. Particularly if they play as badly on that tour as everyone is predicting.
The policy of sending half the squad to India early may well prove to be a stroke of genius, in that not only has it given them more time to acclimatise, but has also allowed more options to emerge in the ODI series against the West Indies (or, in the case of Adam Voges, re-emerge). Australia’s batting depth suddenly looks a hell of a lot better than it did even six months ago, when it appeared to be pretty much just David Hussey waiting in the wings. In the lead up to the Ashes, whether you think this is a good thing or not probably depends on where your allegiances lie. But in the meantime it has made Warne look really, really, stupid. And that’s something everyone can enjoy.