Hohns flags Australia ODI reinvention


Australia’s selection chairman Trevor Hohns has conceded what the 3-0 loss to England in the ODI series has made patently clear – the 50-overs team needs a complete reinvention in terms of personnel and playing style to be a factor at next year’s World Cup.

While the coach Darren Lehmann is yet to publicly admit that change is needed, Hohns has joined captain Steven Smith in stating that Australia must settle on a better combination of players and find a more up-to-date way of utilising them. They have failed to win 10 of their last 11 ODIs stretching back to last year’s Champions Trophy in England, where the World Cup is to be played in 2019. Australia’s ICC ranking in ODIs has slipped to No. 5, alongside a sickly T20I ranking of No. 7.

The move of Smith from No. 3 to No. 4 on Sunday, when Australia lost the first three ODIs of a home season for the first time since 2001-02, is a harbinger of further changes. Hohns said that the batting needed more hitting power, the bowling had to become more specialised and that offspinner Nathan Lyon is likely to be in the one-day reckoning.

“I think that’s the starting point. That is definitely a starter to what we’ll be doing in the future with Steven at four,” Hohns said in Sydney. “Now we need to make sure we’ve got other players in key positions to give us a little bit more hitting power in certain areas. Bowling-wise we’ve got to make sure we have specific and specialist one-day bowlers in our squad as well. We are trying to refine all that as much as we can. And very soon we will have to settle on a line-up that will take us forward.

“With what’s happened recently, we are reviewing how we’re actually playing the game and type of player that’s required in the one-day format. We haven’t played well in this series, we don’t seem to have been able to put it all together on the one day, there has been something lacking. We’ve got a bit of work to do there.

“With the World Cup in 2019, there is a lot of one-day cricket to be played between now and then. So, we will be trying very soon to get together the main nucleus of our squad so they can play together for some time. We are reviewing the personnel and also the way we’re playing the game.”

Hohns’ words about batting power are a clear indicator that Chris Lynn is set to play a bigger role provided he is fit, quite possibly moving into the No. 3 berth temporarily filled by Cameron White on Sunday. Lyon, too, seems likely to figure in the limited-overs squad in coming months, perhaps as soon as the tour of England in June. “He hasn’t been pigeon-holed at all going forward now.” Hohns said of the offspinner.

Following the loss at the SCG, Smith had said that he is set to stay at No. 4 for the remainder of the series, and that the team would continue to look closely at the way England had evolved as an ODI line-up since the 2015 World Cup. “They’ve certainly changed the way they play, no doubt about that,” he said. “The batters go very hard and Root looks like he’s the rock in the middle that just plays cricket and the others come out and play a lot harder.

“Whether we go down that sort of path, I’m not sure. Each team’s got to have their own identity and how they want to play, and I think the way we play our best is if we set ourselves up and give ourselves a chance at the back end to use the power we have. We see guys like Mitch Marsh and [Marcus] Stoinis, if they get the ball out of the middle of the bat, it generally travels.

“It’s about trying to have those wickets in hand to use the power at the end and we just haven’t been able to get ourselves in those positions often enough over the last 12 to 18 months. Just playing smarter cricket and executing our skills a lot better is a good place to start. I think I’ll probably do it [bat No. 4] for the rest of the series, we’ll see how we go, got to play some better cricket. It was about me trying to control the middle with the spinners and just keep getting off strike and tonight I wasn’t good enough at that.”

Sixteen years ago during his first stint as selection chairman, Hohns was instrumental in changing Australia’s limited overs set-up ahead of the 2003 World Cup. The most contentious element of this was in dumping the captain Steve Waugh and handing the reins to a younger Ricky Ponting, who then moulded his preferred side – notably investing in Andrew Symonds – to build towards a tournament where he was able to retain the trophy won by Waugh’s men in 1999.

At the same time as the ODI set-up is reviewed, Australia are muddling their way through attempts to improve the T20 team amid the restrictions created by a packed schedule. Mark Waugh, commissioned to be the specialist T20 selector by Cricket Australia’s team performance manager Pat Howard, pointed specifically to the fact that the nation’s best T20 players were being pulled out of the pointy end of the Big Bash League for the international triangular series as a prime example.

“I don’t think it’s ideal. You’ve got to ask people way above me why that’s not the case,” Waugh said. “Obviously the scheduling is so difficult. In an ideal world you would love to have the Australian players playing in the semis and the finals. It’s just the nature of cricket at the moment with the way the schedule is. I’m sure CA would want to have them there but just at the moment it can’t happen.

“It’s a bit awkward – the T20 fixtures – because there’s three formats and with the scheduling, at times, we haven’t been able to pick our full squad. And the difficulty is we’ve probably got five or six players who play in all three formats, so there’s always a bit of give and take. Although this team is probably not at full strength, I think it’s a great opportunity for some players to show how good they are. We’re going to need a squad, a good depth, to be a force in T20 cricket.

“We haven’t been that successful for a few reasons; scheduling, workload. The T20 World Cup is obviously a focus but there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then. Each tournament taken one at a time. We’ve got a strong side even though there’s a few players missing. Hopefully we can start getting some confidence by winning whatever tournament is in front of us and the World Cup will look after itself.”



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