With Steve Smith’s leadership ban due to expire in April and Tim Paine, 35 next month, not going to be around forever, the subject of who will be Australia’s next Test captain is one that won’t go away. Oliver is right behind Paine but said CA must plan for the future. “I think Tim has done an outstanding job along with [white-ball captain] Aaron [Finch] and Justin [Langer] in setting a real direction for the team and establishing a real identity about how the team wants to play the game. I’m equally excited about the direction that Meg Lanning has taken the women’s team,” he said.
“I’m certainly hopeful that [Paine] can continue for a period of time to come. [But] I think we need to be considering our groups on and off the field now and in the future. What does our succession planning look like for the longer term? We’ll start to have those conversations as it applies to leadership and captaincy through the summer, and I’m certainly open-minded as to what the future looks like.”
THE FAST BOWLERS
The subject of how Australia’s world-class crop of fast bowlers should be managed is a polarising subject, as Oliver’s predecessor, former Wallaby Pat Howard, found out during his seven years in the post. It has again been a talking point this season with Olympic rowing gold medallist Drew Ginn, who is working hand in hand with Oliver as CA’s new high performance chief, suggesting limitations be placed on how often pacemen bowl at full intensity in training.
Oliver said players would be consulted as CA considered “how we might evolve” its approach to managing bowlers and avoiding injury.
“We want to keep optimising all the aspects of our training. If that’s full-intensity bowling or part-intensity bowling, that’ll all be part of the discussion of how we continue to develop pace bowlers over time,” he said. “The approach at the moment is to gather all the available expertise that exists in the system in Australia, and that certainly includes players.”
CA is close to finalising a new national selector to replace Greg Chappell and join Trevor Hohns and Langer on the panel. One area Oliver is keen to make strides in is the communication between selectors and players.
“The selectors are really engaged and open-minded about ways that we can practically improve that,” Oliver said. “But I think it’s fair to say that’s one of the things we hope to be able to improve over the coming months and years.”
Oliver knows Justin Langer well, having worked closely together in turning around the fortunes of WA as high performance manager and head coach respectively. Langer has been central to a period of significant change for Australia in the past 18 months but Oliver admitted he had a “huge workload” coaching across three formats and it was not out of the question that scenario could change after next year’s World Twenty20 in Australia.
“One of the initial observations I’ve had coming into the role is the intensity of international cricket and the complexity of the schedule and balancing three formats,” Oliver said. “That’s something we have to be very mindful of. But certainly, as it currently stands, he’s doing an amazing job across all three formats.”
THE WOMEN’S TEAM
Fresh from their Ashes victory in the winter, Meg Lanning’s team are ranked No.1 in the world in one-day internationals and Twenty20s and are eyeing a World T20 crown on home soil early next year. They have been boosted by the move into professionalism and Oliver said they could not be complacent despite many of their international rivals not enjoying the same benefits.
“I certainly think we should be incredibly proud of the Australian women’s team, who are leading the way in terms of on-field performance and setting a really high standard. We shouldn’t be apologetic about that,” Oliver said. “I think CA is paving the way for women’s sport more generally and in that context I’d expect that globally more countries would invest heavily into their female programs.
“Our female players are inspirational role models and the challenge is to make sure we continue to improve and not get complacent with where we’re at. The T20 World Cup at home is a very exciting opportunity to inspire the next generation of girls.”
The amount of cricket played, between bilateral series and the ballooning number of short-form leagues, is again a hot topic. The ICC has announced a desire for eight international men’s events in its next eight-year rights cycle from 2023. It comes after CA reduced the length of the men’s Big Bash League this season after it stretched well into February last summer.
“The schedule is a difficult puzzle to get right and a range of factors come into that,” Oliver said. “I certainly think domestically this summer, [CA head of cricket operations] Peter Roach and his team have done a very good job picking up some of the feedback from recent years and trying to balance that out in the way the schedule has been put together. But globally there are some interesting challenges on the horizon.”
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.