England cricket coach Chris Silverwood in charge of selections as Ed Smith axed, Mark Taylor reaction

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Former Australian captain Mark Taylor has given a cautious tick of approval to England’s radical overhaul of its selection process, but warned the move has the potential to backfire.

England this week announced the axing of national selector Ed Smith, with the team to now be picked by head coach Chris Silverwood, who will work in consultation with captains Joe Root (Test) and Eoin Morgan (ODIs and T20s).

The managing director of the English team, former spinner Ashley Giles, explained the new structure would make lines of accountability much clearer.

“I don’t want to talk it down too much, even though it’s never been the model I would envisage for cricket,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports.

“In this era of increased accountability, if people are going to be holding Chris Silverwood responsible for how the team’s playing, you’ve got to give him every opportunity to choose the team he thinks is best.

“That’s the merit behind it, but it’s going to require people in and around that team to have strong adult conversations, and at the same time, not have the fear that there’ll be repercussions from those conversations, and that’s the hard part.”

Taylor reflected on the period in the mid-1990s when he took over as national captain, at a time when Bob Simpson was the most powerful figure in Australian cricket. Simpson was not only the coach, but a selector, a position that carried significant influence under the reign of Taylor’s predecessor, Allan Border.

By the end of Taylor’s time as captain, the coach (by then Geoff Marsh) had been removed from the selection panel, a move that was reversed a decade ago, with current coach Justin Langer once again given a seat at the table.

Usman Khawaja’s demise as an Australian player in recent years has coincided with suggestions of a rift between the left-hander and coach, and selector, Justin Langer.

The pair engaged in a heated discussion in the lead-up to a Test against Pakistan in the Middle East in 2018, Khawaja hasn’t played for Australia in any format since mid-2019.

He posted solid, if unspectacular numbers for Queensland this summer, but is rarely mentioned as a candidate for a recall.

And according to Taylor, it’s when there’s controversy over selections that it’s ideal to have the team at arm’s length from the selectors.

“I really liked that model from my time when, as captain and coach, we didn’t have a selection vote,” Taylor explained.

“Obviously we both had a big say in who was picked, but at the end of the day it’s up to the coach and captain to get the team to play its best.

“But if you’re officially on the selection panel, and there’s innuendo going around that you support one player over another, then that’s a huge burden to carry.”

Taylor noted that the increased amount of international cricket in recent years means the national captain plays less domestic matches than ever, while the time constraints on the coach means he’s unlikely to see as many games as an independent selection panel.

“The national captain sees very little domestic cricket,” he said.

“Yes, they’ve got a good handle of the national squad, but they don’t see a lot of players outside of that little world.

“The more you have the selectors in and around the national team, like the coach, the more you continue to just pick the same players, rather than looking outside the bubble.”

Taylor welcomed the move to make Silverwood accountable for the results of the team, but explained that the coach of a cricket team has much less influence on the outcome than the coach of a football team.

“The accountability that goes with coaching a team has needed to be increased, but cricket is a very different game than football in terms of how you account for wins and losses,” he said.

“There’s no doubt the captain of a cricket team has far more to do than the captain of a football team, regardless of the code.

“England might be increasing the accountability of the coach, but Test cricket goes for seven hours a day, for five days, and the coach doesn’t always have control over what’s happening in the middle, and nor should he.”

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