Out of touch administrators must listen to calls for reform, says Andrew Symonds

Ex-Test all-rounder Andrew Symonds says Cricket Australia has lost touch with the state of the game and must listen to the chorus of former greats pushing for immediate action or the abyss will only deepen.

The extended fall-out following the Hobart result has put renewed focus on not only the Test side but the roads that lead there, with Symonds one of many questioning the quality of modern grade and Sheffield Shield cricket.

That competition was once the envy of the cricketing world but has now been criticised as a warm-up act that fails to put prospects through the same prolonged wringer that forged stars such as the Waugh brothers and Mike Hussey.

The selection panel has been the first to see a shake-up in the wake of the demoralising defeat at the hands of South Africa, with Rod Marsh stepping down, Trevor Hohns stepping up as chairman and Greg Chappell returning to the fold alongside Mark Waugh.

It shouldn’t stop there, says Symonds, who played 26 Tests and 198 one-day internationals for Australia. He urged CA officials to do more than pay lip service to the flood of advice advocating a strengthening of the Shield format, which has historically hardened Test candidates before a baggy green debut.

“Cricket Australia need to start listening to some people that actually know the facts. They need to act … and act now. Otherwise, things are going to slide, things are going to get worse,” Symonds said.

“There is already a lot of mud being slung so things need to be rectified directly, for the sake of the game.”

This week has seen one of the most intense rounds of Shield cricket in recent memory, with genuine openings available for the Adelaide Test after CA forecast sweeping changes to a side that has now dropped five straight matches.

The Shield has come under increased scrutiny as selectors scour the landscape for fresh talent to fill the Australian batting order. Long gone are the days when candidates with back-to-back 1000-run seasons are screaming for a chance at the top level.

Symonds travels the country regions as part of his duties with the Bulls Masters program and has long been an advocate for finding and promoting country talent.

But he doesn’t believe the metropolitan club competitions are anywhere near as tough as they could be, with the flow-on effect a watered down Shield competition that demands much less from potential Test players.

“I don’t think club cricket is as competitive as it used to be. And Shield cricket isn’t as competitive as it used to be. In turn, that doesn’t breed as tough players, as resilient players. That’s what we’re seeing at the moment at the top level,” Symonds said.

Former captain Allan Border has been among those championing a return to a pathway system that few felt was broken, while others have blamed CA for poor scheduling that saw the Test team play just one four-day match before the first Test against the Proteas.

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