Holding the Ashes is a wonderful thing.
Not holding them is a form of purgatory which tortures the soul and provokes unusual behaviour. England had 16 years of it until 2005 and a couple more after 2006.
But now it is Australia's turn and their suffering is boundless, which would be a cause for grave sorrow if Englishmen were not too busy laughing. Australian cricket was in turmoil yesterday after an extraordinary outpouring by the opening batsman, Simon Katich.
In 20 minutes of controlled fury, Katich lambasted the selectors for declining to offer him an international contract for the coming year. It was much more than the usual bleatings of the deselected sportsman as he laid waste to the entire system of picking teams and emphasised that the players had ceased to trust the men who do the job.
A review, the common port for sporting bodies in a storm, is already under way and is expected to be completed in August. Katich's aggrieved stance in Sydney suggested that it may have much to consider.
His main grouse was that the selectors, including the chairman, Andrew Hilditch, who was reappointed last month, are part-time. Clearly unhappy that these men are sitting in judgement on players' careers he said: "When you talk about money you get the best in the business for paying. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys."
The decision not to renew Katich's contract with Cricket Australia has been heavily criticised by most commentators since it was announced on Tuesday. Although he is 35, Katich has formed a successful opening batting partnership with Shane Watson in the past two years.
He played in the first two Tests of last winter's Ashes series, scoring 50 in Brisbane, before being injured in Adelaide. It now seems certain that match will be his final Test.
The selectors said they wanted a new opening partnership to bed down before the 2013 Ashes series in England, conclusive proof that when you do not hold the Ashes you obsess about them to the exclusion of all other cricketing issues. England did likewise until 2005, but now they have won them twice in a row they fancy concentrating on such mere trifles as becoming No 1 in the world.
Katich averages 45 in his 56 Test matches but has averaged 50 since he began opening three years ago. "I'm extremely disappointed and frustrated with the decision I found out about on Tuesday," he said. "But I also want to make it clear that I know I'm not the only player who has gone through this in the last couple of years due to inconsistent policies. I just hope that something good comes out of this situation because I actually think the decision was absolutely ridiculous."
Although he intends to continue playing for New South Wales where he has been a successful captain, it is unthinkable that he could now resume playing in Test matches. It was clear going round Australia last winter that he is viewed as the country's most astute captain and many good judges would have selected Katich ahead of Michael Clarke when Ricky Ponting resigned.
An anomaly of the selectors' list of contracted players is that both Ponting and Mike Hussey, nine and three months older, have been included. There is, however, a strong accent on youth with fast bowlers Patrick Cummins, 18, who has played only three Sheffield Shield matches and James Pattinson, 21, handed contracts.
Katich said that although full-time selectors had been talked about nothing had happened. He derided the selection of abundant spinners in the last three or four years as an indicator of inconsistency and also criticised the squad of 17 picked for the first Test of the Ashes last winter.
"In my opinion if you can't know what your best 11 is a week or so before our biggest Test series that we play in the Ashes, that to me reeks of indecision," he said. "This is not just about me but a number of players that have felt aggrieved at how they've been treated by the selectors in particular. Not just the selectors, by Cricket Australia.
"I'm one of a number of players that will be in this situation. Having spoken to Paul Marsh, the ACA [players' union] boss, there's actually no course of appeal against this happening. As a player we've got absolutely no way apart from legal proceedings to answer back."
Katich said that he and his manager Robert Joske had seriously contemplated legal action using unfair dismissal laws. But they decided eventually that he should air his views publicly.
The Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland, said it was unlikely Katich would face disciplinary action. He will be much more concerned about how Australia might regain the Ashes without him.Reuse content