IN LEAVING open the door for axed batsman Simon Katich to rekindle his Test career, former schoolmaster John Inverarity suggested he would bring a clean slate to his job as Australia's full-time national selector.
Inverarity, Cricket Australia's surprise choice to replace Andrew Hilditch as chairman of the revamped selection panel, outlined his selection principles at the same moment Katich notched a Sheffield Shield century against Victoria at the SCG.
Though he declined to cast judgment on decisions made by the departing selectors, he gave an emphatic answer to questions about the 36-year-old whose slicing from the contract list this winter brought criticism of Hilditch's panel to a crescendo.
''As far as I am concerned, the door is closed on no one,'' he said.
Inverarity, 67, played six Tests for Australia and holds no grudges against the selectors of the time despite boasting a formidable record at Shield level. ''I would have played a lot more Test matches if I had played better and been a better player.''
It is less well known that he came within one board vote of being named Test captain after Bill Lawry's sacking in 1970-71, but was overlooked in the end because he had not made enough Shield runs that summer to command a place in the team.
Inverarity has been out of cricket for six years, in which time he has been a college warden at the University of Western Australia, and it was his rapport with young people as a teacher of maths and university educator that helped him get the job ahead of more fancied candidates like Trevor Hohns, Rod Marsh, Geoff Lawson and Tom Moody, despite his advancing years.
Inverarity, whose three-year term includes two Ashes series, also foreshadowed a more stable environment for young players entering the Test team, pointing to Steve Waugh as an example of benefits of persevering with the right young players. Teen pace sensation Pat Cummins promises to be one of those players.
''Selection is based on merit, you select on expectation of how that person is likely to perform and contribute to the team. At the same time you have to invest opportunity wisely,'' he said.
''For example, as I recall Steve Waugh didn't do particularly well for a number of Test matches but opportunity was invested in him and as it turned out it was invested very very wisely because there was obvious identification there of talent, not only talent but the right character and attitude that was going to come through.''
Inverarity will start selecting teams after the Test series in South Africa, and before then will help pick two part-time selectors to join him on the panel with captain Michael Clarke and the new head coach. His immediate assignments include a home summer featuring Tests against New Zealand and India, but his most delicate task will be rebuilding for the future.
''Any side you are selecting … you select for that next week, later in the season, later in the year, the next year and probably two or three years hence,'' he said. ''Youth is the lifeblood of all sports, so you need to keep an ideal balance in terms of age profile and how much longer people have got in their careers. You need to exercise very good judgment, invest opportunity wisely.''