Cricket 2023: Jason Sangha defends NSW Blues selection policy, criticised for prioritising pathways players

New South Wales Blues batter Jason Sangha has responded to recent criticism of the team’s selection policy, saying it’s “easy to deep dive” when results aren’t going your way.

The Blues sit at the bottom of the Sheffield Shield ladder, going winless from seven games so far this season, and have come under fire for the culture of selecting players out of the alternative underage pathways programs rather than the traditional methodology of men’s grade cricket that has served the state so faithfully as the most successful in the country.

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Earlier in the summer, Cricket NSW came under fire from former Test paceman Stuart Clark, who said on ABC Grandstand the Blues were “fascinated with picking 19-year-olds and not those who have earned the right to play.”

Speaking to at the launch of Asics’ new Nimbus 25 runner, Sangha said the “pathway was there for a reason”.

“It’s there to produce the next crop of young players for New South Wales, and identify the next talented bunch of guys,” he said.

Sangha defended the group of players involved at the top echelons of the professional game in New South Wales at the moment, saying the players had to be trusted to “put their best foot forward.”

“If you look at the pathway system and what it’s been able to produce in the last five or six years, it’s produced some really good players who’ve gone on and dominated in the professional environment,” he said.

“New South Wales has never ever been short of producing talented young cricketers, the challenge is identifying them.

“Tim Ward is doing well in Tasmania, Henry Hunt in South Australia, it’s hard to keep all of them, but who we’ve kept now are the right players.

“We’ve had the same group of players for the past two years or so, and those same players have got to two Shield finals.

“It’s not like it’s something that we can’t do.

“We’ve also been in a one-day final and also won a one-day tournament.

“Looking back at those last four seasons, I still think New South Wales cricket is in a great place, just haven’t had the results.

“If you look back on the last sort of 10-15 years, longer even, New South Wales has always been a strong state, always produced Australian players – while our last one was Kurtis Patterson, I have no doubt we’ll have more guys playing for Australia and that we’ll win more titles.

“There’s always a place for under 17s and under 19s to try and produce and make them better players, and once they’ve finished the pathways, to get them into grade cricket, second XI cricket and work your way up.

“The way the system is, is fine in New South Wales.

“Going from pathway cricket into men’s cricket can be a difficult transition.

“I’m probably more a product of those pathways.

“I definitely found it hard in my first couple of years as well, (but) there’s talent managers for a reason.”

Asked about the gruesome broken collarbone that derailed his summer, Sangha said he was “all good now.”

“I probably came back to the BBL a bit prematurely, but that could’ve been a little bit of headnoise as well.

“Got some volume under the belt, always tricky when you’re batting with one hand.

“From a mental point of view I feel really fresh.

“In some ways it was a bit of a blessing to have that little bit of time off so I can make sure I’m geared up and ready to go at the back end of the season and no one wants to miss cricket, but you’ve got to try and find the positives in there somewhere.

“I feel like I’m in a really good place (for the rest of the season).

Asked about his plans for the Australian winter and whether he’d be participating in any overseas tournaments, Sangha was philosophical.

“Obviously I’d love to, I’m just waiting to see what happens,” he said.

“The Hundred, Vitality Blast, IPL, there’s a bunch of different things in the works, but for now I’m just leaving that to my manager and just focusing on my own game.

“At the same time, you also need to earn the right to play those tournaments, averaging sort of 20s and low 30s in Shield cricket, you probably don’t earn the right to go away and play in those tournaments.

“It’s really dominant performances and really consistent performances as well.

“I need to make sure I put my foot down and give New South Wales the best chance of winning a Shield, but also from a personal point of view, also making sure I’m earning the right to play in those tournaments.”

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