Cricket Victoria chairman Geoff Tamblyn has questioned the heart of players in last week's woeful Sheffield Shield loss to NSW, while criticising recent recruiting and the stated objective of Cricket Australia's domestic competitions.
In vowing to get to the bottom of the state's poor shield results - Victoria has suffered four outright defeats on the trot and the selectors on Tuesday axed five players for the next game against South Australia - Tamblyn speculated that last week's Indian Premier League auction was a distraction.
The Bushrangers slumped to 6-9 in their second innings against the Blues, the worst start to an innings in the history of the shield, before Glenn Maxwell pounded 127.
''There's all sorts of speculation and arguments as to why some of those things were happening, coming off Twenty20 [Big Bash League], and people worrying about IPL and so forth,'' Tamblyn said.
''Certainly those things concern us, but until [CV chief executive Tony Dodemaide] and myself have a long chat with both [operations chief Shaun] Graf and [chairman of selectors] Andrew Lynch I think it would be premature to say what the outcomes are.
''I think people have got to take responsibility for their own actions, and pathetic cricket was played. It looked as though it was lacking in heart.
''My role as chairman and the board's role is that at the end of the season we will do a review … we probably have not recruited as well as we could have recruited, but you franchise people to do a job and sometimes they are going to get it wrong.
''We're not looking for scapegoats, we're looking to the future. This has been a poor year.''
Coach Greg Shipperd and assistant Simon Helmot are contracted for next season and Tamblyn expected those contracts would be honoured.
The players axed for the match starting in Adelaide on Thursday were Aaron Finch, who continues to struggle against the red ball with a shield average of 14.8 this season, Dan Christian, Peter Handscomb, Clint McKay and rookie leg-spinner James Muirhead.
Geelong quick Jake Reed is in line to debut, while batsmen Rob Quiney and Michael Hill and spinners Fawad Ahmed and Jon Holland were recalled to the squad.
Dodemaide and Lynch pointed out that Victoria had provided 11 players to Australian teams since September, fulfilling the primary aim of CA's domestic competitions. The fact that eight had been in one-day or Twenty20 squads had depleted and disrupted the shield team, Lynch said.
Dodemaide said: ''No one is ignoring what is going on. We are asking the questions internally. In one respect the KPIs are going well because we have made that very conscious change of [valuing] national representation as well as competition success. It's not all doom and gloom, but certainly we want to be more competitive than we have been in the last four games. The players would recognise … there are consequences when we don't do as well as we'd like.''
Rumblings of discontent pre-date recent results, and the recruitment of Christian, 30, from South Australia has caused angst because it contradicted the aim of producing national players. There is also concern that promising batsmen, such as Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis and Hill, have been thrown into the furnace at the top of the order rather than being allowed to find their feet further down.
Tamblyn disagreed with CA boss James Sutherland that it doesn't matter who wins the shield as long as states are producing national players. ''It is important to have a strong Sheffield Shield. It is important we make it worthwhile. It's no good having this attitude we're just trying to produce players for Australia.''
Maxwell, sold to IPL team Kings XI Punjab for $1.06 million last week, said the auction was a talking point among players - ''a lot of us were pretty shocked at some of the omissions'' - and having players jumping between formats had been a challenge for the shield team.
''We've had an unsettled side for a while with guys coming in and out of Australian teams, so it hasn't been an easy transition. At this level there's no real excuse to say you can't adjust. It's time for us to stand up and do the job, because we're not getting close to it at the moment.''
The story Cricket Victoria looks for answers after dismal Sheffield Shield season first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.