Melbourne: Australian defence minister Stephen Smith has backed beleaguered Simon Katich saying the opening batsman was the victim of an "extraordinary" blunder by the country's selectors, who have been led by Andrew Hilditch for the past five years.
"Historically, of course, there have been a series of atrocities committed by the Australian Cricket Board, or Cricket Australia (CA), or the Australian selectors against West Australian cricketers, but this one is extraordinary... very high at the top of the list," said Smith of his fellow West Australian Katich - who moved to New South Wales in mid-2002.
Smith pointed out that Katich, who was denied a central contract by CA due to his age, has performed better that other 30-plus cricketers like Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.
"This is a bloke who, over the last 30 Tests he's played, has got nearly 3000 runs, an average of 50 and done better than Ponting and Mike Hussey," Smith was quoted as saying by The Age.
Since October 2008, Katich has scored 2609 runs at an average of 49.23, whereas Ponting has averaged 38.30 and Hussey has averaged 38.62.
"It's an extraordinary decision... while it's always easy to take a shot at selectors, it says a lot more about the selectors than it does against Simon Katich."
"I think, frankly, it sends very much a message which has undermined confidence in the selectors (and raises whether) they are really up to the task in terms of managing a transition to the next generation of Australian cricketers," said Smith.