It was a case of another day, another selection storm for the National Selection Panel of Cricket Australia yesterday. For those who missed it Aaron Finch was replaced by David Warner, Steve Smith was replaced by Michael Clarke and Ben Cutting replaced by Moises Henriques. Kane Richardson was also left out with Mitchell Starc again fit.
Of all of those changes the one that sticks out is the replacement of Ben Cutting with Moises Henriques. In his one opportunity Cutting came to the wicket with Australia in trouble at 6/83 and scored a solid 27 runs in partnership with Brad Haddin and then with the ball took one of the two wickets Australia took against the resurgent Sri Lankans. All things considered it has to be said that Cutting did his job and, indeed, did it admirably.
In response to this he has been replaced in the squad by Moises Henriques because, to quote John Inverarity (the chairman of selectors) “we need allrounders” and “we were looking for a seam bowling allrounder to suit the conditions at the Gabba”. The other allrounder who remains in the team is Glenn Maxwell who has remained in the team despite not taking a wicket in his first six games for Australia and barely worrying the scorers in this competition so far.
The astonishing part about all of this is that the player excluded from the allrounder hunt in the favour of Henriques is a seam bowler whose home wicket is at the Gabba and who is in the form of his career this year. That is not to say that Henriques is not in form; the short answer is that he is but surely it is incongruous to suggest that you want a bowler who is going to suit the conditions at the Gabba and then drop the Gabba based player in the team?
On the one hand Cricket Australia have selected, and continue to select, a player who is clearly a “project player” for them with an eye on the Indian tour (Inverarity admitted as much in his interview) in Maxwell whilst on the other hand they have dropped a player who did his job when asked to and despite the next game being at the ground at which he is most comfortable.
All this leads one back to a point that even 24 months would have been ridiculous to consider; viz., that the Australian one day set up is nothing more than a Petri dish into which Cricket Australia is seeking to grow players for the long term and, it seems, for future involvement in four or five day cricket. This in turn shows the folly of Cricket Australia’s focus on the Big Bash League rather than the Sheffield Shield Competition which, previously, would have been the place that “project” players would have learnt their craft rather than in international one day cricket.
This is international cricket not a centre wicket practice like Cricket Australia seems to think it is. The players punished and, no doubt, confused by the regime are those very players (save for Glenn Maxwell) that Cricket Australia should be trying to nurture: Khawaja, Smith, Finch, Cutting, Richardson are all on the precipice of international careers and yet find themselves again jettisoned. Wouldn’t you be confused?
Surely it is better for cricket in this country for the Australian team to be the best team available for selection every time it plays and for “project players” to develop through the Sheffield Shield and Ryobi competitions. If I am wrong on this and, in fact, it is better for the development of the players in this country for the remaining one day fixtures this summer to continue to be the centre wicket practices they seem to be then I will happily concede the point. Until Glenn Maxwell scores a hundred at international level or takes 4 wickets in one innings no such concession will be forthcoming.