Australia names it squad for South Africa and Sheffield Shield form counted for nothing!

I wrote this morning about the selection of the Australian Squad to travel to South Africa for the test series commencing on 12 February 2014.

George Bailey has been dropped from the squad.  The new batsmen selected are Shaun Marsh and Alex Doolan.  The reserve bowlers selected are James Pattinson and Jackson Bird.

As I noted in the post this morning and reaffirm in the title to this post: form in Australia’s first class competition, the Sheffield Shield, has counted for nothing at the selection table. The top run getters in the domestic game in this country have not been selected. Rather, this series of scores has seen Shaun Marsh return to the test squad:

  • 6 and 47
  • 4 and 13
  • 127 not out
  • 42 and 4
  • 1 and 4

How does one regain a place in the national team when scoring only 248 runs in 5 matches at an average of 31.00? Is scoring two half centuries against a mediocre English bowling attack at the end of a shattering season really enough? That is all that Shaun Marsh has done this season.

On the side of the bowlers: am I alone in being completely lost by the strategy of the NSP here? Jackson Bird has not played in a first class game, test matches included, since he played for Australia in August at Chester-le-Street.  His season thus far has consisted of T20 games and one List A fixture for Australia A.  James Pattinson has not played the longest form of the game since he was injured at Lords in July.  He too has played some T20 games and has now appeared for Australia in an ODI.  How can either player be match fit and, more importantly, match hardened if they are called on in South Africa?  With Ryan Harris’ knee a match by match proposition, isn’t it too much to expect the replacement fast bowlers to step in and bowl, potentially 25 overs a day, with only very limited limited overs cricket under their belts?  I just don’t get the thinking!

Cricket Australia needs to have a significant look at the Sheffield Shield competition in this country if the best that is coming from it is a player who averages 31.00 and no one with the ball.  That is really what the NSP is saying with this team isn’t it: no bowler in first class cricket is good enough to be in the squad so we will select two players who have not played in the long form for over six months instead.  Or am I missing something?

NSP to name touring party to South Africa: will first class form count for anything?

Cricket Australia’s National Selection Panel will name its touring squad to South Africa.  A squad of fifteen is expected to be named by John Inverarity and, largely, the squad selects itself.  These names will be read out today without fail: Clarke (c), Haddin (vc), Rogers, Warner, Watson, Smith, Bailey, Johnson, Siddle, Harris, Lyon, Faulkner.  There has been much talk about George Bailey’s place in the Australian test team but, as any follower of the test team will attest, historically Cricket Australia like to keep winning teams together regardless of poor form so Bailey will tour.

That leaves three spots open for selection.  I have regularly written here about the need for selections to be based on first class (Sheffield Shield) rm and if that was the case those three spots (assuming that one batsman and two bowlers go as cover) should be filled by some of the following players:

  • Batsmen: Marcus North (593 runs, 98.33 average, 3 hundreds), Phil Hughes (549 runs, 61.00 average, 3 hundreds), Callum Ferguson (3 games, 289 runs, 72..25 average, 1 hundred).
  • Bowlers: Chadd Sayers (22 wickets, 28.04 average,), Luke Feldman (17 wickets, 24.58 average), Steve O’Keefe (24 wickets, 22.25 average), Michael Hogan (21 wickets, 23.66 average).

I am prepared to guarantee though that none of these names will appear in the squad of fifteen named today.  Alex Doolan will be the reserve batsman and the reserve bowlers will be Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson. I have written before on this blog about the need for players who are injured to be eased back into the game via first class cricket.  The NSP does not appear to agree with that approach given the manner in which they have managed the injuries of other first bowlers returning.  So that means that Pattinson, an excellent bowler I concede, will go on tour with out T20 and ODI cricket as preparation.  Alex Doolan appears to be the flavour of the month with the willow despite averaging 39.10 in first class cricket this summer and an overall average of 37.52.  I have no major cavil with Coulter-Nile’s selection.

Ordinarly I would be waiting with bated breath for the announcement of a squad for such an important tour.  Bizarrely, I am ambivalent this time around because of that feeling that we all know who the NSP will be selecting.  I hope I am wrong but know I am right.