Sorry Shane Warne: 5 reasons why not picking Pat Cummins was the right move

In case you missed it last night:

  1. Peter Siddle was selected to play in the final Ashes test at the Oval ahead of Pat Cummins; and
  2. Shane Warne went on full rant in commentary about the selectors’ decision.

I am sorry to all Shane Warne fans out there but, frankly, he is just straight out wrong and here are five reasons why:

  1. Pat Cummins has not played a full first class (Sheffield Shield) season in his career and, indeed, has only played in eight first class games.
  2. The last two first class games Cummins has played have been games on this tour that have been against, really, glorified first class teams over two and three days respectively.
  3. In both of those two first class games Cummins only bowled in one innings and was not required to back up on a day’s rest (or less) to start bowling again.  It is very likely that he would have needed to do so in this test match and yet he has not done so at first class level in at least two years.  This is a recipe for another injury for Cummins whose road to the Ashes squad has been littered with injuries.
  4. Pat Cummins is 22 years old.  His time will come soon enough whilst this is likely the last time Peter Siddle will have an opportunity to play wearing the baggy green cap.  Siddle has been a strong servant of the game and his country over a number years and he deserves the opportunity to finish up with Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers in this game.
  5. Australia has struggled in recent test matches to contain the run scoring of the English.  Starc and Johnson are not bowlers who restrict run rates and pushing Pat Cummins into a containment roll makes no sense.  Siddle, as more of a stock bowler, has played this role consistently so the balance of the team is improved by Siddle’s inclusion.

The selectors, who have been correctly much maligned for their missteps this tour, have gotten this selection, for the reasons above, absolutely correct.  Sorry Shane Warne: you have gotten it spectacularly wrong!

Show some respect: an open letter to the Cricket Press

Michael Clarke ponders his retirement decision on final day of the 4th Ashes Test (photo via ESPN Cricinfo)

Michael Clarke ponders his retirement decision on final day of the 4th Ashes Test (photo via ESPN Cricinfo)

Michael Clarke announced his resignation as captain of the Australian cricket team and his retirement from all forms of cricket only 3 days ago.  I confess that I have not been a massive fan of Michael Clarke over the years however I felt a significant sense of loss at the confirmation of the end his, frankly, magnificent career.

Regardless of my negative feelings as a fan of the game, towards Michael Clarke, I have been, frankly, appalled at his treatment by the press, in both Australia and England, in the aftermath of his retirement.  Stories containing allegations ranging from a schism with other players through to an alleged offer to return his baggy green cap have been splashed across our broadsheets.

I just don’t understand why these stories are especially relevant now? Yes we all want to know the circumstances that surround such a poor performance by the Australian team in this Ashes series BUT to do so in the immediate aftermath of Clarke’s retirement is not only unseemly but it is massively disrespectful of a man who:

  • Has held the highest office in the land (including the Prime Ministerial office) for a not insignificant period of time.
  • Has played 114 test matches for his country and has, until the last 12 months, performed consistently at the highest of levels to average over 50 runs per innings.
  • Showed his measure as not only a leader but as a man, leading a whole sport, let alone his country, in grief after the passing of Phil Hughes.

This attack on not only Clarke’s career but his character almost has a pre-planned feel to it.  Whether you liked him or loathed him he did not deserve this in what ought to have been a period in which his career should be being lauded.

I have to say I am especially appalled by the revelations that have come from Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds this week.  Again I ask: why now? And again this attack from these former players appears to have been both pre-planned and based on a personal dislike for Clarke.  To attack a former player in such an open and unseemly manner immediately after his retirement is nothing short of petty.  To say I have lost a lot of respect for both Hayden and Symonds this week would be an understatement.

The Cricket Press have much to answer for and I can only implore them now to call off the metaphorical attack dogs and show Michael Clarke some respect which he has certainly earned.

The Ashes: Australia can still win BUT not by attacking

We are three days into the first Ashes test for 2015 and already the pundits, both in the paper and on social media, are writing Australia off.  Frankly, I still think Australia can still win but it will take a change in mindset to do it. 

To date in this test match two things have been obvious:

  1. Australia’s game plan has not changed away from the all out attack strategy that works in Australian conditions. 
  2. That game plan is not working. 

Now Australia is faced with a dual task: score 412 runs to win the test match OR bat for two days.  Lets speak freely here: attacking at all costs will mean this game is over by tea day four and England will win.  The English strike bowlers are bowling length and swinging the ball: Australian batting mistakes that flow from being too attacking will fall right into their hands. 

So, how does Australia win? 

To me it is obvious: Australia has to take a page out of the Chris Rogers play book and keep it simple! Watch Rogers bat: he reduces risk by shortening his back lift, pushing balls into gaps and leaving almost everything outside off stump.  In the first innings, this approach led to a scoring rate for Rogers of 70 runs per 100 balls.  If Australia scores at that rate it wins.  

Even if you remove the score rate from the equation, reducing the risk of wickets by taking a less expansive approach leads to England being in the field for longer which reduces the effectiveness of the likes of Broad and Anderson as the day goes on.  It also, obviously, reduces the likelihood of wickets from mistakes.

412 runs over two days, or 180 overs, is a fairly simple equation.  It means Australia has to score at 2.3 runs per over.  There is no need to knock the runs over in one day or as fast as possible.  That would mean a strategy shift for Australia.  I am not sure on current evidence shifting the strategy in this way is in the Lehmann / Clarke play book but only time will tell!