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.

Cricket in Australia: Mickey Arthur opens up

Mickey Arthur has been quoted thusly in the press in Australia today when speaking about the young players that came into the team during his tenure:

They’re good players, they’re not great players. They’re earning obscene amounts of money and they’ve got big egos, but they don’t know the best way to go about it … we had no leaders there.”

If you were wondering: these were the players that debuted, in test match cricket, during Mickey Arthur’s era in control of the Australia team (the span being from November 2011 through to June 2013):

James Pattinson
Mitchell Starc
David Warner
Ed Cowan
Matthew Wade
Rob Quiney
Jon Hastings
Jackson Bird
Moses Henriques
Glenn Maxwell

It is trite to say but this comment from Arthur, if a true reflection on the state of things, is a pretty sad indictment on these players coming into the test match set up and, indeed, the cricket program in Australia more broadly. I know I have written about this before and, frankly, I feel like I am whipping the metaphorical dead horse but is it not striking that the bulk of these players have had extremely limited first class careers of note before their selection in Australia test team?

Here the statistics in this regard:

James Pattinson: 8 games (all games are first class for the purposes of this exercise)
Mitchell Starc: 16 games
David Warner: 10 games
Ed Cowan: 52 games
Matthew Wade: 41 games
Rob Quiney: 49 games
Jon Hastings: 26 games
Jackson Bird: 17 games
Moses Henriques: 39 games
Glenn Maxwell: 15 games

I know Australia does not appear to be spoilt for choice for players to select at the moment but it could hardly be suggested that, Cowan, Wade and Quiney aside, this list of players have had anything resembling the first class apprenticeship that players of the past received. That being the case is it all surprising that they are not fully rounded players who “know the best way to go about it” when they enter the team? By extension it must be asked if it is really the coach of the test match team’s job to complete the education of Australia’s top players?

It seems to me that something has gone horribly amiss in the way in which cricket (as a sport) and Cricket Australia (as the ultimate governing body of said sport) is developing the young players for the next step into the test match team. It would be simple to say that said players are not playing enough first class cricket and are not getting an opportunity early enough to prove themselves.

That said, it has often been said that the simplest answer is often the right one and I suspect it is the case here. One only needs to look at the England set up to see that they are getting there pathway to the test team correct where Australia is failing. For this purpose consider these recent debutants in test match cricket for England and the number of first class games they have played:

Jonny Bairstow: 47 games
James Taylor: 76 games
Nick Compton: 99 games
Joe Root: 36 games

England’s young cricketers, even on the foregoing evidence, are getting more first class cricket and, therefore, more of an apprenticeship before they reach the big time of test cricket.

Again I concede that this may be a simplistic analysis but surely one of things that cricket in Australia must be looking at to ensure that the games of our future test players are complete, or as near as they can be to being complete, is giving them more first class cricket?

That does not appear to be the case though in the current climate in Australia given the enhanced and elongated focus on short form cricket and the fact that our best young players are being pushed into the international short form of the game ever faster than they have been before.

Final comment: I will leave you with a question … how can we expect our young players to succeed when we don’t give them the tools to even compete? At the moment the structure in Australia promotes the fast tracking of players through the short form of the game but that approach has been about as successful as it would be for a law firm to send a 1st year lawyer to the High Court to argue an appeal. We need to get back to basics and give the players the building blocks to develop their games. The “on the job” training method is not working and is only serving to inflate egos which can only be a bad thing for cricket in Australia in the long term.

The day the cricket died: 2 March 2013

I have been fairly vocal on Twitter and among friends regarding the selection of the Australian cricket team for the present tour of India and the news of today from India has not sated my negative feelings in this regard.

The first bit of news of the day was that Matthew Wade had suffered a broken cheek bone but was still going to play in the present test match in Hyderabad because there is no reserve wicket keeper on tour with the Australian team. The folly of this from the Australian selections was noted at the time the squad was selected but probably not as fullthroatedly as it might have been given the issues that arose with some of the others included in said team.

For the non-cricket fans among you, this move by the Cricket Australia National Selection Panel is akin to Manchester United travelling to Barcelona for a Champions Trophy Final with only one goal keeper in the squad that travelled over. Now imagine that that goal keeper is injured the morning of the game. Pretty impossible to believe isn’t it!

The second bit of news that, it must be confessed, is the straw that broke the camels back for me was the selection of the team for the second test match now underway. In case you missed it:

1. Mitchell Starc, the pick of Australia’s bowler in the last two test matches of the Australian summer, was dropped for a part time off spinning all-rounder in Glenn Maxwell; and

2. Nathan Lyon, who has been a mainstay of the Australian attack over the last 2 years, was dropped for Xavier Doherty who has 2 first class wickets this summer at an average of 80 runs per wicket.

I have written elsewhere in this blog about who I believed ought to have been selected for this test match and I also considered all of the options for the second spin bowling spot. My views have not changed in this regard.

It is incomprehensible to me that a player, clearly in very poor form in the long form of the game, would be selected ahead of someone who toiled manfully in trying conditions with limited assistance in the first test match. Yet that is exactly what has happened with the selection of Doherty for this test match.

It will concede that I have never been a fan of Glenn Maxwell. My principal objection has been that at all stages throughout the recent Australian summer there were a number of players in better form than him who seemingly had no chance for selection because he was in the frame and the selectors consider him to be a player of the future. I remain unconvinced that he has earned his spot in the squad let alone the team ON FORM.

It is important to note that my objections here are not because I do not like either of Maxwell or Doherty. I have no rationale basis for not liking them given that I do not know them. My objection, as it has been all summer when it has come to the selection of the Australian team, rest squarely on the basis that neither player selected has shown form in the long form of the game cognisant with that which is ordinarily necessary to be considered for selection for Australia let alone actually be selected.

The time to act and stop talking has come though in part because I am sick of the aggravation I am causing myself by worrying about Australian cricket and the team that represents it. I am not watching this current test match, save for reading comments about it on twitter, and will not looking at another test match until the team that enters the arena is one selected on form that I can follow.

I know many of you will disagree with me: that is ok because the support of sport and talking about it all about personal choice. Disagree with me as much you wish but whilst doing so please respect my right to have an opinion and express it.

Rant had. Now back to the Super 15!

What is the NSP doing (part 2)? Australia’s T20 Squad announcement / ODI debacle

This morning Cricket Australia’s National Selection Panel announced it’s squad for two T20 games against Sri Lanka on 26 and 28 January 2013.  The squad is:

  • George Bailey (c)
  • Ben Cutting
  • Xavier Doherty
  • James Faulkner
  • Aaron Finch
  • Ben Laughlin
  • Shaun Marsh
  • Glenn Maxwell
  • Mitchell Starc
  • Adam Voges
  • Matthew Wade
  • David Warner

There are few ommisions  from and inclusions in the team that stick out like the proverbial and warrant comment.  First let me be clear: I have no cavil with the selections of Bailey, Warner, Starc and Wade and make no comment on their lack of form or otherwise in the BBL because they either did not play in it or did not play enough for a good guide to be found.  I would have replaced Wade with T Ludeman if I had my choice but he is the incumbent and has earned  his spot.

I am delighted that Shaun Marsh has received a second opportunity having, seemingly, been in the wilderness after his test form left him and I am also delighted Messrs Finch, Faulkner and Laughlin have received call ups after an excellent BBL season.  There my delight ends.

The failure by NSP to select either of Luke Pomersbach or Ben Rohrer who, along with Shaun Marsh, were the stand out batsmen of the tournament for mine is just incomprehensible.  Rohrer’s performances for the Renegades were every bit as compelling as those of Aaron Finch and drove them to only being one game short of the final and the efforts of Luke Pomersbach were second only to those of Shaun Marsh in the run scoring takes.  In their place are Adam Voges and Glenn Maxwell.  Voges is a fine player but at nearly 34 one must question the longevity of his selection.  Maxwell is so out of form at the moment he can not make the, in must be conceded, below par Australian ODI team and is coming off a seven game stint for the Melbourne Stars where, again, he failed to take a wicket and only got past 20 once.

Surely this was an opportunity to reward an excellent BBL summer from two players who have been on the fringes for a long time with selection.  In going with an older player unlikely to have a long stint in the team and a player out fo form and out of answers yet again the NSP is sending the message that, on the one hand whilst they say they are preparing for the future they actually are not, and, on the other hand, if you are one of their “project players” it matters not what form that player is in.  These are ubundantly the wrong messages in my opinion.

Of course there is also the problem that the team that won the competition again appears to be underrepresented.  I am an unabashed Queensland (Brisbane) fan I concede however it remains incomprehensible to me that a team that wins both the Sheffield Shield and the BBL can only have one player worthy enough for selection in this nations teams in red ball cricket, ODIs and T20.  Forget the argument about whether Chris Hartley is the best wicket keeper in the country; Burns and McDermott are also stars of the future that, if the NSP is genuine in its alleged remit to develop the teams of the future, then surely they, along with the many other young players knocking on the door, should be in the frame for selection rather than seemingly forgotten. 

Innings of 170, 74 and 9/220 (off the back of our number 10 batsman) should be the wake up call that the NSP needs to look hard the top six and truly select a top six that they see representing Australia at the next World Cup in 2015.  Of the current top six can anyone genuinely see, on current form and noting age, the names Bailey, Hussey and Maxwell in that team? Surely now is the time to genuinely plan for 2015 and blood players like Finch, Khawaja, Burns and Lynn (if a spin bowling batsman is needed) with an eye on the future rather than using one day internationals a forums for centre wicket practices for the Ashes as the NSP appears to be. 

Don’t get me wrong, selecting any sort of team is a tough job.  As a fan of the game though, I crave consistency in selection and at present the messages being given by the selection panel, being the failure to select based on domestic form, the continued selection of “project players” and dropping players after a single opportunity, could be nothing further from consistent.

What is the NSP doing? The selection of allrounders is indicative of a deeper problem

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.

Cricket Australia’s National Selection Panel: what are they thinking?

Today Cricket Australia announced the one day international and twenty 20 squads to play Afghanistan and Pakistan in the UAE in August and September.

The squads are:

ODI Squad

Michael Clarke, David Warner, George Bailey, Daniel Christian, Xavier Doherty, Callum Ferguson, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade

T20 Squad

George Bailey, Shane Watson, Daniel Christian, Patrick Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hogg, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Cameron White.

Anyone following me on twitter (@shumpty77), will have seen my concerns (or maybe rants) about some of the selections made today.  Those concerns have only grown stronger throughout the day.

That said, first it must be noted that there are some obvious positives to arise in the selections made today including:

  1. The inclusion of Callum Ferguson in the ODI squad is a reward for form in domestic cricket, particularly in the last series of the Ryobi Cup.  To come back from the injuries that he has had is a credit to him.
  2. The return of Cameron White to the Twenty20 squad is a reward for his excellent form in IPL and in the Friends Lift T20 in England
  3. Daniel Christian’s elevation to the ODI squad gives the line up flexibility from one of the form players of the Australian domestic summer.  Frankly, his inclusion is righting the selection wrong that was his non-inclusion in the squad to tour England in June.

The positives out of the way, I again find myself perplexed about some of the selections made and, possibly more to the point, not made. I will deal with each in turn.

Glenn Who?

The big news story surrounding the announcement of the squads is the inclusion of Glenn Maxwell in both.  That is a good enough place to start with my concerns.  I am absolutely prepared to concede that Maxwell has been in good form with the willow in the English T20 competition and there can be no doubt that he hits a long ball.  That having been said I am not convinced there is any need for the inclusion of another offspin bowling allrounder in the squad for either form of the game.  Both squads include the name D Hussey who projects as the off spinning allrounder that makes the side.  That being the case why do we need to blood Maxwell given that he is unlikely to play either in this series or in the World T20 Championship that follows the tour.

Further, I can not understand Maxwell’s inclusion in the ODI squad on form.  In last season’s Ryobi Cup Maxwell scored some 74 runs at an average of 15 runs per innings and took 6 wickets at an average of 42 per wicket.  That can hardly be considered the form of a player pressing for selection in his national team.

The Johnson Imposition: what does a young bowler have to do?  

The selection of Mitchell Johnson continues to cause heads to shake among the cricket fans of this country.  He was taken to England and could not fight his way into the ODI team despite P Cummins returning home injured.  In his one game he bowled 7 overs, gave up 43 runs and bowled 4 wides and 2 no balls.  He is not the force that he was even two years ago and it appears that the problems he is having remain mostly between his ears.  I would have thought he would be a player that would benefit from a full season in domestic cricket in Australia to see if he gets his form back before sending him back on tour with the national team.

The corallory of this is that there are plenty of high class bowlers who performed in the 2011/12 Ryobi Cup.  A McDermott was one of the revelations of the tournament taking 16 wickets at 18.87 in seven games.  J Faulkner took 14 wickets at 29.71 as well as scoring runs.  J Haberfield took 14 wickets at 18.50.  If the one days series’ that Australia are playing between now and the Champions Trophy in June 2013 are designed to build a team for that tournament and towards the next World Cup then surely Johnson must have been left out and one of these three young bowlers given an opportunity to perform at the top level. 

The Smith conundrum: bad for balance

The batting scapegoat for the failure of the Australian team in the series in England appears to have been Peter Forrest whilst Steve Smith inexplicably survives again.  I appreciate that Forrest had an ordinary tour but so did Smith and when it became necessary to try and fix the balance of the team it was Smith that found himself on the outer.  Additionally, I just can not see him playing in any of the ODIs because a team picked from the squad as announced presents as best balanced when Smith along with Maxwell, Johnson and Ferguson are mixing the cordials. 

If a reserve batsman needed to be picked in addition to Ferguson it is obvious that Rob Quiney should have been selected in the ODI squad in the place of Smith.  He has been the form batsman in all forms of the game in Australia and could open the batting if the selectors are looking for an alternative to the Wade / Warner combination.  Opposers of this will say that Smith’s bowling is an added string to his bow that places him ahead of Quiney but both from the perspective that the balance of side is better if Quiney is included and because Smith’s bowling has been mediocre at best that argument is without substance.  

What ever happened to T Birt?

Travis Birt was the form batsman of the KFC Big Bash last summer scoring 345 runs at an average of 43.12 and a strike rate of 168.29.  He also hit some of the biggest sixes one anyone is ever likely to see.  His batting presents as the blue print of the belligerent batsman Australia has been sorely lacking in the middle order in T20 matches.  Despite being picked up by the Dehli Daredevils for IPL5 he was not selected to play a game.  The only basis I can think of for his non-selection must be that he has not recently played the short form of the day.  That or he is injured and I have not seen a report about it.  Otherwise his non-selection seems to be inexplicable.

The selection of injured players: when will we learn?

Yet again the National Selection Panel have deigned to select players who are injured in Cummins and Watson without first testing them in domestic cricket.  I am on the record as being vehemently against this and again I can not agree with the logic of selecting, particular Cummins, for these games.  They were injured badly enough to come home from England and seem to be regularly injured.  That fact seems to me to be enough to warrant easing them back into the international game through domestic cricket in Australia.

Surely it must be better for Australian cricket noting the coming test series against the South Africans and the Ashes for Cummins and Watson to be given time to heal and to get match hardened in the longer form of the game rather than participating in the T20 hit and giggle fest to come in Sri Lanka.  It would seem to me that there is everything to lose and nothing to gain by both player’s participation in this series.

Ultimately, it is apt to note that selectors have a tough job and no doubt they consider that they have got the selection of these squads correct.  I respectfully disagree.

What do you think?