I was scalded earlier today for not having posted anything this week. What you have to remember is that I’m an important man now and don’t have a lot of free time. I’m still flat out, but as it’s late on Friday afternoon I’ve given myself permission to take a break from it to write this. Lucky you.
When I’m forced to write something there’s every chance that it will be something of narrow interest to the general public. Something like cricket. If you’re reading this from the States say, or Malaysia (a surprisingly strong readership for me) then cricket is probably a mystery, and a pretty boring one at that.
For my Australian and English readers (and the odd Indian who pops by) cricket makes sense, by and large. When it comes to discussing the foibles of cricket selectors, well, it’s good for hours of lively discussion – and it must be at least a month since I last had a grizzle about them.
I’d like not to grizzle. I’d like to be in complete agreement with the Australian selectors, and failing that, happy to at least have some understanding of the rationale informing their selection policies. As any sports follower will tell you, that’s asking a lot, but it has happened.
This is not one of those occasions. Despite the resurgence of Australian cricket I continue to scratch my head, and occasionally will quietly seethe.
Let me give you an example: Hilton Cartwright. Poor Hilton was originally selected as part of the Australian ODI squad in December. It was a bold selection, but not unheard of. He didn’t get a game. Then with all the issues surrounding the position of Australian test all-rounder he was named in the test squad and got a game in Sydney. In Sydney he made about 30 runs, but only bowled 7 overs, which made his selection as an all-rounder a tad moot (much as I suggested leading into the game, but, whatever).
So anyway the test series is over and Hilton, previously selected in the ODI squad and deemed good enough to wear a baggy green is now seemingly out of favour and misses out on the ODI squad versus Pakistan. From chocolates to boiled lollies is Hilton, but we’re not done yet.
In the meantime the test squad for the tour of India is picked and poor old Hilton gets the donut. Now I’m not saying he should have been selected – but then I didn’t think he should have been selected for the test team in the first place. As all-rounders go – and as I commented on at the time – he’d probably be 4th or 5th best going around. His selection was premature (he may become a great Australian player) and undeserved, and continued the recent tradition of giving baggy green caps away. Having said that, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the lad. What must he feel? He’s been treated badly by the selectors, all because there was no real justification for his selection in the first place.
Then there’s the ODI tour of New Zealand. A couple of strange picks there. Out of nowhere Sam Heazlett – who hasn’t even played an ODI for his state – is selected in the Australian squad. This is after Warner is rested and Smith injured. Now I think Heazlett is a very promising player, but there are a bunch of candidates much better credentialed, especially when you consider the experience missing from the side.
Until recently George Bailey was an integral and very successful member of the team, and had a good BBL – not picked. Cam White, who has captained Australia and in the form of his life – not picked. Even Ferguson, deemed good enough to play a test for Australia in November, and a proven ODI player for Australia – not picked. As Cam White said very accurately, the ODI squad is now basically a development squad. It shouldn’t be.
Then there is the selection of the captain of that tour. With Smith and Warner missing there was no skipper. Finch has captained before and is a very good captain. Instead the job went to Wade. Now I’m not partial to Wade, but even so this made little sense given that the squad would split in two shortly. The test squad would head off to India under Smith, and the T20 side would play a bunch against Sri Lanka with Finch captaining. Surely it makes sense that if Finch was in the slot for the T20 why not start him off as ODI captain? As it happens, with Wade injured Finch is captain anyway.
Finally there’s the test squad. This is my smallest beef. India is a tough place to tour, and my own view is that we should play to our strengths – quality pace and reverse swing bowling. That’s how we won there before. We’re taking the top line fast bowlers, but otherwise picked 4 spinners. Lyon was always going to be picked, though will likely be a dud again. O’Keefe is a NSW favourite and odds on. He’s a handy player, but no better. I’d happily have left him off the plane. The other selections are more audacious – young leg-spinner Swepson and Ashton Agar. I like both of them, but can’t see how we’re going to give 4 spinners all a game. When you factor in Maxwell too (a good selection) who can bowl handy spin that’s a heavy hand.
Travis Head missed out again. I’m a big fan of him and reckon he should have been selected when Maddinson was. He’s a talented batter and another very handy bowler. I sort of support his omission though, not because he’s not good enough, but because I’d like to keep him ripe for the Ashes next summer.
Finally there’s that damn man Wade again. Somehow he’s been selected as our only wicketkeeper for the tour. I think it’s just dumb. His batting doesn’t live up to the hype and his keeping is behind 3-4 more capable Australian wicketkeepers, like Nevill. He’s particularly ordinary keeping to spin, but is going to India to keep on dusty, big spinning pitches with 4+ spinners down the other end. Someone explain that to me.
On a tour to India I just don’t think you can take that chance. Imagine missing a stumping chance against Kohli when he’s on 10, and he goes on to make a hundred or more. Is it worth that? Certainly his batting doesn’t justify that faith.
I just don’t know where the selectors are at. I loved Mark Waugh as a batsman, but think he’s a fruitcake as a selector. And Hohns, who has done great service to Australia, made comments during the week that left a lot of heads shaking.
I’m happy to be proved wrong. I think we’ll do better than expected in India, but I don’t know that we’ve helped ourselves a lot. It’s an opinion business though – and this is mine.