Reduced preparation for Test cricket is something that cricketers and selectors have had to contend with for some time. It is common place for sides to arrive for a Test series just a week (or less) before the first Test, cram in a warm up match and start the series underdone. And pay the price more often than not. With more cricket being played than ever, these problems are going to get worse.
Australia plays South Africa in an important Test series, in Australia, starting in under a month. This series is starting and ending earlier than usual because South Africa wants to do its own thing for Boxing Day. The preparation of the Australian (and South African) cricketers is interesting to consider.
Australia has had lots of encouragement from its pace bowlers over the past twelve months. But the team has had just as many setbacks with injuries. Now finally, with all of the candidates fit, the selectors have to think a little abstractly to compare them.
Siddle is exactly where the selectors want him. He is playing Shield, taking wickets, scoring some serious runs and is ready to lead the attack. however, most of the pace attack is in South Africa playing the Champions League T20. As if over a month of T20 was not enough for the T20 World Cup, we get to have more of it immediately. Hilfenhaus, Starc and Cummins are all in South Africa for the CLT20.
You would think that Hilfie is certain to play the 1st Test so that leaves Starc, Cummins and Pattinson to compete for the last spot, or possibly two places, if a spinner is not played in Brisbane. Cummins desperately needs First Class cricket. He has said so himself. But he will hardly get any before the first Test. Inverarity hinted that it would be nice to play a left armer (and thankfully no mention was made of Johnson) and was very complimentary of Starc’s recent form both in the T20 World Cup and English County cricket. That being said, Pattinson is carving it up in the Shield and surely that gives him the front running.
We have Watson, who probably needs a bit more cricket to build his strength and Warner, who needs to cement his place in the longer form of the game, playing T20 for months on end. Conversely, the Australian captain, Michael Clarke, and veteran Ricky Ponting are playing grade and Shield cricket in a very old fashioned preparation for the summer.
The prospective wicket keepers cannot be compared. Haddin started the season well with a century for the Blues but has now gone to the CLT20. Matthew Wade remained at home and scored very important runs for Victoria in the recent Shield match against the Bulls.
It is a different and changing world in which we live. Could there come a day where there is a dedicated T20 circuit, comprising specialised T20 players? In contrast to the Australian Test cricket captain playing grade cricket, we have Ian Moran. He is playing in the CLT20 for the Sydney Sixers and has played not a ball of First Class cricket, let alone international cricket. In fact, he has played just13 List As (domestic One Day cricket) and 6 T20s. He needed to take three weeks leave, without pay, from his teaching job. But he finds himself in illustrious company and stands to earn about $80,000 for three weeks work if the Sixers win.
The first Test between South Africa and Australia starts in Brisbane on Friday, 9 November 2012. And to support my opening point, South Africa arrives in early November and plays just one three day match before the 1st Test.