The arrival of the Australian One Day squad prompted a few thoughts on my part:
1. Who the hell are those guys? Luke who? Just kidding. However, the arrival of Luke Ronchi, James Hopes, David Hussey, Shaun Marsh, Nathan Bracken, Shane Watson and Cameron White serves as a reminder that One Day cricket truly is a game departed from Test cricket. We are all used to that – Australia first had dual captains in 1997 and specialist one-day players existed well before that. However, the differences in the Australian squad are, well, stark.
2. The above names reinforce that IPL is relevant to limited overs cricket and may hold some caché when it comes to national selection. Shaun Marsh and Shane Watson were the stars of IPL and it is no surprise to see them squarely in the frame. White did himself no favours during IPL, but he was there, and by default (with Hogg gone) he might get another chance for Australia. We should remember that he is still not yet 25 years old.
3. With the rather ordinary showing of some of the Test team, you wonder if some of these “ODI guys” might be Test players in the near future.
Which brings me to a piece that I eluded to in a previous sign off.
From the recent Test series, I wonder about the Test futures of Mitchell Johnson and Beau Casson. Casson will probably get some more chances, and fair enough but I don’t know that he has what it takes – he’s been in first class cricket for a long time and has a bowling average of 40. The selectors have been patient with Johnson and he does seem to manage to take 2 wickets in just about every innings. The fact is that the victims are usually numbers 8 to 11 and the successful deliveries are utter rubbish. I find it hard to believe that there are not better left armers in Australia (there are possibly two in NSW alone).
It is ironic that the one person who seems certain to lose his spot, should Hayden regain fitness, and not retire, was the best performed Australian of the tour. It looks like Katich will lose his spot, at least for the time being, for the India Test series.
Or how about this: We re-visit the “Michael Bevan experiment”. In 1996-97, Bevan found his niche as the no 6/7 batsman and second spinner. He had a prodigious home series against the West Indies and performed strongly on the tour to South Africa, preceding the 1997 Ashes. He came unstuck in England because his batting form was appalling and the wickets were not suited to his bowling. He never played Test cricket again even though thousands of Pura Milk Cup runs flowed from his bat.
I’m not sure where Katich fits in. One thing is sure and that is that he has some bowling ability and that he has been scandalously under-used by Ponting for his entire Test career. Katich made his debut under Waugh and in his second Test, took six wickets in the second innings. Sure, it was only the Zimmers, and it was the SCG, but Zimbabwe still had a decent team at that time and six wickets in any innings is good going. When Katich took six wickets in the first tour match of this tour, I thought, “Hmm, perhaps times have changed.” However, Katich bowled little in the Test series, although Ponting did have ample chance to throw him the ball. To be fair, I should add that Katich did not take the field during the West Indies second innings of the drawn second Test – it would have been interesting to see what part Katich would have played if he was able.
I don’t want to limit this line of thought to Katich. Australia, it would seem, has a spinning crisis. However, the selectors need not make it into a bowling crisis. I remember over the years being critical of the South African Test team balance. They seemed to play three all rounders every match – guys who were good cricketers – Klusener, McMillan, Kuiper and the like – but would never set the world on fire with bat or ball. On reflection, I realise that they might have been trying to make the best of what they had. While they did have two great pace bowlers, they did not have a spinner with a silver bullet. While on the other hand, Australia at that time, had two silver bullets in McGrath and Warne. They stuck to the conventional formula of six batsmen, four bowlers and the best keeper/batsman of all time.
My how times change. Australia certainly has no spinning silver bullet at present. While there is a good argument that a spinner is needed, and that one should be fostered, there have to be limits. Australia needs to field its best four bowlers, whatever they bowl. If none of those four bowl spin, then so be it. Australia is fortunate that at the moment, some of the batsmen have good spinning skills. Michael Clarke is a very good left arm spinner. He has good control and economy. He also has the Midas touch. He has 16 Test wickets at 21.31. Symonds is another option but he is not as good as Clarke. Not by a long way (23 wickets at 36.47). I contend that if he can’t hold his spot as a batsman, he’s out of there. Then there is Katich, perhaps.
I don’t know who the four bowlers should be. Perhaps Noffke should have a chance. If he is really one of the four best, he would be a very useful bowling all rounder. In short, I think the selectors need to stay away from deciding that they need a certain type of player and then searching for the best one of that type. For example, “We need a leg spinner. Now who will it be? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”. They can’t find a direct replacement for Warne. Not ever. A leg spinner is very, very useful but he has to be worthy. England selectors spent 20 years trying to replace Botham, weakening it’s team but fielding lack lustre, all round hopefuls (see Mark Ealham, Chris Lewis, Phil DeFrietas, Adam Hollioake, Craig White). It’s a distraction and a trap. Rather, the selectors need to see who is in form, doing whatever they do, and fit them into the team if they can. To an extent, that approach should determine the balance of the team. Perhaps the team will lack balance sometimes but you have to make the best of what you’ve got.