Monday, December 12, 2011

Hobart Post Mortem

Well, it should have been a cakewalk, and yesterday's result shows how close this two Test series could have been had the Black Caps held heir chances in Brisbane.

Ironically, the injury to Vettori that gave Boult his first Test cap may well have been the difference between the sides this time around. Without the spinner to clean up the tail the four man pace attack did the job for the Kiwis and out-bowled a developing attack that's not quite there yet.

You could also go around pointing out that any team that can lose 8/74 deserves to lose, but in the meantime it's back to the drawing board while we wait for the two Chairman's XI games against India to sort out a team for Melbourne.

We have, however, answered a couple of questions.

 There's no doubt that Warner has done enough to hold his spot, and there's no way that Hughes can hold his. Clarke has done a good enough job as captain, but needs runs, and Pattinson, Siddle and Lyon are the basis of a decent bowling attack. So, injury permitting, we've got an eleven comprising:

Warner, Two, Three, Four, Clarke, Six, Keeper, Eight, Pattinson, Siddle, Lyon.

I noted, on my flick through the websites this morning, a predictable call from Bob Simpson for Simon Katich to be recalled and installed as captain. Presumably that also would involve dropping Clarke, given the apparent notion that you can't have both of them sharing a dressing room, despite the fact that they both play for New South Wales.

I filed the Simmo comment under Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? Simmo has, after all, been working with Katich fairly closely.

I was, however, more taken by his comment that the policy when he took over as coach was to decide who were the best seventeen players in Australia and then give them as many chances you could possibly get.

That mirrors my thoughts as I made my way back down Kennedy Street at lunchtime yesterday, and, arguably, immediately rules out Ponting and Hussey. Probably rules out Katich as well, when you look at it closely, but it's an idea with definite merit.

My thoughts yesterday were along the lines of an eleven for Melbourne, with shadow players to round out a squad of twenty and further shadows to cover any withdrawals due to injury, loss of form or retirement.

That retirement bit, by the way, is only there as an at some point in a relatively distant future consideration.

No, eleven for Melbourne, plus a backup keeper and all-rounder, three bats and four bowlers. We've acknowledged that the bowlers need to be managed carefully, so there's the justification for a four/three split between ball and bat.

Hopefully, out of that group of twenty you'd have enough talent to mould into a long term proposition, and if it was given some degree of official confirmation it could form the basis of communication between the selection panel and the players on the fringe of national selection.

While we're looking at these things we need to ensure that decisions are based on cricket factors and long term strategic planning rather than short term issues, sentiment and player preferences.

In terms of the big picture clearly none of the three aforementioned elder statesmen have much to offer beyond this summer, and if you're going to start planning for the future, with Katich gone you can't see much point in holding on to Ponting and Hussey beyond yesterday.

Actually, there's not much point in holding onto Ponting or Hussey, though Punter may get a short term reprieve. If he does it has to be on the understanding that he'll be holding that press conference before a specified point in the future. If he can't agree to do that, he should go now, and if he does agree and fails to follow through that should be the end of him.

Yes, he'd like to play on through the summer, and Mr Cricket would like to hang around at least as far as Perth, but it's fairly clear bowing to player and captaincy preferences has been a major factor in creating the pickle we find ourselves in.

Mitchell Johnson was a match-winner, an essential member of the attack, and an all-rounder in the making and had to be persisted with, which meant that Watson had to open, which in turn helped push Katich onto the sidelines when someone decided Hughes had done enough to merit a recall, because we always had Watto at the other end, which meant that Khawaja…

Speaking of Khawaja, where does he fit in all this? He's no good thing to hold his spot at Three, but when you look at it much of his run of low scores comes from arriving at the crease early after the departure of a certain opener caught Guptill, bowled Martin.

It will be very interesting to see how he goes for the Chairman's XI at Manuka, and since what transpires in the nation's capital is going to have a significant influence on the team selected for Boxing Day it's probably a matter of wait and see and try to figure out the jigsaw once we've got some form to go on and a better appreciation of where Messrs Watson, Marsh and Cummins are as far as fitness goes.

Back some time over the weekend....

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