Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hobby horse resumed...

I know I said that I'd be refraining from cricket comment until we have some sort of form line coming out of Canberra this weekend, but there are some things that can't be allowed to pass without comment and this is one of them.

The notion that Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have anything to contribute beyond the immediate short term seems to go against all notions of strategic planning,

Seriously, if you're guaranteeing both a place just under a fortnight out from the game you're ruling out other possibilities before you start selecting the actual side.

Guaranteeing Hussey a spot at Six rules out, for example, bringing Watson back as a batting all-rounder, and if he's not up to bowling in this next game rules out slotting Christian in that spot with Watto further up the order.

And if you're guaranteeing Ponting his spot at Four, you're saying the non-bowling Watson has to open or bat Three…

But apart from those next game issues there are long term strategic planning issues.

For a start, we should be looking towards a batting line up capable of scoring six hundred in two days and a bowling attack that can dismiss a strong batting line up twice. This isn't going to happen overnight, but it's the sort of thing we should be working towards.

More significantly, while we're heading in that direction we need to be working our way up the Test rankings. After the series win in Sri Lanka we're apparently sitting at Number Four, where we're always going to be under threat from the likes of Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

No, the safest way of avoiding being knocked out of the Top Four is to get to Three, Two or One and leave the looking over the shoulder bit to whoever you've pushed into that slot as you work your way towards Number One.

More significantly, assuming the proposed Test Championship actually gets off the ground, there's a vital reason why you don't want to be Four.

I haven't seen the actual format for this Championship bit, but it will almost certainly only involve the Top Four.

Assuming that's the way things go there are only two possibilities for the format. You either go for two qualifying games (or series, but that's probably not going to happen) and a winner plays winner final or a full round robin with the top two teams playing off in the decider.

That round robin format would need seven games, and I suspect that scheduling issues will ensure the format will go with two qualifiers and a final. If that's the case you either draw the names out of a hat or go with One plays Four and Two plays Three.

In that scenario if you're Number Four you'll be playing the top dog for a place in the final, and that's after you've been looking over your shoulder to make sure no one tips you out of contention.

Assuming you want to move above Number Four you're going to need to knock someone out of the Top Three to make room for you, which in turn means at least one series win against England, India and South Africa.

The series against India is the start of that, and you'd fancy our chances at home against a side that tends not to play well away from home, and there may be a case for Ponting or Hussey in the immediate future, but let's look beyond that.

After this series against India we're at home to South Africa with away series against England and India. We'll be playing the other sides along the way, but if we're looking to get to Three we're going to tip someone out of the Top Three to make room for us, aren't we?

Seriously, how far into the future are we going to go with these two great players who may have served the side well in the past but are increasingly going to struggle against quality seam bowling, which we can expect from England and South Africa. Surely we're not suggesting they'll still be key in twelve months time against Steyn, Morkel and Philander?

Worse, if we allow them to hang on by the fingertips when they do eventually go we'll be throwing the replacements straight into the pressure cooker.

No, possibly as far as the end of this series, fellas, if you hold your place as the side is picked on form and strategic concerns rather than having selections slotted in around you.

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