Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Swings, roundabouts and rotation policies

I've never been one to pay too much attention to what happens when some elite sports star gets to sit in front of the sponsors' logos and make sage pronouncements about the talking points of the moment, in much the same way tas I disregard hard-hated politicians doing something or other in front of the TV cameras to ensure they've got their face towards the top of the prime time news bulletins.

We know why the politicians are doing it, and you don't need to be Einstein to figure out why those elite sports personalities are there, sandwiched between the corporate logos and the media scrum.

The media scrum wants content, the sponsors want their pound of flesh and if you don't give the journos something relatively straightforward to cover they might have to start looking. If they were to do that they might well look elsewhere or start sniffing around areas you'd prefer they didn't.

At least, if you've corralled them into the media conference you can exert some control of what's going to come out in the news bulletins and potential fish and chips wrapping, which is also why so many of those events end up as statements of the bleeding obvious.

There's the occasional headline that comes out of such events that's worthy of comment, such as Australia aim for 3-0 in Perth, leave talk of 4-0 for later.

Click on the link and you'll find the predictable cliches rolling out one after the other. The late and definitely unlamented in these parts Joh Bjelke Petersen used to refer to it as feeding the chooks.

At the same time Mr Hussey, who copped the short straw to front the media this time around has certain topics he'd prefer not to discuss, which is tricky given the fact that their cousin-brothers are rearing their ugly heads on the subcontinent as people start questioning the future of India's aging batting order.

For all the cliches Hussey's right. Leading two-nil in the four Test series you look at what's in front of you at the WACA, see how events unfold and then turn your thoughts to Adelaide. One step at a time and all that…

While you're doing that, of course, you're conveniently not looking too far into the future and raising tricky questions about retirement and rotation policies, are you?

Because rotation policies are back on the agenda with headlines like Cricket Australia outlines rotation policy, though one notes general manager of high performance Pat Howard's still talking bowlers at this stage.

Much of the problem facing India lies in the fact that their batting line up has, at various stages, been highly successful, with the corollary that success encourages continuity and stability to the point where you're stuck with the incumbents because they might hit form and the horizon's light on for replacements.

That's sort of like suggesting while Brad Haddin's not going that well at the moment Tim Paine's injured and the other candidates have yet to prove themselves so we'd better stick with Haddin, hadn't we?

In any case, even if we manage to get to the 4-0 whitewash against India we're probably going to have a few question marks heading off to the West Indies and points beyond, so let's return to a well-worn path for a moment.

A clean sweep in a Test series tends to minimise the number of areas that will be needing scrutiny, and at the moment it looks like we'll be right in the bowling department.

Assuming the current twelve get through Perth and Adelaide unscathed, then get themselves through the rest of the summer without anything going wrong, you'd expect the twelve that emerge from Adelaide to supply the basis for the Test squad for the West Indies. The extras will depend on the size of the squad they want to move around the Caribbean and the playing roster we end up using for the five ODIs and two T20s before three Tests in Barbados, Trinidad and Guyana.

The first factor that needs to be pencilled in here is the travel time involved if you need to fly in replacements. You need to have most eventualities covered in the actual squad as an injury late in one Test may mean the next game starts before the replacement arrives, so you'd be inclined to think one of your reserve bats might need to cover the 'keeper's role as well.

So, pause for as moment, and assume a Test squad of sixteen, which might seem excessive for a three Test series, but you're going to have some cover for injury along the track and there are those logistical issues with replacements.

That means, with the twelve from Adelaide providing the nucleus, you've got space for two bats and two bowlers. The bowlers would be Pattinson and Cummins, assuming both are fit, one bat would be a fit Watson and the other the reserve 'keeper, whoever that might be. If he was fit you'd go for Tim Paine, but with long term injury issues….

That, in turn brings us back to the existing batting order, doesn't it?

If he's fit, you'd expect Watson to slot right in somewhere, and by the end of Adelaide we'll hopefully have a better handle on Messrs Warner, Cowan and Marsh at One, Two and Three. That, in turn means we're going to be looking at Ponting and Hussey agian, aren't we?

Small wonder that media conference appearance from Mr Cricket had him talking about just trying to enjoy each Test match and then closing the door on that one and starting afresh for the next.

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