Tuesday, February 21, 2012
In a way Ricky Ponting's press conference yesterday didn't tell us much and, in another way, it did.
If you were waiting for an announcement regarding retirement, as the reader might suspect could have been the case here in The Little House of Concrete, the lack of such an announcement would have been a disappointment, and if you're still waiting for such an announcement I wouldn't be holding my breath, since there's a strong possibility there won't be an announcement at all.
It's quite possible that there'll be a low key press release at some point down the track along the lines that Mr Ponting has asked not to be considered for whatever squad he was still playing for at the end of last season.
What was remarkable, as I sat down to watch the announcement yesterday morning was the change in tone from the confident predictions being made around twelve months ago regarding the next Ashes series and points beyond. It's obvious, after the Argus Review and the Haddin imbroglio, this selection panel will make some hard nosed decisions when hard nosed decisions need to be made, and the interesting part from where I'm sitting is the path we're going to be following on the way forward.
Ponting obviously expects to be going to the West Indies next month, and you'd have to assume this expectation has some sort of base in selectorial advice.
That's presumably something like You're good for the Caribbean, Ricky, but we can't guarantee anything after that.
Jimbo and I were discussing these matters (or rather Hughesy was expounding the themes being pursued here with interjections and wry observations from Jimbo) on the morning walk today, and here's the way I'm hoping things will go from here.
Now, for a start it seems fairly obvious that Ponting and/or Hussey will be winging to the Windies, along with Messrs Haddin, Wade and Forrest, who seems to be the next cab off the batting rank.
Personally, I'd rather see Forrest and another up and comer thrown in at the deep end with the whole side being told they can't be depending on Ricky and Mr Cricket to be digging in when the rest of the side gets themselves into a hole. If a Ponting and Hussey-less side can't handle the West Indies (that's not putting the Windies down, it's looking at relative rankings and recent form) they're not going to handle second-ranked South Africa six or seven months later, are they?
No, I'd prefer to see incumbents, hopefully with some reasonable Test form behind them facing challenges from two old blokes who've been rested for the winter and want their old spots back and a couple of younger hungry blokes who reckon it's about time they got a go, and that contest would be staged against a pack of fast bowlers jostling for four berths (five, if you look at one of them being twelfth man and there's an all-rounder in the mix).
As stated last time around, this would be something like Warner and Cowan being pushed by Hughes, Quiney and Marsh for the two opening slots and Ponting, Clarke, Watson, Hussey, Forrest, Khawaja, Christian, Ferguson, Cooper, Smith and anyone else who sticks his hand up in the meantime slugging it out for four spots in the middle order.
Under this scenario there may well be a side walking on to the Gabba without Ponting and/or Hussey.
Assuming that both go to the West Indies and don't do enough to stake a solid claim to a continuing berth in the batting order even if they are there it may just be a matter of skin and teeth.
Somewhere along the next twelve months there's going to be a day of reckoning.
What I'll be interested to see is what happens when that day comes. From the Ponting presser yesterday you could hypothesise a situation where Ricky, rested or replaced, is having a go at getting his place back. Is there a way to ensure this scenario, if that's the way it pans out, can be turned to everyone's advantage.
Actually, there is.
Go back to that list of names trying to shoe horn their way into the batting order by monstering attacks that include (assuming they're all fit, and working clockwise from Queensland) Harris, Cutting, young McDermott, Cummins, Copeland, Starc, Pattinson, Siddle, McDonald, Hilfenhaus, Faulkner, Bird, Christian, George, Mitchell Johnson and Coulter-Nile. That was just to get a spot in the Test at the Gabba. Once that squad has been named there'll be plenty of jostling as those who missed out in both departments try to work their way towards next cab off the rank.
Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, setting out with a point to prove would only be able to do it by monstering attacks that are going to bristling with tyros jockeying for position, and those blokes jockeyng for position are going to know the only way to work their way up the pecking order is by taking wickets a\gainst a Tasmanian side that includes Ponting or a warriors side with Hussey wanting his old spot back.
It probably won't work out that way, but in those circumstances we'd be looking at a situation where anyone staking a claom is going to be doing so on the back of good form against decent opposition.
As I remarked to Jimbo a few days ago, back in the days when I was involved with school cricket I was on first name terms with the panel charged with selecting the state rep squad, and in one particular case that acquaintance went back over fifteen years. Discussing things relating to selection, I frequently heard comments along the lines of not being sure whether a kid would be able to handle the rise to the next level.
Fair enough. You start with a kid playing for his school. He may or may not handle the step up to district level. From there it's a case of further steps to Zone and Regional rep status before you're even looking at State selection.
Just because the kid went from here to there doesn't mean he's going to handle the next step up.
Fair enough. I've used the I don't think he's good enough for the next stage plenty of times myself.
Go back to that selection scenario before the Gabba Test, however, and there's no way you're going to look at Forrest, Khawaja, Ferguson, Cooper or anyonr else who's coming off a couple of big hundreds and downplay the scores because they were made against under strength opposition.
The same way, assuming young McDermott, Bird or Coulter-Nile (to pick three names that are probably well down the pecking order) manage to pick up a couple of five-or six-fors you're not going to be sufggesting that anyone could do that against that batting order,
Over recent years there have been a number of suggestions that Shield cricket hasn't been the strong platform we need to deliver quality players to the top level. For the next domestic season, that might not be the case...