Thursday, February 16, 2012

There are reasons why players aren't selectors

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the situation regarding Australia's wicketkeeper went something like this. Brad Haddin is the incumbent in the Test side, while the selection panel wanted to use Matthew Wade for the T20s and the first part of the three way ODI series.

Beyond that (and we're not going to be searching back to find the verifying links, so the old memory might not have it exactly right) Wade was going to be headed to the West Indies with the limited overs squad and would stay on as reserve wicketkeeper and reserve batsman in a situation where flying in replacements at short notice will be nigh on impossible.

Now, without having access to a convenient phone tap or getting fly on the wall status you're not going to know exactly what had been said in any conversation between wicketkeeper and national selector, but one suspects the comment from Inverarity was along the lines of we want to have a look at Wade behind the stumps for the first part of the one day series at least.

On that basis, it might be safe to conclude that the selection panel are still looking. It's not as if there's a whole lot riding on this particular series.

Actually it would have been interesting to have been able to check in to that conversation to see whether Tim Paine was mentioned in despatches, because had Paine been fit at the start of the series against New Zealand Mr Haddin may well have found himself on the outer.

That prospect of a spot in the outer seems to have behind recent remarks from Shane Watson as well, and one starts to suspect that Messrs Ponting and Hussey are definites to go to the West Indies. At least that's the way it seems to look from where Watto's sitting.

He seems to be assuming Shaun Marsh will force his way back into his spot at Three through weight of Shield runs (should make the Shield game that starts later today at the WACA interesting, that feller) and with Punter and Mr Cricket in the XI the only spot for Watto is going to be one of the two opening positions.

From where I'm sitting, however, things aren't quite that cut and dried.

We've got a series against South Africa coming up later this year, and it's going to be a case of dealing with a four man pace attack that will more than likely include Morkel, Steyn and Philander. Should be interesting.

Player self interest, of course, means they'd prefer to see the squad selected from no more than seven batsmen, with the incumbents there until they either lose the desire or encounter a run of form that's too horrendously bad to ignore.

Assuming Watson stays fit and Marsh doesn't score a squillion Shield runs in the next couple of weeks, on the other hand Watson for Marsh would seem to be a logical move for the Caribbean. On that basis you could also move Ponting to Three with Watto to slide into Four or Five, depending on where the captain sees himself.

All well and good, I hear you say, but what about Hussey?

From the comfy chair in the office at the Little House of Concrete the answer's straightforward. He stays at home. Forrest appears to be the next cab off the rank (or maybe Christian if we're looking for an all-rounder to cover a non-bowling Watto) so he goes to the Caribbean to bat Six. Hopefully he scores enough runs to stay in contention at the start of the South African/Sri Lankan summer, which would result in the following rather interesting scenario.

You would have Warner and Cowan, the probable incumbents, being pushed by Hughes, Quiney and Marsh for the two opening slots.

With four batting berths in the middle order you'd be looking at Ponting, Clarke, Watson, Hussey, Forrest, Khawaja and Christian, along with Ferguson, Cooper, Smith or anyone else who sticks his hand up in the meantime.

And the whole dozen or so candidates for the six positions in the batting order would be setting out to stake their claims against a fast bowling lineup that would include (working clockwise from Queensland) Harris, Cutting, young McDermott, Cummins, Copeland, Starc, Pattinson, Siddle, McDonald, Hilfenhaus, Faulkner, Christian, George, Mitchell Johnson and Coulter-Nile. I've probably missed a few on the way through but that's enough to make the point.

That's fifteen possible contenders for four quick bowling slots. You wouldn't, under the circumstances, be overly keen on being a batsman would you?

So what else have we learned since the end of the Test series against India?

Well, for a start there have been a couple of interesting Shield clashes between South Australia and Victoria that saw a couple of centuries to Quiney and five wicket hauls o McDonald and Siddle. Faulkner took wickets for Tasmania against New South Wales in a game where Bailey and Steve Smith got runs and the Tigers ended up winning. Shaun Marsh got runs for the Warriors at the Gabba and they just scraped home with one wicket in hand as young McDermott took 7-24). Cutting got wickets as well, as did Coulter-Nile.

Meanwhile we've got Queensland taking on Tasmania at Bellerive and Western Australia at home to New South Wales. Cricinfo doesn't have teams up for those games just yet, but there'll be a number of players with points to prove.

On the ODI side of things we've got a reasonably close competition where no one's firing at 100% and the result could go any way, right down to a Sri Lankan win in the final. Without much riding on the series the main points of interest from here has been Wade, who has been long on promise and potential and short on actual delivery and Forrest, who looks to have potential but won't have too many opportunities to demonstrate it.

Among the opposition I'm rapidly cooling towards Dhoni, whose attitude with bat in hand seems to be a little too casual for mine, almost a case of I don't want to win this until the last over, so I'll take my time.

But we'll see, won't we? They're on again at the SCG this afternoon, with a squad that includes Clint McKay and Mitch Marsh who I conveniently left out of that clockwise fast bowling lineup a few paragraphs back.

Interesting times, indeed. Maybe that's why Hads and Watto are concerned about their long term prospects.

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