SELECTING an Australian Test cricket team must be the toughest job going around. Justifying the contentious choices even harder. GEOFF POULTER reports:
BEING a Test selector is a parallel degree of difficulty with, say, AFL umpiring – or even sculpting!
AFL umpiring has become almost impossible now the game has become so congested and rugby scrum-like and there is a reluctance (instruction?) to play ALL free kicks. Why sculpting, you may well ask? Well, have you ever seen a statute that even remotely resembles a sports subject? Must be tough work.
Picking international cricket teams (now across three types of the game creating further difficulties) has so many variables and requires a lot of what we colloquially now call “gut feel”. The selectors have been congratulated for getting it right this summer – the Marx brothers (eh Marsh), Tim Paine were hits; Cam Bancroft a wait and see. But this is all based on the quality of the opposition which was ordinary, at best.
Justifying the ins and outs can be a tricky exercise. One specialist bowler, who generally bats at No 11, was left out of the side last season because his batting had to improve. Bet they didn’t say that to Glenn McGrath!
Glenn Maxwell may be missing out because he’s not “training smart”. Forget the fact that he looks as trim and fit as anyone and is as good a fielder as any going around. Chris Lynn, originally named despite fielding and throwing deficiencies while recovering from injury, is now out. Replacement? Cam White. So that shuts up the victimised Victorian chorus despite the fate of Jones, Hodge, Maxwell et al.
Peter Handscomb, after a marathon hand in Bangladesh last year in oppressive heat, was dropped despite a Test batting average of 47 after scoring 62 in three hits against England – and despite batting in the most difficult conditions against the pink ball in the night session in Adelaide. He was relegated to 12th for the final three Tests despite a 2-0 lead. Once you were more likely to be dropped after a loss.
History is littered with examples of players restricted to only one Test. Others, particularly in a rebuilding stage, were given several chances to atone for small scores. It’s often luck and timing. And back in the day, you often found out your fate on a radio news bulletin.
Let’s face it, batting is just about the most sudden-death of all the major sporting disciplines. One that Tony Greig called a “jaffa” and it’s all over. Or their fielders might grass three dollies and you cross yourself.
Bowling? You might get several spells. Tennis – you can come back from 0-6, 0-6. Golf, first round 75 and you can still recover. And footy. You can be quiet all day and bob up with a match-winning last quarter a la John Sharrock, in a three-four goal burst in 10 minutes.
But then, the will-of-the-wisp left-footed Cat they dubbed “Shadow”, was the kind of game-changing gifted player who deserved all the chances in the world. A lot more than the likes of Handscomb and Maxwell have been afforded.
GEOFF POULTER, 69, has spent 51 years in sports media. He was the last Melbourne Herald chief football writer. CV: Sports oracle, author, historian, impersonator, raconteur, poet, quiz whiz, philosopher, song-writer, intellectual scholar – and still employable!