Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Ashes 2010/11- The Baggy Green Cap
From the time I started following cricket, I have constantly heard about how tough it is to wear the Baggy Green cap. Anyone who was lucky enough to wear the cap really earned it. Players like Martyn, Haydos, Lehmann and co. had to score tons of runs to get into the side. In recent times though, the Australian selection policy has been riddled with confusion. A few younger players have got the chance to represent Australia, but they have been discarded without being given a decent run in the side. At the same-time, players like North and Huss continue to struggle, but haven't been dropped.
Let us have a look at the number of debutants for the top teams
Since Jan 1 2008
England (37 debuts)
Tests - 12
ODIs - 11
20/20s - 14
Australia (58 debuts)
Tests - 17
ODIs - 22
20/20s - 19
South Africa (34 debuts)
Tests - 8
ODIs - 11
20/20s - 15
India( 39 debuts)
Srilanka( 36 debuts)
First of all, 58 is a ridiculous number. Yes, nowadays most teams are experimenting with younger players in the shorter versions of the game yet, when I scratch the surface and look in-depth into the Australian selection policies, there seems to be confusion.
For instance, Phil Hughes made his debut in South Africa and was successful, but as soon as he failed in a few games in the Ashes, he was dropped. Yes, he looked vulnerable against the short stuff and I do feel that he is weak against spinners too, but would it be better to invest in a young guy, who has got a very good FC record and had a good start to his test career in the Safferland, or is it better to persist with the out of form North, who is over 30 years of age? The same can be said about Khawaja, as he was picked in the squad to play against Pakistan, but wasn't even in the squad that toured India. On the other hand, Henriques got his chance to play in the shorter formats of the game last year, but unlike Hughes, Moises hadn't backed his inclusion with good performances in domestic cricket. The same can be said about Steve Smith as even now, he looks like a batsman who bowls a bit. I do agree that sometimes it is fine to pick players, who may not have a good fc record, but on the basis of their potential. The key point though is, once they are picked, they should be given a decent run in the side.
So, are the Aussie selectors going back to the dark days of 80's? I do remember that Bob Simpson, the coach who rejuvenated the Australian side in the 80's saying that when he took over as the coach of Australian team almost 90% of the state players had played a match for Australia. It made Simpson and the group of selectors at that time to pick certain players, who they thought would succeed and they were backed to the hilt.
Debutants for Australia in test cricket during the tenure of Bob Simpson as the coach( between 86 to 95/96)
Just 32 players made their debut during the time of Simpson as the coach of the side and leaving a few players like Zoerher, Dyer, Veletta, Angel, Law, Campbell, Emery and Phillips most of them got a decent run in the side. Among the players mentioned, I can only think of Angel, Law and maybe Zoerher who deserved a better run in the side.I always got the feeling that both Angel and Law were dropped for reasons other than their ability. One can think of Martyn and Hayden not getting a decent run, but I do believe the selectors at that time rightly dropped them as they were perhaps not mentally up-to playing test cricket. The fact though is, thanks to Simpson, selectors of that time and Border, Australia became a superpower in cricket. The selection panel continued to take good decisions including the tough ones like axing senior players of the calibre of Waugh twins, or for that matter introducing Clarke into the test set up with a career path in mind for him.
Actually nowadays, England seem to be following the policy of what Australia used to do in the late 80's and 90's. The side has a settled look to it, but at the same-time tough decisions have been taken. For instance, KP was axed from the one-day team. Younger players like Shahzad and Morgan may not have good fc records, but I get the feeling that the selectors have a career path in mind for Morgan and even Shahzad. Yes, it was a huge surprise to see Pattinson making his debut and the same can be said about a journeyman like Tredwell, but leaving the odd selection which have raised the eyebrows of fans and experts, most decisions seem to have a logic behind it. In-fact, even fringe players like Denly and Bopara were given a decent run in the side before they were discarded.
During the dark days of 90's it was different, as a batsman who scored zero in his first international match would be dropped and some journeyman will replace him. A trundler, who picked a five wicket haul on a green top would suddenly be playing test cricket. Players like Ramps, Crawley, Hick and to a lesser extant Cork, Hussain, Gough, Knight, Caddick and co. were affected by it. It got so bad that in the 89 Ashes, 29 players played for England and in the 93 Ashes, 24 players represented England. No wonder, Australia won nine of the eleven tests played in those two series in England.
Finally, as a cricket aficionado my views on selection
1) The first point is, don't continue to have deadwood in the side. Let it be Waugh twins or Hussey, if they don't perform, drop them. It surely hinders the progress of younger players like Hughes and Khawaja.
2) Sometimes on the basis of personal judgment, selectors can surely pick players, who may not have a great fc record like Simon Jones, Steve Smith, Trescothick, Vaughan or Morgan, but once they are picked, back them to the hilt by giving them a decent run in the side.
(For some of the stats, I would like to thank 1000 Yardstare)