Keeping the faith

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 10, 2010 19:50 hrs

The merry-go-round of selecting players won’t help Australian cricket.

Cricket, like any other sport, fascinates because it allows individuals to push physical and mental boundaries. Every once in a while, though, it seems that the importance of the individual is getting diminished with rise of a machinery that is forever at loggerheads with individuality. That was just the case during the years that Australia dominated world cricket.

The Australian team had suffered enormous damage when three of its stalwarts, Greg Chappell, Dennis Lille and Rodney Marsh, called it a day at the same time in the 1980s. The team raced to the bottom, lost regularly and looked easy meat for everyone. It took many years, the astute stewardship of Allan Border, and the emergence of some truly gifted players for the team to regain old glory. Thus stung, the country’s cricket administration decided to set up a system in which the reliance on individuals, while it cannot be eliminated, would be reduced. It seemed to be working well for a long time. Some legends were nudged into retirement to ensure that the assembly line moved smoothly.

England, on the other hand, has been in a bit of a mess, losing regularly to Australia over the last 21 years and becoming a butt of jokes. Its selection policy has looked to be without a policy and many players were hyped up unnecessarily only to fail at the big stage.

It is therefore illuminating to see how the Australian administration has been handling its team under pressure.

According to the latest rumour, Shane Warne, who retired three years ago, is being coaxed back on to the field. They haven’t got him, but Michael Beer, the left-arm slow bowler Warne plugged in his newspaper column, has been drafted in for the third Test of this ongoing Ashes series. In his most recent match at Perth, the venue of the third Test, Beer took 3 for 139 against New South Wales, whose rejected Australian spinner Nathan Hauritz collected 7 for 104. Hauritz was dropped for his poor performance in India, where all-time great spinners have done little better. In his place came Xavier Doherty, a 28-year-old with a first-class bowling average touching 50, who is out of the team now. Two of the new ball bowlers, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson, were dropped after the first Test. Doug Bollinger, who filled one of those slots for the second, has been axed for the third. Now there is talk that Hilfenhaus and Johnson may come back for the third. Among the batsmen, Marcus North has been dropped, to be replaced by Steve Smith, an all-rounder who is likely to bat below the wicketkeeper.

That’s not quite the well-oiled assembly line it was cranked up to be, is it? Hell, right now it seems to be doing a passable impression of our own selectors.

England, on the other hand, has welcomed individual talent wherever it came from. If the current team tours South Africa, it will be difficult to determine who is playing at home and who is a tourist. Summarily maligned for selecting 29 players for the six Ashes Tests of 1989, the English administration has put its faith in individuals and is putting up its best show in decades.


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