John Harms - Australian Cricket Selector
By John Harms
- March 1, 2013 1:14PM
Billy Brownless is a funny man. But he’s always been a funny man. We have a mutual friend in former bookshop proprietor J. Dunne (now business development man at the Geelong Racing Club who claims he’s turned the Geelong Cup into an international event). J. Dunne was once selling books to the library at Assumption College in Kilmore, when his phone rang. It was Billy.
“G’day Cocko,” Billy said, as he says to everyone. “What are you doing?”
“I’m at the library at your old school,” he explained.
“Library?” said Billy, “Didn’t know it had a library.”
Billy was never one for team meetings and like the ratbag kid in Tech Drawing he was always acting the goat; never listening. One day Malcolm Blight went into a long lecture about how Geelong would beat Sydney at the SCG, and how you play SCG generally. He had mapped out tactics and approaches and strategies and he was getting more and more annoyed with Billy who was completely inattentive. Finally he thought he’d catch Brownless out.
“Billy,” he roared. “So what do we do in Sydney?”
Quick as a flash Billy responded: “Play three spinners.”
Sydney turns. Ask anyone who follows Australian sport and that is in the bank. Perth bounces, Sydney turns.
And so does India. All of India. We all know that.
So what on earth were the Australian selectors doing in the First Test at Chennai? On the basis of common knowledge alone, it was unusual to go in with three quicks and Moises Henriques who seemed a little like John Arlott’s favourite Kiwi trundle and batsman, Bob Cunis. “Bob,” said the famous commentator, “was neither one thing nor the other.”
What has complicated selection for this second Test at Hyderabad is that Henriques knuckled down and showed real grit in a difficult situation, and now cannot be dropped, rotated, or rested.
The selection decision, which resulted in team imbalance in Chennai, appeared dubious after just a few deliveries of that match. In his first over, Ishant Sharma made a footprint that you’d barely leave walking on the beach and his foot was so going through the top that he was warned for running on the wicket in his second over. The finger spinners got turn and bounce from the outset. Yet the centre of the wicket remained solid and benign – the result of the curator’s part-watering policy.
Whatever happened Australia did not have the arsenal to exploit the situation as M.S. Dhoni demonstrated with a superb knock.
The curator at Hyderabad has been quoted as saying his wicket will turn, but only from the third day.
Surely Australia will take in a second spinner. England took a Test match to realise her folly, but then Swann and Panesar bowled beautifully and patiently, using variation and occasionally trying to land a bomb.
Nathan Lyon has a nice action. He has the mean look of a Dickensian bean-counter (at best) or an undertaker. He doesn’t have two things: a decade of county cricket behind him; he has never ripped through a batting line-up.
But he has to play.
Stephen Smith cannot be picked. If he is loose at one end then Lyon is a less effective bowler at the other. Which leaves Xavier Doherty. Again, it’s difficult to be learning your craft while playing at this level, but that’s what’s happening. Doherty has shown he has the mental strength to be competitive and influential in the 50-over game. But he is still scarred by the hammering he’s taken in Tests. I was at the Adelaide Test against England when Pietersen went after him (and the rest of them). The wicket was so hard and flat the sun was reflecting off it. Doherty bowled darts which skidded through. The Englishmen picked him off.
These will be very different conditions. I’d love to see him play. But the Indian batsmen will relish the chance to exploit his inexperience in conditions which are theirs.
All this adds up to another tough time for the Australians who are probably under the odds at $4.65.
India at $2.05 is the better value. The pressure is all on the Australians who are also burdened with the problem of individual players trying to play for their own spots.
It all adds up to an intriguing Test match. Perhaps we could try Billy Brownless to flick a few over the wrist and at least keep us entertained in the dressing room.