Monthly Archives: March 2017

Some Spine in the Middle Order

Mitchell Marsh has gone home injured from India, hounded by cruel but accurate headlines labelling him Australia’s worst ever No. 6. It’s not his fault – it’s the selectors who persist in filling the No. 6 slot with a so-called ‘all-rounder’ who bats a bit and bowls a bit but does neither well enough to help win a Test match for his team.

And now they’ve done it again.

Marcus Stoinis?


Why would you pick this guy for the Test team on the back of one (admittedly phenomenal) ODI innings against New Zealand? Like Hilton Cartwright and Moises Henriques before him, Stoinis bowls lollipop medium-pacers which India’s batsmen will chew up and spit out on their low, slow wickets. And he’s not a good enough batsman to play at No. 6 in the Test team. He simply isn’t (and neither was Mitchell Marsh). So why fly him to India? It makes no sense.

And if they don’t play Stoinis in the 3rd Test, will they play Usman Khawaja? A sensible short-term solution, perhaps, but Uzzy is not a No. 6 batsman. He’s an opener.

Oh, and by the way, Glenn Maxwell certainly isn’t the answer, either.  Substitute ‘off-spinners that don’t spin’ for ‘lollipop medium pacers’ in the paragraph above, and all the same arguments apply. Maxwell should not even be in the Test squad. He hasn’t earned it. He’s not good enough.

The Australian selectors seem to have forgotten how much better the team fared when it had a proper batsman at No. 6. Come back, Mike Hussey, we miss you. The obvious solution is to find a proper middle-order batsman.  Australia has done well in India with two decent seamers and two decent spinners. It doesn’t need a third seamer, or a third spinner. Even with Starc flying home, you could play Jackson Bird or if you must have more pace, fly Pat Cummins out to India. I don’t think it makes any difference.  Honestly, I think Bird will do fine. He lacks Starc’s threatening pace but he’s a lot more accurate.

When desperate after the series loss to South Africa, the selectors resorted to picking a couple of young batsmen who had (shock, horror,gasp) a good if somewhat short track record in the Sheffield Shield. Remember the Sheffield Shield? So far, Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb have done pretty well.  Both look likely to improve.

Why not stick with that approach? Australia needs a decent No. 6 batsman. There are two obvious candidates.

One is Kurtis Patterson, who bats at No. 4 for NSW. He will be 24 in May. He has played 39 first-class matches and has an average of 42.83 with 5 centuries. So far this season, he’s scored 621 runs at 47.77, with one ton and six half-centuries.

The other is Jake Lehmann, who bats at No. 5 for South Australia. The 24-year old Lehmann has played 25 first-class matches and has an average of 46.41 with 5 centuries.  So far this season, he’s made 646 runs at 49.69.

I reckon either Patterson or Jake Lehmann would be worthwhile selections. They both resemble Renshaw and Handscomb: young, and with a decent track record. The selectors are on to a good strategy. They should stick with it and abandon this catastrophic policy of picking a mediocre player to bat at No. 6.

Glass Jaw

To me, Virat Kohli seems a bit like the Donald Trump of the Indian cricket team.

Kohli is successful and widely lauded for his significant achievements. And rightly so. He is a fine player.

Why, then, is he so angry all the time? He has a thin skin and appears to require constant affirmation. Despite his magnificent feats on the field,  his terrific statistics and his high ICC rankings, Kohli talks a lot about ‘respect’ and whether or not he is getting enough of it.

His behaviour reminds me of Donald Trump. The US President, for example, calls CNN ‘fake news’ and tells us he reviles the ‘failing’ New York Times. Meanwhile, he clearly pays a great deal of attention to both and desperately craves their approval.

Similarly, Kohli can’t seem to conduct an interview or press conference without telling us how much he does NOT pay attention to his critics (whoever they are). Recently he was quoted as saying “All along in my career, there were many people who had doubted the way I have gone about my game. Even now there are doubters and haters all around.”

Are there? Really? They’re all around?

Even in the unpleasant  and spiteful aftermath of the 2nd Test in Bengaluru, the Australians have gone out of their way to say they respect Kohli as much as ever. While objecting to Kohli’s accusations, Australian bowling coach David Saker said “we respect him as a player, he’s an amazing player and his passion and the way he wanted to get his team up was quite evident out on the ground.”

Perhaps Kohli was referring to Ian Healy, who recently criticized Kohli’s behaviour on the field (not his prowess as a player, mind you). Kohli felt compelled to fire back at Healy, even directing the media to look up an old YouTube video of Healy misbehaving after a dismissal two decades ago.

“We’ve got 1.2 billion people in India, one person doesn’t make a difference to my life,” Kohli said of Healy.

Well, that’s obviously not true. If Healy’s remarks did not bother Kohli, he would not have even mentioned them. And few people would have paid any attention. In a matter of hours (or even minutes), Healy’s comments would have been forgotten. I mean, it’s just Ian Healy, right? Instead, Kohli or one of his minders has gone away and looked for ammunition with which to return fire. In so doing, they made Healy’s remarks into a news story. It’s like picking at a sore. You’re best leaving it alone if you want it go away.

Virat. Buddy. You’re captain of the No. 1 Test team. You’re the No. 3 Test and ODI batsman in the world. You’ve made it. You don’t need to be quite so defensive. If you want more respect, perhaps a little more tranquility would help.

I’m sure the support staff have a chill pill in the medicine cabinet.