Tag Archives: Haddin

Lay Off the Selectors

Let’s be honest, we cricket fans have all had a whinge about the selectors from time to time. In the aftermath of the Ashes loss in England, the knives are out for a lot of people, including Rod Marsh and his team.

I think that’s unjustified. The selectors did a pretty good job on this Ashes tour, and do not deserve much of the criticism they’ve received.

“I’m just racking my brain to try and think of who else we could have picked,” Marsh has said.

He’s right.

There really wasn’t anybody else who genuinely justified selection. There were good reasons to pick each member of the Ashes squad with the exception of Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh. These two players have a long track record of underperformance and inconsistency at Test level. Neither player has the skill or mental aptitude for Test cricket, and both have spent years demonstrating that.

But the truth is it would not have mattered much.

Neither Watson nor Shaun Marsh was responsible for the loss of the Ashes. I’m sure you could point fingers at more than these three, but Steve Smith, Michael Clarke and Adam Voges were primarily responsible for the series loss due to their inability to score runs at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge. Yes, Johnson, Starc and Hazlewood certainly could have bowled a better line and length, but they were always defending low totals. The main problem was the middle order batting.

Generally, selectors pick players who have been making runs and taking wickets. They did that.

The veterans in the squad such as Clarke and Brad Haddin had good track records, and although their runs had been drying up, Clarke made 128 against India as recently as December. Chris Rogers, David Warner and Smith all played well prior to the Ashes. Voges averaged over 100 last season in the Sheffield Shield and has a long and impressive first class career – why wouldn’t you pick him? After the World Cup, you couldn’t go past Mitchell Starc, and you’d pick Mitchell Johnson on the strength of the 2013-14 Ashes series even if the guy hadn’t rolled his arm over since. Josh Hazlewood was very impressive in his early career, and Nathan Lyon only gets better and better.

True, the Mitchell Marsh experiment didn’t work out, but he was worth a shot. Given Watson’s extended run of poor form, it was a well worth giving Mitchell Marsh a chance after Cardiff. He is definitely not a Test No. 6 batsman, but at 23 he has time on his side, and should be sent back to the Sheffield Shield to make some runs. Marsh is not the first young player to be thrown into the cauldron a little bit too early (Steve Smith was woeful when first he played Test cricket), and he has enormous potential.

Moreover, I give the selectors great kudos for swapping Haddin for Peter Nevill after Cardiff, and am pretty sick and tired of ex-players stirring the pot and whingeing that the ‘family first’ policy should have ensured a game for Haddin at Lord’s. Nevill was a better bet than Haddin, and the selectors made a tough call. They deserve more credit for it.

Oh, and the idea that Peter Siddle should have played at Trent Bridge? C’mon…. It wouldn’t have made any difference. The sad, brutal truth is that Sidds is now only a back-up bowler who would probably not have been in the squad at all if James Pattinson and Pat Cummins were fit and had enough recent red ball cricket under their belts. It’s a cruel statement, but fair. Siddle is down on pace and not the force he once was. The selectors know this. They were right to omit him.

Darren Lehmann has said that swapping out Mitchell Marsh for his brother Shaun in the Fourth Test was a selection error, but again, this selection made little difference to the series result. As mentioned above, Shaun Marsh has been nothing but a disappointment at Test level and should never have been in the squad, but ultimately the series was slipping away by the time he was called up and it would not have mattered which Marsh was selected.

So in my view, Watson and Shaun Marsh are the two black marks against the selectors, but they earn one back for the replacement of Haddin with Nevill. Moreover, they shouldn’t be pilloried for picking either Mitchell Marsh or Voges.

And should any of the up-and-comers have been picked? Joe Burns, Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja are having a good tour of India with Australia A this month, and all three stand a chance of achieving (or regaining) a Test place in coming months. But were they battering down the selectors’ door before the Ashes tour? Not really.

Pat Howard, the performance manager of the Australian team, has gone on record blaming himself for (among other things) trying to prepare Ryan Harris for the series, picking a ‘Dad’s Army’ team and having the selectors announce one touring party for both the West Indies and England.

It’s very noble of Howard to accept blame for the loss of the Ashes, but I struggle to see how any of his alleged transgressions were responsible.

As I’ve noted before (see my earlier post ‘Mythbusting’), Harris was always unlikely to be ready to play. Even if he did play, he was 18 months older than in the previous Ashes series and there was no guarantee he would have been anywhere as effective. Suggestions that Australia ‘missed’ Harris are misguided. Australia might have missed the bowler Harris used to be, but he probably would not have been that bowler in the current series anyway.

As for Howard’s reference to ‘Dad’s Army’, I’m not sure what he’s referring to (but mind you, I don’t what his job entails anyway). It was the selectors’ job to pick the side, not Howard’s, and as I’ve opined above, they did a decent job. I’m not sure exactly what Howard is accepting blame for.

Finally, Australia flew straight from the West Indies to England. At no point between the two series was there sufficient time for other Australians to play enough first-class cricket to impress the selectors. So even if the selectors had decided to pick an entirely new squad for the Ashes at the end of the West Indies series, who would they have chosen other than the players they already had?

Howard has said he welcomes any review of his position. Great – perhaps we’ll find out what he actually does and why it matters.

In the meantime, I think the critics should lay off the selectors. They’re doing okay.

Retired Blowhards, Haddin and the Indian Curse

It’s a little tiring to hear of retirees like Ricky Ponting, Ian Healy and Matthew Hayden bagging the selectors for failing to reinstate Brad Haddin in the 3rd Test at Edgbaston.

Darren Lehmann is absolutely correct when he says Haddin was replaced due to his poor form. It was the right call. This isn’t tiddlewinks, people, it’s the Ashes. It doesn’t get any more serious than this, and there is no room for sentiment. Players do not ‘deserve’ another game merely because they are popular or because they have played for a long time or because they took time off to be with family. Famous ex-cricketers speaking out in support of struggling incumbents is like turkeys getting together to vote against Christmas. You’d hardly expect anything else.

In fact, the mere fact that Messrs Healy, Ponting and Hayden are complaining about the selectors’ decision on Haddin underscores how sensible it was. None of these three knew when it when time to call time on their own careers. All three played for at least a year past their use-by dates, and in all cases it was painful to watch them struggle at the end.

  • Ian Healy made 134 against England in the 1st Test at the Gabba in November 1998. In his subsequent 12 Tests, he made 170 runs across 20 innings at an average of 8.94 before selector Trevor Hohns said enough was enough. Legend has it that Healy wanted to play his last Test in Australia after consecutive tours of the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, but Hohns put his foot down and Healy had to go.
  • Ricky Ponting, too, played for at least a year too long. He peeled off 134 in the 2nd Test against India in January 2012 and it followed it up with 221 and 60 not out in the Adelaide Test three weeks later. Thereafter, however, he made 178 runs at 16.18 in 11 innings in his last 6 Tests, scoring just one half-century. By the end he was a walking wicket.
  • Matthew Hayden scored centuries against India in Melbourne and Adelaide in the 2007-08 season but his scores tanked thereafter. In his next 9 Tests, commencing with a 4-Test series in India which Australia lost 2-0, he made 344 runs across 16 innings at an average of 22.93, with only two half-centuries.

The selectors’ decision to replace Haddin with Peter Nevill should be applauded. Cricket fans should acknowledge a selection panel prepared to retire players who are over the hill, regardless of whether retired players believe it is ‘fair’. When he was re-appointed to the selection panel about eighteen months ago, Hohns was quoted as saying “There’s quite a few blokes in that (veterans’) age bracket and not just 30 and above, some of them are 34 and 35 and above (including 34-year-old fast bowler Ryan Harris) so there’s no doubt that in the near future there will be some decisions made.” Haddin must have known it was coming. Healy, Ponting and Hayden should have, too. The ‘family first’ policy is irrelevant. It’s about form.

One last thing: a cursory glance at the final year or so of Hayden and Ponting’s careers does not bode very well for Michael Clarke.

Let’s face it, touring Indian teams in Australia fare about as well as Australian teams do in India. India is not terribly difficult to beat on Australian soil. It is worthy of note that both Ponting and Hayden made runs against India in Australia before falling apart once they came up against other teams outside Australia. In hindsight, it’s not difficult to believe the deterioration in their form was masked to some degree by the weakness of the opposition.

Michael Clarke, too, managed 128 against India in Adelaide in December 2014 but has made few runs since. His recent run of form is starting to look eerily similar to that of both Hayden and Ponting as they limped to retirement after series against India in Australia.

Sadly, though, most pundits now expect Clarke to retire at the end of the current Ashes series if not before. It would be a greater surprise if he actually makes a score before then.

Fountain of Youth

At 23, Mitchell Marsh is 10.3 years younger than the man he is likely to replace in the Second Test, Shane Watson.

Peter Nevill, meanwhile, at 29 years and 275 days, is 8 years younger than Brad Haddin, whom he will replace at Lord’s.

This means the median age of the Australian eleven will fall by 15% from 33.7 to 28.7, and the number of players aged 30 or more will fall from 6 to 4.

Dad’s Army no more? At the very least, the Australians are reducing the number of excuses they can use if they lose at Lord’s.


Ashes status: England 1, Australia nil.

Let’s look at some of the myths doing the rounds after Australia’s loss in Cardiff:

Myth #1: Australia is missing Ryan Harris.

No, I don’t think so. Harris’ presence would not have helped much in Cardiff. I loved the Rhino as much as any cricket fan but when folks say Australia is missing him, what they’re really saying is that they’re missing the Harris of 2013-14. Harris wouldn’t have cut it. He was coming off six months of rehab with no cricket under his belt, and – more importantly – was eighteen months older. One only needs to look at the impact those eighteen months have had on Brad Haddin. No, Harris was lucky to have dodged it all. I’d rather remember him the way he was.

Myth #2: The Aussie quicks were nobbled by the slow pitch

The Cardiff curator may have Mitch-proofed the wicket but the greater problem was that Johnson and Starc did not bowl accurately. England’s bowlers demonstrated that line and length was both possible and effective. Pitches are slow everywhere – India, the UAE, the West Indies and England – but good bowling discipline is still good bowling discipline.

Myth #3: Aussie batsmen should play their natural game. 

No, no, and no. If Michael Clarke says this one more time, I’ll scream. Raised on hard bouncy wickets on which the ball comes on to the bat, Aussie batsmen tend to adopt an attacking approach which simply doesn’t work on slow pitches. The reason they lose so heavily overseas is precisely because they continue to play the same way when they should alter their approach, build an innings, bat with patience, occupy the crease, and keep the opposition in the field. So, no, they should play anything BUT their natural game. Learning to adjust to all conditions is surely what makes a good international cricketer. I sometimes wonder if there some sort of misplaced machismo at work here – the likes of Clarke and Lehmann usually smile and wink and promise us the Australians will play their ‘natural game’ as if there was some unspoken shame in batting conservatively. Is it not manly to occupy the crease and grind out runs? I thought winning was the objective.

Myth #4: Watson’s inclusion in the side adds ‘balance’.

Baloney – I’ve included this as a myth but nobody other than the Australian selectors really believes it. It hasn’t been true for at least three years. What you have is a washed-up batsman who can never be relied upon when the pressure is on, and a pedestrian medium-pacer who looks so unlikely to take wickets that his skipper barely gives him a bowl. Of course he must be dropped. This is now consensus so there seems little point in dwelling any further on it here.

Myth #5: Peter Nevill is too inexperienced to risk

Well, that’s just silly. What’s he doing in the touring party then? Let’s face it, Haddin’s form is grim. I don’t condemn him for the dropped catch off Root in Cardiff – after all, he’s taken plenty of blinders in recent times – but his lack of runs is alarming. Since the end of the 2013-14 Ashes series, Haddin has made 259 runs at 15.24 with a top score of 55 and just the one half-century. Nevill, on the other hand, made 764 runs in fourteen innings at 76.40 in the 2014-15 Sheffield Shield competition, with two centuries and three 50s. The year before he made 461 runs at 51.22 with one ton and two half-centuries. The guy can clearly play, is in better form than Haddin and eight years younger. On balance, Nevill should clearly replace Haddin. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to see the selectors biting this particular bullet. One suspects they will allow Haddin to stagger on out of loyalty or because he ‘deserves’ to ‘go out on his own terms’ or some such malarkey.