Ponting’s not the problem, his team is getting creaky
It’s time for the Aussie cricket selectors to make the boldest decisions they’ve made in over two decades.
Andrew Hilditch, that other big bloke with the moustache and their fellow selectors need to run a broom through the Australian team otherwise the best we can hope for is more of the same mediocre cricket that has become common in recent times.
Back in the mid-80s, though their hand was forced somewhat by retirements and rebel tours, the Australian selectors opted for a youth policy under the guidance of captain Allan Border.
If you think Ricky Ponting is under siege now, AB was hard pressed to walk to his letter-box in suburban Brisbane without stepping on a landmine. But the selectors went with the rising stars of Shield cricket, players they knew that if they persisted would be bear fruit in the years to come.
So in came the likes of Steve Waugh, David Boon, Ian Healy, all chosen ahead of far more credentialed state players but the selectors were confident they would form the nucleus of a successful team.
It was a policy maintained through to the early 90s when Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were given their baggy greens for the first time. And didn’t Australian cricket fans feast on the fruit when it ripened?
Unfortunately, the Australian selectors of 2010 don’t have the same edgy approach as their predecessors. They’re so conservative they make Tony Abbott look like a tree-hugging hippy.
Every time they what looks like a step in the right direction they backtrack as quickly as possible. Phil Hughes is the perfect case in point. If he was picked in the Aussie team two decades ago there is no way he would have been dropped a few Tests after making such an astonishing start.
So if I was in the selectors chair here’s what I’d do. It’s probably what most Australians would do, it’s only Hilditch and co who seem to watching a different game to the rest of us.
Those who’d be given the flick straight away would be Mike Hussey, Marcus North, Nathan Hauritz and maybe somewhat controversially, Brad Haddin.
Hussey has been a champion for Australia and still has a place in the ODI team but he’s lost his touch at Test level and can no longer compile the big scores. His has been a great story but sorry Huss, it’s time go.
As for North, what can you say? You cannot maintain a spot in the Australian top six if you only contribute once every four or five matches. Forget the fact he scored 100 in the last Test, have a look at the overall evidence. A compelling case it does not make.
Waiting in the wings for these two spots are Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson, a trio of young guns that look every inch long-term Test batsmen. Steve Smith is also there champing at the bit if selectors want a big hitting batsmen who bowls handy leggies.
If Hauritz’s job was to bowl pies then he is fulfilling his duty with aplomb. It’s time to face facts, Haury is not an international class bowler. An honest tryer is the best compliment I can pay him.
His decent returns last summer have to put in perspective. The West Indies are a far worse cricket team than us and we are 5th and his efforts against Pakistan in Sydney have been tainted by accusations of match-fixing.
There are a couple of young spinners who the selectors should be pitching into the fray. Stephen O’Keefe the left-arm orthodox spinner from NSW in particular is in fine form and looks a great prospect.
As for Haddin, he would be considered what the armed forces like to refer as collateral damage. An excellent cricketer, yes, but Tim Paine was a standout in India and he is the future. He’s there now so leave him there.
The bottom line is, this Australian team isn’t getting any better, for the first time in 22 years we have lost three Tests in a row. It’s time to make a cultural shift and to start cutting ties with the glory years of the recent past.
Having said all that, Ponting is still the man to lead the team. Yes his captaincy deserves the scrutiny it’s getting at the moment but just as AB was the old nut guiding the young pups, this too should be Ponting’s role.
We are at a tipping point in Australian cricket. We’re ready but are the Australian selectors game?
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