Test failures deserve a second chance

Test "failures" such as Cameron White had their cards marked far too quickly by the former selection committee.

This article also appeared on The Roar

Ten years ago, the best ten Australian cricketers were arguably among the best dozen in the world. More than that, the best twenty cricketers in the country were arguably among the best forty.

Today, Australia no longer has that luxury; it now lacks both class and depth in the international arena. Shane Watson is currently the team’s only world-class performer, with apologies only reserved for the ageing Michael Hussey and the mercurial Michael Clarke.

Australian dismal score of 47 last Thursday only confirmed what we already know, that Australian test cricket has hit rock bottom. It’s time to not only re-model the team, but the expectations that go with. More importantly, it’s time to re-model the selection policy, which was a farcical mess underneath the previous regime.

For the last five years, Australia’s scouts have been trying to find the next Shane Warne, the next Adam Gilchrist, or the next Glenn McGrath. The problem is, there will only ever be one Warney; he’s shiny and gold, and he’s dating a Hollywood actress. In other words, he’s not coming back.

Instead of reflecting on the glory days, Australian selectors have to be content with what is on offer. Sure, Australia’s developing cricketers programme might be the best in the world but you can’t manufacture talent; players don’t become superstars by simply joining the Test team.

Patrick Cummins might have it. Ditto Dave Warner and Steve Smith. But Cummins isn’t McGrath, Warner isn’t Gilchrist, and Smith certainly isn’t Warney. They are all still young, developing players who need to mature before being thrown into the spotlight.

Rather than constantly looking to the future, the selection panel needs to flick through the not so distant past and see where the last committee went wrong.

Over the last few years the test team has felt like an exclusive club; you’re either in it or you’re not, but you only get one chance. Look at the eight spinners to have made their debut since Shane Warne retired.

Dan Cullen and Beau Casson were touted as the next big thing but were only given solitary games to prove themselves. Neither have been considered for selection since. The same goes for Cameron White, who should have never been picked as a bowler in the first place. After his dismissal, the blonde haired Bushranger significantly changed his batting style in order to reclaim a Test spot in a higher position. The Test selectors, however, weren’t having any of it. According to them, White had already wasted his one and only chance.

Then there was Jason Krejza, the Brad Hodge of spin bowling. His eight wicket haul on debut was a record breaking performance, yet the spinner lasted just one more game before the selectors had lost patience. The list continues. Bryce McGain played one match; Steven Smith played five; Xavier Doherty played two; Michael Beer played one. All had promising (Smith) to decorated (McGain) first class careers before their Test selections. None were ever recalled to the Test arenas after being shown the door.

The ironic thing is that Australia’s one day team is the best in the world. One may be inclined to attribute this to an anomaly in the system, the fact that we have victories banked up from years gone by.

Nevertheless, one can learn a lot from the selection policy of the one-day side, which is the proud owner of the last two Champions Trophies.  When players are dropped from one-dayers they are given the chance to regain their spot, Brad Hodge the ubiquitous exception.Brett Lee is the most vivid example of this policy, after last summer making a successful return to the green and gold.

The selectors would never have taken that risk in the five day arena.

The reinvention of “failed” players is not a revolutionary concept. Indeed, it is the very framework that has delivered Australian cricket some of its finest competitors under Trevor Hohns and co. Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn and even Simon Katich are just some Aussies to have rebounded strongly after lengthy lay-offs.

Perhaps it’s unfair to conclude that Australia is a shadow of its former self. After all, how can we judge our talent pool if we never give them a second chance?

Never Again Eleven (“failed” players unlikely to get another Test)
1. Simon Katich
2. Phil Jacques
3. Brad Hodge
4. Cameron White
5. Marcus North
6. Andrew McDonald
7. Nathan Hauritz
8. Clint McKay
9. Ben Hilfenhaus
10. Jason Krezja
11.Doug Bollinger