(to the tune of the Hokey Pokey)
You put Phil Hughes in
You take Khawaja out
You put Mitch Starc in
Hope he swings it all about
You switch the batting order
and you turn around
And that’s what it’s all about
The song remains the same, just who will play in the Australian test team. There’s a sad irony in the Almanac being able to run a competition to name the Australian batting order and having so many alternative suggestions proposed.
In the late 80s and through the 90s, we laughed at the England selection folly, with so many changes, unknown players coming in for a game or two to then be discarded, clearly unprepared or out of their depth for Test Cricket compared with seasoned Australian pros who in the lead up to a match didn’t have to worry about whether or not they’d play.
If Australia named an unchanged side for the Fifth Test, you wouldn’t be surprised. If Wade played as a batsman, or replaced Haddin, we wouldn’t fall down shocked.
Hughes or Khawaja, does it really matter? It’s like Melbourne debating whether they play Jack Watts forward or back. It’s the old Cold War line of two bald men arguing over a comb.
To be honest, if Simon Katich strode out to open tomorrow night, we’d do a major double take, but then settle in to some justification about why it wasn’t such a bad call.
Despite poor performances in the Tests occasionally forcing some changes, the limited 4 and 2 day cricket outside of the Tests hasn’t given players major opportunities to prove their worth.
And when we have had that chance, opportunities haven’t been taken. No 50s in the recent 2 day practice match, and Faulkner and Wade will have to satisfy themselves that they showed form but won’t be near selection.
Whether Australia is seeking to gain some sort of weird last minute surprise or advantage by keeping the final 11 so under wraps in the lead up to a game remains to be seen. They tried it with Agar and it worked for an innings, but I seriously doubt that England either fears the various Australian options or hasn’t got some research on them.
And as to research, I imagine the days of John Buchanan’s detailed dossiers on opposing players are long gone with Andy Flower. The file on Watson probably reads, “Pitch in line when bowling to him. When batting, see him off for a few overs then he’ll break down”.
Hughes will probably come back for his 5th or 6th recall; the number has ceased to matter. He holds no fear for the English bowlers. Whether it is Khawaja or Hughes, Swann proved in the last Test he can dispense with bowling deliveries that actually turn and still pick up wickets.
What do to? Do you have a dress rehearsal for the 1st Test in October in Brisbane? Do you see how Faulkner goes? Do you change keepers? Do you decide that Rogers was only an English summer option? Do you tire of Watson, as he can’t bowl and isn’t showing batting form?
It takes mental preparation and ongoing mental fortitude to play Test cricket. Not knowing the morning of a Test if you are going to play or not cannot be good for your nerves or preparation. If it was based on a last minute pitch inspection, I could understand it. But it smacks of desperation.
So who plays tomorrow night? Who knows. The players probably don’t.
And that’s what it’s all about (sadly)