The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative” – Malcolm Turnbull.
Bravo, Cricket Australia.
“What a time to be alive” – Malcolm Turnbull.
You couldn’t diagnose this with any accuracy.
Except that people did.
Malcolm ‘Rulebook’ Ashwood – “Australian cricket is stuffed” (2016)
Problems have spawned secondary problems, such as a toxic inner sanctum
e.g. MJ Clarke, SM Katich here, MJ Clarke, SR Watson, JM Arthur, etc, etc.
And a toxic wider squad culture
e.g. B Geeves here.
All of which has resulted in calls for change.
And sure, even a life that is lived in an exciting time to be alive needs some stability. This aligns with the idea of selectors needing to “pick and stick”. But sticking with SE Marsh? MR Marsh?
In comparison, what did AJ Doolan do wrong? GJ Bailey?
Or every player from the Sheffield Shield -winning state of Victoria over recent years?
The Dark Art of Selection at any level is only ever partly based on merit. On scoresheets. The rest is whispers in ears. Potential. Contacts. Justified under long-term “project-player” tags or else under the umbrella term “team balance.”
So it’s goodbye AC Voges, PN Nevill. Goodbye JR Burns. Goodbye CJ Ferguson, JM Mennie. We hardly knew you.
And hello to MT Renshaw, PSP Handscomb, NJ Maddinson and CJ Sayers. Wicketkeeper MS Wade has also been recalled with paceman JM Bird.
“I’m embarrassed to be sitting here,” said SPD Smith after the embarrassment of Hobart. “We are not being resilient, we are not willing to tough it out and get through tough periods and the longer you spend out there things get easier, albeit the wicket was doing quite a bit and it was hard. But, the boys have got to start being a bit tougher and getting in a grind and getting in a contest and try to build a few partnerships because right now it is not good enough.” It seems there were not enough tough boys in the team, as selectors made some changes.
‘Extreme’ would be one adjective appropriate in discussing the six team changes from Hobart. JR Burns got a good one in the first innings, unluckily caught down leg side in the second. Is that irresponsible batting? Is that a batsman incapable of scrapping, fighting? DA Warner, on the other hand was out to an indiscriminate howler in the first innings; the opposite of tough. But we accept different standards of behaviour from him, because his eye like a dead fish picks up the ball more often than not. Which works when the pitch is flat and the bowling straight.
To the weekend just gone.
JR Burns probably awoke thinking he should stay in bed. That’s what Tim Winton’s Sam Pickles would have known. The shifty shadow had him. “Sam knew damn well that when the shifty shadow is about, you roll yourself a smoke and stay under the sheet and don’t move til you see what happens.” – Cloudstreet, Tim Winton
MT Renshaw awoke to feel his arms tingling; his nerves jangling. “…he was on a life long streak.” – Cloudstreet, Tim Winton.
The only certainty is that the shifty shadow of luck has allowed some to be selected. It doesn’t make them the best cricketers in the country; what it does mean is that they now get a chance. History says that if they play a few Tests, they will probably fail a bit, succeed a bit.
(History is of limited value here, as some of these recruits have backgrounds unlike any other debutants; playing as they do in straightened and riven cricketing times, forced to adapt to varying games, game circumstances and bosses at an incomprehensible scale.)
The most important thing these guys can do, regardless of the shifty shadow, is to welcome each other, to help each other, to find out about each other.
There can be no model of the ideal Australian Cricket Test cricket team environment, for all people are different. One player’s darts and pin-ups is another’s cryptic crossword, is another’s 500, is another’s social game of cliques and factions.
But what should be common across all ideal models, is the idea of playing fairly, playing proudly. With and for their teammates. Playing the game as the game should be played. For if this is done well, the game is the ultimate winner.
I hope these guys welcome each other, help each other, find out about each other. I hope they are given enough rope to swing, enough leeway to imagine. I hope all players are left to themselves. And that they prove to be agile, innovative and creative.
What a time to be alive.