I am ready again

 

by Sean Curtain

I’ve been patient.

I’ve sat quietly whilst being overlooked and never made a fuss.

Because that’s not me. That’s not what a team player does. Not what a person who thinks of the bigger picture gets involved in. Not what someone who seeks to avoid the limelight does when they are ignored and treated badly.

Avid, intelligent and astute readers of the Almanac (I’ve pretty much covered everybody there) will recall that in December, I selflessly advised the selectors I wasn’t part of their future plans, then with no thought of myself, advised them that if, post the Tasmanian Test/ New Zealand loss debacle, they needed a stop gap, I was there, offered myself again, and then, sat calmly whilst my offers were rudely ignored pre Boxing test.

All this was done with the team and my country as first thought.

But whilst I sat in silence over January, willing my prospective teammates along to glory, it was clear that my offer needed recognition and my suggestion was not too far from being considered.

The Howard/Arthur/Inverarity troika has shared a number of initiatives with the Australian cricket loving public and departures from tradition. These include:

  • A continuation of the Steve Waugh approach to the follow on, and a desire to protect bowlers and crush the opposition;
  • Ignoring the move to team balance and rotation selection decisions and picking on form and conditions; and
  • A return to the good old days of bowling throat balls to tail-enders with poor defensive skills.

However, the most radical departure from cricket tradition and the piece of tactical planning from Arthur and Langer that has taken the cricket world by storm has been the Australian plan to win a test series without any contribution from the Number 3 position.

I think this has been brilliant and a plan that has not seen the light of day in many years.

Some teams have chosen to hide players within their 11, either as an inept keeper, a decoy second spinner or a good honest medium pacer/trundler that is there to relieve the main bowlers.

Players such as Brendan Julien and Steve Smith owe their test careers to tactical decisions to include a player that contributes little but opposition teams feel must have some credentials to be selected in an Australian 11, so take up valuable planning time for an opposing coaching staff.

However, never before has a team been willing to place such a player in the position held by players such as Bradman, Richards, and Chappell (I and G).

Australia lulled their Indian teammates into a false sense of confidence by investing their support into a player completely ill-equipped to hold down the most important role in a cricket team, and still win.

This reversal of over 100 years of cricket tradition, that  a team required a solid, dependable No. 3, who can build upon an opening partnership and work with the top and middle order to build an unbeatable score, is pure genius.

I’m not sure if the coaching staff had really thought that the plan would work as well as it did, but in terms of shock and awe, stealth, ambush, surprise whatever you want to call it, it was clear that our Indian opposition felt that we would be fielding at least 11 cricketers of note, including a talented and worthy No. 3, and that our plans were a source of great confusion and a factor in our success.

Credit also to Shaun Marsh, who played the role of patsy and fall guy so well, earning I am sure a retirement package and coastal home for his efforts to terminate a promising career, in return for assisting a series win.

Like a Manchurian candidate, he fooled the opposition completely, only revealing his real skill late in the fourth test with his only actual contribution of the series, that of a sharp catch even he could not have had time to pull out of, against VVS.

However, despite this brilliant piece of risk and reward cricket, with Australian willing to sacrifice a key role and win a series with no contribution with what has been seen as the most important position in cricket, now the jig is up.

The West Indies, having played no Test Cricket for a while, would have studied up on this series and be onto our plan. In reality, the powers-that-be would have realised that this plan would have had a limited life span.

So the thoughts now turn to Caribbean selection for the tour in April.

Cowan and Warner deserve to continue their famed odd couple pairing, with the middle order in good nick, the fast bowlers a smorgasbord a cruise ship would be proud of and a spinners spot that seems freakishly stable after the revolving door of tweakers the post Warne period has been.

With that in mind, a young man’s mind turns to April and the possibility of again helping his country in a time of need.

Usman has had no longer form cricket to earn his spot back and Watson, even if he is fit, will have to be a tentative return proposition. The risk of taking an untried player to the Caribbean is rife with danger, and many of those knocking on the door are more waiting for Mr Cricket to decide to call it quits and take a spot at 6 rather than risk the most famous spot in the game at 3.

So once again into the breach my friends, and the offer of accompanying the team in April to take up the 3 spot, and bewilder the opposition that there must be something to this new man that we’ve missed and again befuddle the bowlers so much that they throw pies at Clarke, Ponting, Hussey and Wade.

April works well for me. Project demands last year meant I only took two weeks of my entitlement and so 6 weeks paid leave is no drama. My passport is up to date and Trevor, my 2IC on the integration taskforce, indicated to me in his recent performance review that he feels he’s ready to step up to more responsibility, and I tend to want to test him out.

I can attend to e-mails and check that the Gantt charts are being kept updated after play, which will be mornings over there. I’ll need to stock up on the factor 30 as I have slightly sensitive skin and I must admit that my tastes haven’t stretched to Cajun cooking, but overall, I am happy to have the odd tot of rum to be a team player, despite a preference for sparkling burgundy.

Maggie, my peer Project Manager can keep an eye on the contractors and how Trevor is going and I am sure again the weekly staff update would enjoy seeing photos of me representing my country.

(I would be entitled to three days paid leave for representing my country but think that I should do the right thing by my outstanding annual leave.)

So despite my treatment leading up to Boxing Day, I am willing to let that slide and accept the invitation to tour with the team in April through the West Indies.

Early notice is appreciated though, as I think Trevor will need some advance warning and run some of the weekly meetings before I go.

Over to the selectors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.

Comments

  1. Peter Baulderstone says:

    I look forward to the headline – “Its Curtain for Shaun”

  2. Well the question is an Irish poser, if it’s to be Shaun to be Sean?
    Whilst it may be curtains for Marsh, should it be Curtain who marches in when Marsh is marched out and shorn of his test place by being shown the curtain? I’m not sure(n). Will Shaun be facing the final curtain while Sean finally faces..?? Anyway.
    Marsh will – unless he has a massive turnaround in form and fortune in the domestic first class competition, remember that ? – almost certainly miss out on the next tour, however I have questions around whether Curtain is the man to take his spot at first drop. It is indeed one of the many questions I have regarding Curtain, but for legal reasons they cannot be mentioned here.
    Firstly the man on the outer. I have been a supporter of his but do concede he cannot warrant his place at this time. However I do believe he is a fine player and if in form should bat at 3. In his short test career he does have a century and reached 50 twice. He has been plagued by a spine injury, whilst Curtain it must be said is plagued by a spine that is nearing its own 50.
    Is Curtain the man for the West Indies? Does his game suit the conditions? Does he as a man suit the conditions? Let me make the following points and observations.
    This is a man who can get sunburnt in the cinema and get dehydrated in a fog. This is a man who thinks Trinidad and Tobago is a 70’s lounge act and that Guyana is a drag queen (I’ll let that one sit there for a second). This is a man who thinks a Rastafarian is a type of pizza. This is a man who would struggle against the pace and bounce of Julia Roberts let alone Andy. This is a man who would struggle to get one past Lou Richards let alone Viv.
    Still one cannot ignore the massive commitment he has made to the game and his urge to wear the baggy green. One tries to ignore but one can’t. If heart and vigour and pride come into the equation at all for Inverarity and co, and let’s face one day they might, then Curtain should be in their thoughts. If any sort of tangible ability in any aspect of the game of cricket is seen in some way as a factor in the selection process, then as has been eluded to here and previously in these pages, then Curtain may be watching the game alongside his homonymic (look it up) namesake.

  3. *alluded not eluded. The correct usage eluded me.

  4. Ray

    You do Pretty Woman a dis-service.

    Off the short run, which like Hadlee she has moved to in her later years, Julia R has a fair outsinger and uses the pitch well to create uncertainty for the batsmen rather than the sheer pace she relied on in the early parts of her career.

    As to sunburn, that one time at the Moonlight Cinema doesn’t count as it was sunset at a Botanical Gardens screening of The Notebook.

    Thank you for the Guyana trip, could have been embarassing

    Sean

  5. Skip of Skipton says:

    Sean, I’m backing you, but as you’d be well aware by now, nepotism and cronyism seems entrenched at the top of Australian cricket. Don’t be surprised if Mitch Marsh gets the nod in favour of your more deserving self. Anyway, fingers crossed.

  6. It would appear that after last night’s 20/20 effort, the defintion of optimism is Shaun Marsh going out to bat with sunscreen on.

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