Almanac Cricket: Five players who deserved a Baggy Green

 


Darren Stevens

 

45 year-old veteran Darren Stevens is developing a cult following with calls for his selection for England growing louder after each match-winning performance with bat or ball. Stevens might have missed his chance by now although his form is compelling. The Kent all-rounder has scored 16,130 runs at 34.98 (HS 237) and taken 565 wickets at 24.54 (BB 8/75). In recent county games he plundered 190 against Glamorgan and dismissed Test players Travis Head (twice) and Marnus Labuschagne.

 

He looks like a typical balding, middle-aged club cricketer using all his guile and experience to help out the young colts in the Thirds of his suburban club. Yet his is a remarkable story with his best coming well after the age of 35. It prompted a naming of an England XI who were unlucky to not play for the national team.

 

Who then are the five best uncapped Australians from the 1980s to now? Whilst there will be anecdotal stories of Bush Bradmans and lightning-quick bowlers who used to terrorise batsman on malthoid wickets, the selection criteria is State cricketers who have been shunned by our national selectors.

 

The nominations are:

 

Jamie Siddons (Vic and SA). Siddons hailed from Robinvale and played two AFL games for the Sydney Swans before pursuing a cricket career with Victoria and then South Australia. He represented Australia in one ODI but no Test Matches. Timing, so important for a batsman, was all wrong for Siddons. In the late eighties and nineties Australia had a glut of quality middle-order players: the Waugh twins, David Boon, Damian Martyn, Greg Blewett, Martin Love, Stuart Law, Darren Lehmann, Tom Moody and the late Dean Jones (to name a few).

 

Jamie, in the current era, may have played many Tests for his country. His record is compelling: 11,587 runs at 44.91 with 35 centuries. Even if many of these runs were scored at the batsman-friendly Adelaide Oval, he is entitled to feel as though he was overlooked too often. Tasmanian Michael Di Venuto also had an enviable record and just nine canary yellow caps does not do his talent justice.

 

Jamie Cox (Tas and Somerset) Another who may have carved out an AFL career as he was once asked to try out with Essendon. Cox scored 18,614 first class runs at 42.69 and was always knocking on the door but somehow unable to prise it open.

 

His opening partner for much of his Tasmanian career was one Dene Hills who was also was worthy of Test selection (7,894 runs at 40.07).

 

Paul Nobes (SA and Vic). Nobes was capable of pulverising bowling attacks at the top of the order and in 86 Sheffield Shield matches scored 6,180 runs at 41.75. In two Sheffield Shield finals he made centuries, the mark of a fine player.

 

He also once serviced Sir Donald Bradman’s car but even this did not earn him a Test call-up.

 

All- rounder Ian Harvey.(Vic and various counties). Harvey was known as The Freak and 8409 runs at 34.60 with 425 wickets at 27.51 tell a story. Whilst a regular in ODI and T20 franchises, The Freak was never given a baggy green. A similar player to Harvey who excelled in the shorter form is Dan Christian (NSW, SA, Vic, various counties). He was, however, named 12th man for one Test. James Hopes (QLD) was also unlucky not to play for Australia in the longer format as a bowling all-rounder.

 

Another controversial position is the wicketkeeper. Every State will plead their case and I can almost hear Queenslanders bemoaning Chris Hartley’s non-selection, but I nominate Darren Berry (Vic and SA),552 catches and 51 stumpings with a batting average of only 21. As a pure wicketkeeper, “Chuck” Berry was perhaps equal to the Test encumbents, Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist, but was a mediocre batsman by comparison. His keeping to State team-mate Shane Warne was highly rated by Warne himself:

“Darren Berry up to the stumps has probably been the best keeper that I’ve ever seen in my time … I really wish he did get the opportunity to show how good a keeper he was, with a baggy green cap playing for Australia.”

 

Apart from these five, many others could be considered unlucky to miss out on higher honours: Wayne “Cracker” Holdsworth, David Saker, Jimmy Maher, and Michael Neser who is still in contention for a national call up…… along with the evergreen Englishman Darren Stevens.

 

Photo credit: the guardian.com

 

 

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Comments

  1. Dan, You can expect an avalanche of additional suggestions in response to this offering.

    It’s hard to argue against any of your suggestions. Hartley sure was stiff while Cox and Hills would have opened for many other countries.

    I’ll anticipate my son by throwing in Tassie all-rounder Luke Butterworth for consideration.

  2. Yes Ian, 4 of the 5 played for Victoria so there would be some arguments. I largely picked Berry instead of Hartley based on Shane Warne’s opinion but Hartley was a superior batsman for sure. When asked to give his 3 best who missed out Warne picked Siddons, David Saker and Darren Berry. Hard to argue with him!
    Butterworth had some excellent performances as i recall. Tasmania had a few who could be deemed unlucky.
    Harveys statistics were superior and he was a brilliant fielder.

  3. Liam Hauser says

    Siddons and Cox were desperately unlucky, indeed. Wicketkeepers include Darren Berry, Wade Seccombe and Chris Hartley. Yes, Ian beat me to it when he mentioned Luke Butterworth. Damien Wright, Paul Rofe and Ashley Noffke also come to mind, but there’s so many to mention. There’s others who played precious little Test cricket and deserved more chances: Stuart Law, Martin Love, Brad Hodge, Shaun Young and Phil Emery, among others.
    I also found it intriguing that Tom Moody, Ian Harvey, Shane Lee and Brad Hogg had their chances as an all-rounder in white-ball cricket while Shaun Young, Kade Harvey and Brad McNamara never seemed to be considered.

  4. DBalassone says

    Always thought that Luke Butterworth was a bit stiff too.

    And David Hussey should have been given a go in 2010/11 when he was in rare form, and the national team was in disarray.

  5. Hopefully there is still time for Michael Neser. I reckon he is a really good cricketer.
    If only the selectors could get past their fixation with Starc.

  6. Liam Hauser says

    Smokie, as much as I enjoyed Queensland’s thrashing of NSW in the Sheffield Shield final, I can’t help but wonder how different it might have been if Harry Conway was picked instead of Starc.

  7. Cricket Analyst says

    What about Michael Klinger?
    182 First Class Matches
    11,320 runs
    Average 39.30
    30 half centuries, 49 centuries
    Most runs in the Big Bash League
    3 T20 matches for Australia
    No Test matches

    Michael Klinger was very stiff not to play Test cricket for Australia. He was unfortunate to be playing in an era where Hayden and Langer were at their peak as Test openers for Australia and then David Warner and Chris Rogers. Maxy Klinger, like other players that have been mentioned, might have played Test cricket for Australia against India recently, if Klinger had been 10 years younger and at his peak, especially when Joe Burns was failing as a Test opener.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Darren Berry is by far the best keeper I’ve ever seen. Saw him do some astonishing things keeping up to medium pacers (Ian Harvey especially) and faster bowlers.

    Jamie Cox is a player I feel was more unlucky than Siddons to miss out. Was robbed of selection on the 1997 Ashes Tour by an out of form Michael Slater when Cox was right at his peak.

    Another name I’ll throw up is Matthew Innes. Superb record in Shield cricket, Nathan Bracken, a superb white ball bowler who had a vastly inferior red ball record than Innes, was preferred on the 2001 Ashes tour and preferred in general around that time. Not many left armers swung the ball both ways like Innes did.

  9. Cricket Analyst says

    Another player who deserved a Baggy Green was Michael Di Venuto.
    Unfortunately for him, he played in an era where the Australian Test side was going very well, including the middle order batting.
    He played 336 First Class matches and scored 25,200 runs.
    His first class batting average was 45.90, which included 60 centuries and 146 half centuries.

    I wish to make a correction to my earlier comment on 27/5/2021, where I meant to type that Michael Klinger made 49 half centuries and 30 centuries at first class level, not the other way around.

  10. Very good suggestions and the five I picked could easily be displaced or expanded to make an XI! You could have Berry keeping and Seccombe/Hartley as a Matthew Wade type.
    Jamies Siddons and Cox would nearly be locks however. Nobes was a bit left-field but tons in winning Shield Finals count for a lot. Butterworth was instrumental in a final for Tasmania so he has to be up there too. Other names that get bandied around : Dirk Taze?ar, Ashley Nofke, Damian Wright, Inness (as Luke said)
    Sam Trimble (QLD) was from earlier period of Australian cricket but he seems to be like Siddons ie very unlucky. It seems to be in form at the right time is crucial.

  11. Rulebook says

    Wicketkeepers I nominate,Peter Anderson best Australian keeper I’ve seen,ironically braking his finger keeping up to Ian Botham in a Shield game in WA which gave,Ian Healy his opportunity.Peter moved to SA his season of keeping for the redbacks was incredible I know,Hooksey regarded him v v highly.
    Currently Alex Carey the real victim of sandpaper gate for mine it’s the exact replica of Healy-Gilchrist all over again v good keeper and good enough to win test matches with the blade again bizarrely if in the current side may we’ll be Captain.Siddons personality may not have helped his chances of getting picked also if sandpaper gate hadn’t happened a certain,Chadd Sayers would be number one glad to see,Paul Criiter Nobes get a mention mentally I reckon he would have thrived at test level thanks,Dan

  12. Yes the Trimble family. They provide a good trivia question of which father son combination played for Australia but neither played a test? Sam toured the West Indies in 1965, played tour matches, carried the drinks in one test, but never made the test 11. Son Glenn played 2 ODI’s in 1985-86.

    Jeff Moss was very unlucky to only play the sole test. He had a stellar 1978-79 Shield season, playing the final test of the summer against Pakistan @ the WACA, though never got a second opportunity. His test record reads well. Not too many one test players average 50+. His Victorian team mate Paul Hibbert played the opening test the previous summer though didn’t make enough runs to retain his spot. Sadly Paul is no longer with us.

    A decade later Jamie Siddons churned out the runs, toured Pakistan where he played his only ODI. Unfortunately he picked up a bug, got crook, then never got another chance.

    Going back to when I was a nipper Australia toured India and South Africa in 1969-1970. In the squad was Victorian wicket keeper Ray ‘Slug’ Jordan and Western Australian batsmen Jock Irvine. Despite the Australians playing 9 tests on this jaunt, including being on the receiving end of a4-0 shellacking in South Africa these two didn’t play a test. Once the touring team returned home these two went of the radar ,both then finishing their first class career not long after.

    Glen!

  13. The Darren Stevens fairytale might not be over He has claimed a 5 fa (bowlers hundred), made 3 not out before a declaration and has 1 for 11 in the second innings. Seems to get a lot of batsman out LBW eg Labuschagne (twice i believe).

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