Australian Cricket’s Unwanted: Square Pegs in Round Holes

Of the 443 players to date who have worn the “baggy green” & played test cricket for Australia, there have been some who definitely did not earn their cap (Peter Taylor, John Watkins & Wayne ‘Rowdy’ Phillips come to mind, plus there’s many of those who were gifted a baggy green courtesy of the WSC revolt). On the other side of the coin there are a number of other players whose performances warranted selection in the national XI but they never got the reward!

Sheffield Shield batsmen like the two Jamies, Siddons & Cox, and Michael Di Venuto, were consistent run-getters for their states and for English county sides in the 1980s & 90s, but never got a phone call from the test selectors (Siddons did however play a solitary ODI).

David Hussey with an accumulation of 14,280 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 52.50 did better than the other three, getting the selection panel’s nod for 69 games in the 100 over format and 39 in the 40 over format. But that was as far as he got, the selectors must have thought two Husseys in the XI was too much! Early on in his career they should have stamped “LIMITED OVERS ONLY” on DH’s forehead, so that he could have at least avoided the disappointment of still thinking he had a chance.

With Victoria’s Mick Taylor it was bad luck … & bad timing on his part! His 5,005 first-class runs at 46.34 warranted national selection & he must have been close to being selected in 1985 when he opted to be part of that year’s rebel tour to South Africa, & that put paid to his test prospects for good!

Another Vic batsman, Jack Potter, scoring 6,142 runs at 41.22, was probably in the mix for the test XI for a number of seasons without ever quite making it. The best he could manage was selection in the 1964 Ashes tour to England where he never figured in the selectors’ calculations and was relegated to the minor games.

Over the years there have been more than a few Shield bowlers who have got short shrift from the selectors, despite having “the wickets on the board”. NSW left-arm fast bowler Alan Walker’s impressive domestic numbers didn’t sway the selectors in their choice of the pace battery for the 1953 English tour (221 wkts @ 27 for NSW & Nottinghamshire). With Walker missing out, the Aussie quicks on the tour (aside from the great Lindwall) performed poorly in the tests. Walker’s non-selection robbed him of the chance to add Australian test honours in cricket to the rugby international caps he had already won for his country.

Some bowlers of the fast-medium variety operate effectively but quietly, slipping seemingly under the radar. One such was Queensland medium-fast left hander Dirk Tazelaar (287 wickets at 28). Despite consistent performances with the ball for his state in the late 80s/early 90s, the selectors preferred Whitney & Chris Matthews to the Queensland workhorse – even during what was a lean time for Aussie bowlers internationally (1985-89).

David Hourn was another good performer in Shield games (161 wkts @ 27, BB 9-77) in the 1970s when test opportunities for leg-spinners were slim. When a leggie did get chosen in the test team, Hourn (& Bob Paulsen who was in the same boat) watched on as the job went to Kerry O’Keefe or Terry Jenner & later on, to Jim Higgs or Peter Sleep.

Two old-timers, James Mackay & Francis Tarrant, must have been stiff not to get a test cap for not just one but two cricket-playing countries. Mackay averaged 50.19 in FC cricket with a top score of 203 (averaging a century every 3.6 matches). He was considered unlucky to miss Australian selection for the 1905 Ashes tour, then emigrated to South Africa where his selection for the 1907 South African tour of England was blocked only because the Board deemed he had not resided in Transvaal long enough to qualify him for South Africa.

Frank Tarrant had a long career from 1898 to the 1930s as an all-rounder for Victoria & Middlesex, & in India (17,952 runs @ 36.41, TS 250*, 33 centuries/1,512 wickets @ 17.49, BB 10-90). The strict residential requirements of the day precluded him from test representation for either England or Australia.

Lismore-born Queensland batsman Sam Trimble must have been one of the unluckiest .. 10,282 first-class runs at an average of 41.79, 26 tons, top score of 252*. The first half of the specialist opener’s career coincided with the established Australian opening combination of Simpson and Lawry. When Simpson retired (the first time) the selectors turned to someone younger (Stackpole, Redpath, etc). When Australia struggled against the pace of John Snow in the 1970-71 England series, the selectors turned not to Trimble but to 35-year-old Ken Eastwood, only one year Trimble’s junior and far less experienced in FC cricket. Trimble made the Caribbean tour in 1965 but merely as backup opener. The entrenched Simpson/Lawry partnership was again blocking the road to the test team for Sam. His only other (skimpy) consolation was a trip to NZ in the Australian ‘B’ team in 1970.

About Pagan Maven

Outside left for Gorky Park Cadres U12s; Kremlin Gremlins U14s - Stalinovskiy Vodka Juvenile League. Ricky Lenin B & F medal winner 1966-67. Mascot for Felchester Rovers senior side in the Q-League. Bolshevikskaya Primary School cadet sports journalist covering the USSR V Australia international amateur boxing tournament "From Russia With Glove" (Melbourne 1963). Emeritus Left Winger, Trotskiy Collectivisation Colts.


  1. Indeed Pagan/ One of the ultimate hard luck stories would be to selected in the XII, but only to be the drinks waiter, never to break into the X!. Sam Trimble, Geoff Davies and Dan Christian all have been 12thman in a test side, but never made the actual 11.

    The Trimble father-son combination, Glenn and Sam, pose an interesting trivia question. Who are the only father-son combination to play for Australia, but never play a test? Sam was in a touring squad, test team twelth man once, with Glenn playing two ODI’s, but neither played a test.


  2. Keiran Croker says

    I fear that Max Klinger will be added to this list. He has been in such fine form in all forms of the game both here and in England. Surely a 20/20 spot awaits!

    P.S: Being a staunch Bushranger, I must defend our Wayne Phillips. His form at the time warranted selection, regardless of whether Geoff Marsh should have been dropped.

  3. Robbie Langer for mine. he even had great form in 81-2 when the Yallop/Wellham/Dyson merry go round was in action.

    Steve Brute Bernard. Old grade acquaintance of mine said he hit more fingers than anyone he ever faced.

    I played against Hourn in his knee-infested twilight. The only speciailist mid-on in the history of cricket. Should have gone to the Windies in 78. But Simmo still would have bowled himself.

    Ian Brayshaw. I guess we had many similar. A Ken Mackay type.

    Ashley Noffke was real good. But we had a good stable of quicks.

  4. I agree, Klinger’s prospects in the test arena are unfortunately very dim, especially if Chairman of Selectors Marsh’s recent comments are anything to go by … when pressed as to why Klinger continues to not be selected despite his exceptional recent form, Marsh referred to his sub-40 career average. I find this attitude perplexing & inconsistent. First the selectors pick Marcus North at nearly 30 after good form – his career was short but he managed 5 centuries in just 21 tests. Next they resurrect Buck Rogers in his mid 30s & give him a 2nd chance which he capitalises on big time. Then, after ignoring him for 13 years, they finally give Adam Voges his chance at 35 because of his outstanding 2014-15 domestic season. So, North, Rogers & Voges get the call because of compelling current form but Klinger – inconsistent early in his career resulting in a lower overall average, but in sensational form in England 2015 & in the last couple of Australian domestic seasons – stays in the wilderness as far as the selectors are concerned! If Marsh is insisting that Klinger’s recent form is not sufficient & he must get his overall FC average up, say, well into the respectable 40s, I’m afraid at this stage of his career he won’t have the time to do that. All he can offer the selectors is excellent current form … which is now apparent not enough.

  5. Barry McAdam says

    My memory maybe fading but wasn’t David Hourn a left arm chinaman? And Di Venuto also played a few one dayers

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Great work Paven. Dene Hills was another Tasmanian batsman who was unlucky not to get a crack. David Hussey really stands out as a class player who could have been a very good Test player. I thought his time was when Marcus North was selected instead, think Hussey would have played more Tests than North if given an opportunity at the same time. Saw him play many wonderful innings for Victoria.
    Wayne Phillips was very unlucky not to get another go the season after his sole Test after scoring a double century before the first Test against the Windies. Boonie got elevated to open instead.
    You mention Peter Taylor as being lucky to be selected, and he was, but contributed well a few times in Test cricket and became one of our very best ODI bowlers. Think Ian Healy played the same amount of Shield games before being selected as P.Taylor yet became a great. There’s no set formula to selection, and don’t we love debating who is picked!

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Glen, was Shaun Graf also a Test 12th man who never played a Test?

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Cracker Hourn was a left arm chinaman and while a good bowler he had poor eyesight and couldn’t bat and as a fielder he made Jim Higgs look like Paul Sheahan

  9. Paganmaven says

    Yes Barry you’re right, Diva Di Venuto did play the one ODI season for Aust. 9 games in 1997 – so he got more of a go than Siddons did!

  10. Good onya Luke, i knew someone was left out of my post. He carried the drinks once in the 1980-81 season. It was against India.

    What did you mean re Boonie being elevated to open open, in the context of Wayne Phillips only getting one cap? Boonie opened from 1985-86, for a long time, prior to dropping down to number three. Is this in relation to the 1992-93 season where Steve Waugh was tried at three?


  11. crankypete says

    Ric Charlesworth. Could have been captain. Didn’t even get a game.

  12. Luke Reynolds says

    Yep spot on Glen, Boonie batted at 3 once Mark Taylor was selected in 1988/89, right up until that 1992/93 West Indies series. And was coming off a stellar 1991/92 at number 3. Tom Moody was used as Taylor’s opening partner on the Sri Lankan tour that preceded the West Indies series and struggled. Phillips started the season well, including a knock of 205 against NSW, but Boonie was put back up to open for that series, and the NZ tour that followed, before returning to 3 in the ’93 Ashes. Boonie at 3 and S.Waugh at 5 or 6 worked much better.

  13. Ta Luke, Yep S Waugh at three was not a raging success. To my recall he made a ton @ the SCG, when B Lara scored 277, but not much else. He again batted first drop for the tour across the ditch. When we went to England for the 1993 Ashes tour he dropped back down the order, Boonie batted first drop, when Michael Slater debuted as an opener. As they say in the classics, “and the rest is history.”


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