Is Cricket Australia’s ‘Whack-a-Mole’ Policy any better than ‘Rotation’?

Just a quick note to document my distress at the gaping wound that is the Australian Cricket Selection Panel.

We knew the day Mike Hussey (or God, if you prefer) retired that the no.6 batting position was unlikely to settle into a period of stability for some time, and I wrote about it many moons ago. It would have been a long-odds result at the best of times, but this time it was complicated because there were no natural successors for the role.

Through an irresistible patch of form in ODIs and T20s, George bailey emerged as the latest choice for the no.6 role for the home Ashes series. Clearly the selection panel were expecting him to actually bat with the same rare, free-flowing panache, yet sublime brutality, of God … er, Hussey. And they were also expecting the same results from Bailey in Test format as his limited over record suggested.

Unfortunately, he failed to impress under the pressure of being a newly-minted ‘baggy green’, and the no.6 position has once again been thrown to the wolves. This is unfortunate because Bailey is clearly a guy with experience and talent, and a man other players enjoy having in their team. It can be no coincidence that, despite a few lower scores than he would’ve liked, teams with which he has been involved have been successful, in all forms of first-class and International cricket.

Maybe his technique isn’t quite up to the demands of Test cricket, and the hard heads will say he had his chance. But how will we really know, having watched a player who was clearly playing with the pressure of inning-by-innings results? The tour of South Africa could have been the making of him. Heck, the Ashes could’ve his coming of age had he known with clarity that he would be touring South Africa and was permitted the ‘space’ to relax into his role.

This is not saying George Bailey is the answer to the no.6 role, just that he might have been given his ‘late-bloomer’ status, and now we probably will never know. I sincerely hope he receives another chance, and so does a certain Mike Hussey, who understands a thing or two about the value of individuals in teams.

Instead, in an astonishing lack of support, and an appalling exercise of judgement, CA have jettisoned Bailey for Shaun Marsh, whose talent is often talked about, but not in the same breath as results. As far as I can see, his claim to a baggy green cap rests more securely on his family ties than off his own bat, as they say.

Let’s not forget that he failed spectacularly against a modest Indian seam attack in 2011, when even the ageing Ricky Ponting was carting them around the park with his Zimmer frame and bifocals, and averaging over 80.

Does CA, the same organisation that decided ‘shielding’ Phil Hughes from the South Africans was a good idea, only to pump and dump another promising player in Rob Quiney, really expect that Marsh will rise like a Phoenix against the best fast-bowling team going around (outside of our own)?

Is it enough these days to lay 34th on this summer’s Runs tally with a 44th-placed Batting Average of 27.56* and be deemed suitable to join the test team?

Perhaps he is just having a bad season, though his 66th placing in Runs and Average in the 2012/13 season (ie. last season, and the season following him being dropped from the Test team as documented above) don’t appear to suggest this.

So, actually getting yourself selected for Australia doesn’t seem to have much to do with amassing a wealth of first-class runs, as Phil Hughes was apparently directed to do in order to be picked again (after yet another Test dropping). If Sheffield Shield had anything to do with CA’s thought process, you would imagine his 549 runs at 61 this year, on top of 673 at 56 last year, would have him on a plane. These numbers seem to indicate some sort of inherent quality and consistency. Oh, and not only do they show him passing 50 runs in more than 40% of all innings played (vs Marsh’s impossibly low 11%), but he averages over 53 in South Africa … the kid has a case.

Similarly, another (tried and dropped) player, Marcus North  sits atop the first-class statistics this season with 593 runs at an average of 74*. He may also feel hardly done by in some respects.

Perhaps the selectors are trying to ‘even up’ the chances they give players, which is a silly thesis, but which would fit with the inclusion of Moises Henriques, who was not only cast aside like Bailey, Cameron White, and many others before him, but whose current form hasn’t screamed ‘pick me’ either.

Anyhoot, the T20 is about to start, so I’ll leave these two tables to ponder which show the ‘contenders’ (with Test experience or otherwise) for the national batting line up. The first is sorted by Adjusted Average, the 2nd by the frequency of innings of more than 50 runs as a proportion of all innings. Personally, I’d have given Hughes another go, with Doolan an exciting prospect. I would even have put Voges, Silk and Lynn ahead of Marsh, even Cameron White.

* Adjusted Average ignores Not Outs, which I believe have a highly distortionary effect on the stats. Look at your son’s U10 competition stats and see what I mean! Or look at Marcus North’s 98 average before adjustment to 74. Not Outs have given him a 33% uplift on his average.

I defy anyone to describe the mechanism via which batsmen are selected to bat for Australia, a system that is ramshackle and with no solid grounding. Shield Adj AveShield 50+


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