'I'm on top of my game' - Christian
Daniel Christian has been dreaming of a baggy green since he was a child, but he didn't think it would happen this summer. It still might not. But as the Australians make their way to Hobart for the second Test against New Zealand, which starts on Friday, the selectors will ponder the team's balance, and Christian's name is sure to spark some interesting discussions.
Without Shane Watson in the side, Australia were a bowler short at the Gabba. It didn't really matter, as they accounted for New Zealand within four days, but consideration will be given to the workload required in back-to-back Tests for a youthful attack featuring James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc.
There are only so many overs of gentle outswing that Michael Clarke can ask of Michael Hussey. It is in this role that Christian could play a part. For now, he is in the 12-man squad; if the selectors want an extra bowler, he will become Australia's 427th Test cricketer, and the second indigenous man to play Test cricket for Australia behind Jason Gillespie.
"Without Watto [Watson] there, they've obviously got me in there as an allrounder, so hopefully if I do get the opportunity I can provide that bit of balance, some extra overs in there to give the other blokes a [rest]," Christian said. "When you've got a couple of young guys who bowl high 140s [kph] in the team, it's not going to be my role to do that."
On the surface, it seems a strange time for the selectors to have called on Christian for his bowling: he has taken only ten Sheffield Shield wickets this summer - the same amount as Simon Katich - at an average of 49.70. But he believes the figures don't do justice to the way he has bowled this season, and certainly no argument can be built against his batting.
Until the current round of Shield games started, Christian, 28, was the leading run scorer in the competition, with 475 at an average of 59.37. He had scored two centuries and has clearly enjoyed the promotion to No.6 in the South Australia order, following the retirement of Graham Manou at the end of last season.
"I've had a good couple of months with the bat in Shield cricket," Christian said. "I've been bowling as well as I ever have, I think. The stats probably don't show it - I haven't taken that many wickets. But the ball has been coming out of the hand as well as it ever has. Personally, I feel like it's a good time to get picked because I feel like I'm on top of my game."
Not that he was expecting a Test call-up. After playing three Twenty20 internationals at the start of 2010, Christian had fallen behind other similar players in Australia's shorter-format squads, with Mitchell Marsh having made his debut and John Hastings establishing himself as a regular. And of course, when Watson is fit, there is no room in the Test side for another allrounder.
"I thought I might have been close for the Twenty20 and one-day side around last season," Christian said. "I was keen to start this season well and hopefully be involved in that stuff somewhere along the line as well, but Test selection, I wasn't thinking about it at all."
Christian is highly rated by his peers. Last season he won the Australian Cricketers' Association award as the MVP across all three formats. Michael Hussey said Christian would offer plenty to the Test side if he made the cut, above all as a lower-order striker.
"He's a good all-round option," Hussey said. "He can bowl long spells, he can keep it tight, he can bowl reverse swing. Very athletic fieldsman, he can field anywhere really, he's got a good arm and a good catcher, so he's very versatile in that respect.
"But I think the area he's most dangerous is with the bat, particularly against a tiring attack or something like that, he can really take the game away from them very quickly. He scores at a very fast rate, he's not someone who's just going to hang around, he's going to score at a very good rate and he can take the game away from the opposition very quickly. I've seen him in a few one dayers for SA, where he's come in to 50/50 situations and he's just blown the opposition away scoring 90 or 100 off 60 or 70 balls. That's where I think he can be most damaging."
Whether he wins a chance to damage New Zealand depends on how the selectors wish to balance Australia's side in Hobart. But if a baggy green comes on Friday, Christian is confident he'll be ready.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo