South Africa in Australia 2012-13

Inverarity's all-round view

Andrew McDonald has returned to the forefront of the national selector John Inverarity's mind for the same reason Ed Cowan is still there - they are part of winning teams

Daniel Brettig

October 26, 2012

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Andrew McDonald celebrates his century, Western Australia v Victoria, Sheffield Shield, Perth, 2nd day, October 1, 2012
John Inverarity is a fan of Andrew McDonald's all-round abilities © Getty Images
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Three years ago, Andrew McDonald was dropped from a winning Australia team because the selectors of the day felt his all-round abilities would be surplus to a great one. Today McDonald is captain of an Australia A side stocked with as many as six such cricketers, and in line for a national recall. There will seldom be a starker contrast between Australia's current selection panel and its predecessor.

In four Tests against South Africa in 2009, McDonald contributed to three victories, gathering confidence as a batsman while also bowling critical overs that built pressure while nipping out the odd wicket. His value as an allrounder and an exemplar of a winning team culture - via the domestic success of Victoria - appeared considerable, but was not enough to keep him in the team for the 2009 Ashes tour that followed. McDonald toured England, but did not play a Test.

It was felt at the time that the allrounder of choice for Australia should be Shane Watson, and that McDonald was plugging a gap. In the words of the former coach Tim Nielsen: "It wasn't about chopping Andrew McDonald off but asking, 'Is this the sort of formula that will get us back to being the best team?' The balance of three quicks plus a medium-pacer plus a part-time spinner we didn't feel was the right thing forever. It won us a series in conditions that suited, but I don't know if it would've had lasting impact."

It is almost a year to the day since John Inverarity became the national selector, presiding over a panel that also features Rod Marsh, Andy Bichel, the national coach Mickey Arthur and the captain Michael Clarke. Their measures of how to construct a winning Australia team appear rather different to those of the previous regime, and the pushing of all-round contributors to the XI has taken on far greater significance than merely the matter of whether an individual can bat, bowl or keep wicket to a high standard.

Where three years ago McDonald's worth was questioned even after he had helped the team win, now a player's contribution to a team success is considered far more carefully. Inverarity and Marsh were raised in a Western Australia team culture where every member of the squad - Marsh included - bowled in the nets. This sort of all-in mentality is what they have tried to develop in Australia's Test team in particular, and the search for allrounders is another part of that.

"He's been a very good player for a long time and is in very good form, and we like the fact he's an allrounder," Inverarity said at the MCG on Friday. "Cricket teams need allrounders, people worthy of a place for one of their skills and very strong in the other, and he bowled very well the other day here, as he always does.

"He's a very good, experienced cricketer and Victoria are doing well, they're in good shape at the moment and he plays very good cricket. Last year he was a bit hindered by some injuries, but he's moving very freely this year."

Apart from McDonald, Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, John Hastings, Steven Smith and Nathan Coulter-Nile are other members of the Australia A side with multiple skills. While Inverarity said a desire to keep certain fast bowlers away from prying South African eyes was one reason for the surfeit of utility types, it was no coincidence to see a team named that can bat more or less down to No. 11.

"We're really hoping those players develop," Inverarity said. "I think if you've got a couple of allrounders in your side it is extremely useful, and of course it creates less wear and tear on your out-and-out pace bowlers. We're unashamedly very keen to develop allrounders."

The term allrounder may be used in another sense when viewing Australia's likely team composition for the first Test at the Gabba. Inverarity's panel have looked very closely at the way each team member contributes to the harmony, happiness and performance of the whole, whether it be through their fielding, their running between the wickets or their attitude around the dressing room.

It is perhaps for these reasons that the opener Ed Cowan remains a nailed-on starter for the South Africa Tests, despite a halting beginning to his Test career. Australia developed a very tight and functional unit during Tests against India and West Indies last summer, and the panel does not want to let that go easily.

"Ed's a very well-performed player, a great team man, and we're backing him," Inverarity said. "There are a lot of players who in their first five or six games haven't set the world on fire, and have then come through and flourished. We picked Ed, he deserved to be picked, he played well on two or three occasions, and we're backing him to do well again this time."

So Cowan is still a part of a team because he was present to help it develop a taste and an aptitude for winning. McDonald was dropped in similar circumstances in 2009, but after today's promotion to lead the A team he may yet be seen again in a baggy green cap.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by ygkd on (October 27, 2012, 20:57 GMT)

When I first saw McDonald fielding on the boundary in an A-List match I had no idea who he was. Must have been 12th man because I don't remember him bowling or batting, but he's since shown he can do both and I have been mystified for some time why he hasn't, injuries not-with-standing, seen Australian selection come his way more often.

Posted by Mary_786 on (October 27, 2012, 1:39 GMT)

@Chris_P well said mate, this team does not reflect the best upcomign talent in Aus, how the likes of Khawaja, Burns and Bird were not selected is beyond me.

Posted by Chris_P on (October 26, 2012, 22:47 GMT)

The only way to see if these guys can cut it as bowlers on the international stage is to play against top class players. This match provides the perfect opportunity to assess their abilities at the top without thrusting them into the test cauldron. @Meety, agree with your comments re: AM Mc. He always puts in every time.

Posted by Meety on (October 26, 2012, 3:30 GMT)

@VivGilchrist on (October 26 2012, 02:28 AM GMT) - fully agree. It was a shame as well with AB Mac, that he got injured on the eve of the last Ashes in Oz, after getting a bucket load of wickets & at least one ton v NSW in a low scoring contest. It was a brilliant effort that should of got him back into the Test team, but he got injured. I would of liked him to be in the T20 squad for the W/C in SL. It is quite amazing that his type of credentials haven't translated to National selection in the other formats!

Posted by VivGilchrist on (October 26, 2012, 2:28 GMT)

Theres no such thing as too many all-rounders. I don't have a problem with 11 all-rounders being selected, as long as they are good enough to be selected as a specialist in at least one discipline. GENUINE all-rounder is the key. There are too many players (Bravo, Pollard) that are classified as "all-rounders" when really they are both equally substanrd with both bat and ball at first class level. Also well done to McDonald, I still can't believe he wasn't selected for a Test on the last tour of England as his game seems suited to those conditions.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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