Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne

Test team quarantined from BBL

Daniel Brettig

December 19, 2012

Comments: 60 | Text size: A | A

Usman Khawaja goes for a pull, Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Renegades, BBL 2012-13, Sydney, December 14, 2012
Usman Khawaja won't be playing in the Big Bash over the next week © Getty Images

Twenty20's potential to be toxic for Australia's Test match plans has been underlined by the decision to "quarantine" the Boxing Day Test squad from the BBL before the team convenes in Melbourne. Of the 13 only Peter Siddle is not presently signed up to a BBL team, but none of the other 12 will take part in any of the matches scheduled between now and the start of preparation for the second Test.

Usman Khawaja will have a particularly focused lead-in to the Test, as he steels himself for the possible task of replacing Michael Clarke in Australia's batting line-up. Clarke's hamstring strain will be given every chance to heal in time for the MCG match, but in the meantime Khawaja has been seconded to Cricket Australia's Centre of Excellence in Brisbane for intensive training sessions with the acting batting coach Stuart Law.

Australia's team performance regime has been stretched by the task of finding an adequate balance between the demands of T20 and Tests, especially during the period of the home summer when the national team plays the five-day game without any first-class cricket to buttress the reserves.

Pat Howard, the team performance manager, has said that it will likely take at least another two years before teams the world over have found ways to deal effectively with the effects of jumping from format to format, and the coach Mickey Arthur said that there was no alternative to holding the squad out of the BBL this week, noting the injuries to the likes of Ben Hilfenhaus, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood that have already arisen this summer from the T20 riddle.

"That's always going to be a conundrum for us, who do we play, who don't we play," Arthur said. "We feel that the Test match is massively important on Boxing Day, we want to quarantine the 13 players. We're sitting with enough injuries as it is. We want Usman to go back and work really hard on his red ball game. I want him to go and do some work on just tightening his game up again. He's been practising with a white ball, and we want to give him every opportunity to make it a success if he gets picked.

"Johnson didn't play for Brisbane Heat [on Tuesday night], and that was really an issue between Mitchell and his franchise. Not a bad issue, there was just dialogue between them, Mitchell's wife has just had a baby, so there was dialogue there. We just think it's best now that we quarantine those 13 players, because once we start letting one off then there's always the issue of why's he playing, why's he not playing. It's in the best interests of the 13 to get ready for Boxing Day."

Khawaja's looming return is a significant vindication for the left-hander, having changed states and worked assiduously at his batting since he was dropped from the Test team for the Boxing Day Test last year. The national selectors have sought improvement in the areas of fielding, running between the wickets and general team ethic, and Arthur said the panel was now convinced that Khawaja had gone a long way to meeting those marks.

"I don't think we would have picked him if he hadn't shown that continued improvement that we wanted from him. I think Ussie's done well," Arthur said. "It's no coincidence that you sit with Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja at Nos. 1 and 2 in the amount of Shield runs. They thoroughly deserve their opportunity to come back.

"It was just a year ago right here that both of them lost their places. So what they've done in a year to get back has been immense, and that's a credit to both of them. So to welcome Ussie back into the fold is going to be quite exciting."

Should Clarke not be fit, an enormous amount of pressure will be placed on Australia's recast top four to improve on a largely promising display in Hobart, when only Shane Watson of the quartet failed to pass 50. David Warner reached that tally in both innings of a Test for the first time, while Phillip Hughes looked the part at No. 3.

"I thought our top six this game contributed immensely to the win," Arthur said. "First-innings runs are always massive. We got first-innings runs, four out of six fifties from our Nos. 1, 2 and 3 which for me was really big. That was one area we wanted to be very consistent in, and then as far as Watto goes, he's got a massive amount of quality, so pretty sure that he's going to do the job for us at No. 4. So really happy with how our top six stacked up."

Another man likely to benefit from the "quarantine" is the left-armer Mitchell Starc, who showed evidence of his progress as a bowler by scything through Sri Lanka's tail on the final afternoon at Bellerive Oval after an exhausted Peter Siddle had been withdrawn. Arthur said Starc's gradually improving consistency was a source of some satisfaction ahead of the tours of India and England.

"It's just experience, just exposing him to situations like he was in Hobart," Arthur said. "The more he's exposed to those conditions, the better he's going to become. There's a massive amount of talent, and I think he's just going to get better and better."

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

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Posted by Solace1 on (December 22, 2012, 4:19 GMT)

@Sinhaya: Brother, being realistic is one thing, being positive always is another, you are being realistic but i am being positive because you see all the while its our negative mindset that has let us down in crucial games, i believe with my positive thoughts, the team will get energy which will be visible on the field, they won't win 2-0, we will win 2-1

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 21, 2012, 16:09 GMT)

Sinhaya-2 is making my team look a joke here. I want to be alert for the fact that Aussies may struggle at say 200 for 8, but the tail may fight against our mediocre bowlers and even post 350 and demoralize us. Aussies showed what a diehard fighting lot they are when their development XI rammed us in our backyard last year. Today, Aussies are far better than the team which visited my shores last year. However, I want to tell all Aussie fans here that my team has far better hopes of winning the ODI series looking at our recent ODI record against Australia in Australia. But on the otherhand to avoid disappointment, I would like to conclude by saying that Australia will win the tests 2-0.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 21, 2012, 16:03 GMT)

To all Aussie cricket fans. I am Sinhaya who has been realistic in my comments. Thanks Chris_P for clarifying it. I have no control over who is imitating my name in this forum. Cricket Australia knows what is best for the players in the lead up to the tests and this is a great decision.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (December 21, 2012, 10:16 GMT)

BG4cricket: I would imagine the stats would have AB Devilliers in before Prior.

Posted by Solace1 on (December 20, 2012, 14:32 GMT)

@ShehanJ: Win or lose, we are not india to lose 0-4!! We are much better!! even if we lose 0-3, it will make us better because india lost 0-4 and not 0-3

Posted by ShehanJ on (December 20, 2012, 11:07 GMT)

@Sinhaya-2] Talk is cheap. Lets see the SL batsmen and bowlers prove it in the Boxing day test if they are a good test side or just a flamboyant ODI and T20 side...

Posted by Solace1 on (December 20, 2012, 8:13 GMT)

Surprised people are doubting my identity, don't really mind, i am just being optimistic which i believe will result in positive energy for my team in the future matches to win!! We will show that unlike india we will win test matches in Australian pitches!!

Posted by BadMoodHesh on (December 20, 2012, 7:02 GMT)

@Sinhaya 2: Man, are you even Lankan??? You're giving us all a bad name. They're taking us seriously for sure, but they aren't scared. Good to know that we are being taken seriously

Posted by BG4cricket on (December 20, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

FrontFootLunge - let's maybe wait for the Ashes hey. In the meantime reflect on the fact that Aus have played 10 tests this year and lost 1 while Eng have played 15 and lost 7 so let's reserve judgement hey ? You make some interesting points re best players of 2012 but the stats (averages,runs,wickets - esp aves) suggest the line up to be - Cook, Smith, Amla, Kallis, Clarke, Hussey, Prior, Philander, Siddle, Ajmal, Hilfenhaus - that my friend is the fact and just because Eng numbers are inflated by playing more Tests it doesn't get them in to this side.

Posted by hmmmmm... on (December 20, 2012, 4:31 GMT)

Front-foot-lunge, I think you are being optimistic calling Sehwag, Ashwin, Ishant and Dhoni the best test opener, spinner, seamer and wicket-keeper/batsman aren't you mate?

Posted by On_The_Boundary on (December 20, 2012, 3:47 GMT)

This is most excellent news, the last thing we need is Test cricketers getting injured playing this 20 over hit n' giggle stuff.

Posted by senthil25 on (December 20, 2012, 3:36 GMT)

Come on srilanka win the next a indian fan we will enjoy your win in Australia...........dont give india.. we indians too support u.

Posted by hycIass on (December 20, 2012, 3:14 GMT)

@land47 is spot on, Hughes and Khawaja have dominated shield this year because they have spend time in country and not focused on T20 but the longer version of the game.

Posted by RJHB on (December 20, 2012, 1:44 GMT)

Hey FrontFoot big mouth, 199 runs in an entire day is pretty groundbreaking stuff!! Never mind our young spinner, how'd you go in England last series? Oh thats right, the team that narrowly held Australia to a loss actually smashed the eyeballs out of you in your own backyard and took your well and truly unearned test no.1 status! You better pray Cook keeps making runs because the rest aren't worth a toss!

Posted by Ameega on (December 20, 2012, 0:04 GMT)

@swauzzie and I-Love-Cricket, being a SL fan, could not agree more. Despite his nick name 'Sinhaya-2" I doubt that he is a SL fan.

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 23:35 GMT)

Spot on Kolpak1989.

Never mind front-foot-lunge. He's still bitter about 20 years of being under the Aussie hammer.

Posted by wapp on (December 19, 2012, 23:24 GMT)

Go easy on Front-Foot-Lunge guys. This is where he makes up for not being able to play cricket himself, you get no depth perception when you're so one-eyed!

Posted by Chris_P on (December 19, 2012, 22:32 GMT)

@ landl47. Good post & agree with you about country experience. Players in the past such as Viv Richards, Steve & Mark Waugh, Allan Border, Martin Crowe & so on benefited greatly in their test preparation with these stints, which rounds out a lot of your technique & experience. I mean a full season too, not 3 games, Phil Hughes has dramatically improved his game. @sachin_vvsfan. Sorry, that came from Sri Lankan posters who don't believe he is Sri Lankan either.

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (December 19, 2012, 22:11 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge, you're dreaming. Cook is the best opener, granted. But the best spinner is Herath (playing in this series) or possibly Ajmal, the best seamer is Steyn (featured in the SA-AUS series) and the best wicketkeeper/batsman would have to be De Villiers (again featuring in the recent SA-AUS series). The Poms' 'best team ever' narrowly squeezes past an extremely second rate Indian outfit and all of a sudden everyone else are minnows. Enjoy it while it lasts mate. Once Australia rebuild we will go back to routinely drubbing your team as we have done for most of the last 130 years. India will too.

Posted by landl47 on (December 19, 2012, 21:17 GMT)

It's no coincidence that the two Aus players who have improved and who are currently 1 and 2 in Shield scoring are the two who spent the Aus Winter playing county cricket in England. Many players from all over the world have found that playing county cricket is hugely beneficial in terms of improving their technique and of understanding their game better. Props to them for putting in the effort, which I'm sure will pay off in the long term.

T20 is not good preparation for test cricket, either physically or in terms of the techniques required. However, T20 isn't going to go away for a while, so the various boards will have to try and make it fit into the schedule where it does the least damage. Sticking it right in the middle of the season, as both Aus and England are doing currently, doesn't seem like a good idea to me. At the end of the season would be much better. No doubt financial considerations will direct the decision- they always do.

Posted by Moz. on (December 19, 2012, 17:34 GMT)

Front-foot-lunge - It was barely a couple of weeks ago that Oz and the Saffers were battling it out to see who was the best test team. What were England and India playing for - the "Ultimate Battle of Mid-Table Mediocrity"?

Eng/India was an interesting series, sure, but nothing on the SA/Oz series, which featured the world's best seamer - Steyn, the world's best all-rounders (Kallis and Watson) and the current in-form batsman (Clarke) and the two best captains. And, of course, the two best teams!

Posted by Nish_US on (December 19, 2012, 16:16 GMT)

Great job CA

I have been advocating the same for Indian players - but BCCI and the players are so money minded, it will ever take affect.

The T-20 cricket is the main reason for the loss of Form for Test stalwarts like Dravid, Laxman and even Tendulkar...Its not that easy to switch from format to format

Posted by MilroyL.S.A.Don on (December 19, 2012, 15:21 GMT)

CA did the right thing to save test cricket and cricket....

Posted by jpeacock158 on (December 19, 2012, 15:15 GMT)

Sinhaya-2 - When was the last time there was ever "a top class New Zealand team"? And I agree Front-Foot-Lunge who gives a stuff about Oz vs SL? Yeah the Oz spin department's well stocked isn't it? That good, that there was talk of Warne making a comeback before he was smashed all over in the first BB game!

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 19, 2012, 12:44 GMT)

The 'Ultimate Battle of the Minnows', dubbed by many seasoned cricket watchers as the 'Christmas Minnow Big Bash' is well under way. And who can really say they've noticed this meaningless series? Check out what happened in India recently for real and groundbreaking cricket: The world's best test opener, spinner, seamer and wicket-keeper/batsman amongst much more. Now these are players you can tell your grandchildren about. Oh, by the way, how's Australia's spin department doing these days?

Posted by Solace1 on (December 19, 2012, 12:37 GMT)

@dsig3: We beat you more times than india in the CB series last year and we almost won the tournament, our players were exhausted and lost the finals, had we won the final which we should have then you would have given us more respect, let's see where things stand after the second test!!

Posted by Solace1 on (December 19, 2012, 12:35 GMT)

@I-Like-Cricket: come on mate, how else do u expect this ridiculous decision by the CA? t20's are also a part of cricket now, should learn to adapt in all formats within a matter of days, remember we almost won the t20 world cup this year and in a matter of days we won the first test against a top class New Zealand team!!

Posted by popcorn on (December 19, 2012, 12:12 GMT)

We're learning - but could have learnt MUCH EARLIER - how T20 has spoilt Test Cricket. I will never get over Doug Bollinger breaking down after lunch of the last day of the Mohali Test against India , and unfit - ALL because he was SO BUSY playing the Champions League. Before Lunch, he was fiery - the Indians could not play him. Australia would have won hands down - but did not.And Mike Hussey too - undercooked for that India Test Series - biusy playing IPL and the Champions League.

Posted by jonesy2 on (December 19, 2012, 11:59 GMT)

chrynnon -- yes but they will regain it anyway

Posted by jonesy2 on (December 19, 2012, 11:56 GMT)

Taylor Pine-- that seems so simple why dont they just do that?

Posted by swauzzie on (December 19, 2012, 11:53 GMT)

@I-Like-Cricket: I agree. SL fans generally have enough gumtion to recognise the facts.(Unlike the Indian fans - bless their little hearts) This clown doesn't! The fact that that there is a reason why SL doen't win down under. Their playing style & players aren't suited to playing on a hard pitch that is more favourable to fast bowling- & I'm referring to test matches of course. Every dog has his day in 1 dayers & any tom/dick or harry can win a game of hit & giggle (a la 20/20 BS). This clown doen't give credit where credit is due & thats just a lack of respect!

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 11:37 GMT)

I seriously don't understand why they don't run the Sheffield Shield at the same time as the Tests are played, have the Shield Final around the same time as the last Test match of the summer (just after the new years Test Match) and then run the BBL and the Ryobi Cup at the same time as the ODIs and T20is giving state players ample opportunity to prove themselves in each format.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (December 19, 2012, 11:26 GMT)

@wellrounded87 you are right, Khawaja is more of a test player and ODI specialist then T20 player. Cricket Australia are correct in sending him for a batting session with Stuart Law so he can get ready for boxing day given he hasn't played much shield cricket in the last 2 weeks. Sri Lanka showed in Hobart that they wil be a tough opposition and we need to be ready.

Posted by sachin_vvsfan on (December 19, 2012, 11:14 GMT)

Glad there are cricket boards that still have some priority for test cricket. @Chris_P LOL he bashed indian fans as well :)

Posted by wix99 on (December 19, 2012, 11:10 GMT)

When will Cricket Australia realise that the Big Bash is a pointless circus? It is not preparing players for international cricket. In fact it may be retarding the development and fitness of players.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (December 19, 2012, 11:07 GMT)

@anshu.s (post on December 19 2012, 09:13 AM GMT): I'm under 35, hate football, hate rugby, hate boxing... love cricket, especially tests. There are a lot of England players and fans who want an IPL-style tournament in U.K. But like it or not, test cricket will remain the pinnacle of cricket, and it's important that silly hit-and-giggle formats are left to those players like a lot of Aus. fast bowlers who can't last more than 4 overs anyway. When playing tests, you want your best test players out there representing your country, regardless of opposition.

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 11:02 GMT)

The BBL is an absolute farce. It should be played at a time so that it doesn't clash with tests.

Posted by Vivek.Bhandari on (December 19, 2012, 10:54 GMT)

@dunger.bob: I agree with most of your thoughts. But CA and ECB (and SA board as well, to some extent) have always shown the intent to save the players from burning out, and to be fresh for the Tests. Of the remaining boards (read: those who are capable of calling the shots), the BCCI doesn't care a hoot about the Tests, and all their priorities lie with the circus cricket.

Posted by sephotrig on (December 19, 2012, 10:39 GMT)

@DylanBrah, Sixers aren't affected by Khawaja or Clarke as both are signed for the Thunder.

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 10:29 GMT)

Good work by CA…This is a good eye opener for SLC… who is canceled a test series coz of IPL some time back

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 10:25 GMT)

Can't imagine BCCI doing this!

Posted by Chris_P on (December 19, 2012, 10:13 GMT)

Forward thinking by CA, their priorities are in the right place. @dsig3. Sinhaya didn't post that, he actually posts well thought out comments. This guy (Sinhaya-2) is allegedly an Indian trying to convey he is Sri Lanlan in trying to garner a response.

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

I just wonder why CA hasn't got a window for the BBL so that all the big names could play in it? Wait - that would be something akin to organization!

Posted by anshu.s on (December 19, 2012, 9:36 GMT)

From where i left off, i would say test Series such as Ashes, recent South Africa Series, upcoming India series or any overseas tour need and deserve full importance and preference period, but one has to practical and ask do Australia need full artillery for even Sri Lanka ??the message going to Australian cricket public is Big Bass is another T-20 cicus and dosen't deseve importance or seriousness. I can envisage purists and Sri Lankan fans responding with fury and indignation :P but dosen't take away from the truth.

Posted by Wozza-CY on (December 19, 2012, 9:29 GMT)

A good decision.....about time....

Posted by wellrounded87 on (December 19, 2012, 9:15 GMT)

@DylanBrah I don't think the sydney sixers are missing out here. Khawaja isn't much of a limited overs batsmen. He has the perfect temperament for test cricket but he doesn't have the aggression or the stroke play for limited overs stuff. T20 is a joke anyways a sideshow spectacle that isn't worth risking national players during important series.

Posted by anshu.s on (December 19, 2012, 9:13 GMT)

I have a divergent view on this , what is the point of organising Big Bash if you are going to relegate it to as a poor cousin of test cricket, what is the point of organising it ?? why it is being scheduled at a time of a test series ?? why is CA trying to undermine it's own tournament ?? It looks like CA is engaging in a race with England to show who cares more for test Cricket,things are different in England,.There cricket watching public is mostly above age of 35 and they all prefer test cricket so Skysports realises that and pays 200 million pounds for TV deal.but has it helped the popularity of Cricket in England where Football is the most dominant sport by a massive distance, infact i can bet you in England people below age of 35 would struggle to tell who Cook is but will know all about Wayne Rooney's exact goal tally !! Do CA want to go the same route or do they want Cricket to seen as a lucrative carrer option by young boys even if they can't make Austalian team , contd

Posted by DylanBrah on (December 19, 2012, 8:46 GMT)

Poor Sydney Sixers. Khawaja probably won't even play. Clarke is expected to be fit.

Posted by Mervo on (December 19, 2012, 8:37 GMT)

Good decision. T20 is below club cricket in status. It is about gambling money and should be off the agenda for test players in their main first class season.

Posted by thewayitwass on (December 19, 2012, 8:33 GMT)

Too little, too late, we already lost pretty much all our first choice seamers partly due to the t20 circus that preceded the SA series.. why didn't they do this earlier especially as SA was first?!

Posted by prabhukt429 on (December 19, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

Good decision by CA.very happy to know someone giving priority to test cricket.hopes bcci should learn something from it.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (December 19, 2012, 8:13 GMT)

@chrynnon you are correct that we must make test cricket the priority. Khawaja and the other players being shielded from the Big Bash is correct as Sri Lanka is a good opposition and we need our best players available. Khawaja being rewarded for a great shield season so far. He looks like a new player under boof, more confident, more attacking and sharp on the field. Would be exciting to see him at 3 long term with Hughes as opener.

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 19, 2012, 8:10 GMT)

Good decision by CA to send Khawaja to a batting camp with Stuart Law rather then play a T20 match whic would have done him no good. Its all to cover for Clarke just in case he is not fit and test cricket has to be our priority not the interests of individual T20 Big bash sides.

Posted by I-Like-Cricket on (December 19, 2012, 8:06 GMT)

@Sinhaya-2. It's fans like you who don't deserve an opinion. Your team performed admirably in the first test and very nearly hung on. I don't know an Aussie who isn't willing to give them credit for it. Especially considering the pitch was nothing like the ones in SL. Then you come out and make ridiculous statements like this, this is what I've come to expect from the Indian team, not a Sri Lankan fan.

Posted by dunger.bob on (December 19, 2012, 7:32 GMT)

Good to see CA put Test cricket at the top of it's priorities. .. the players can go and have a hit and giggle when they've finished with the serious stuff. Sinhaya- why wouldn't they be worried about Sri Lanka? They can't afford to take anyone lightly, and your guys have already showed us they can play.

Posted by CricketBirbal on (December 19, 2012, 7:19 GMT)

Looks like Starc will torment Indians in India in absence of Pat Cummins and James Pattinson. All they need is Siddle, Starc, Watson, Lyon and maybe O'Keefe or Doherty in the bowling line up. Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Bird may become support bowlers. Warner,Cowans,Hughes,Khawaja,Clarke,Hussey,Quiney/Doolan and Wade will complete the team. Who needs John now?

Posted by dsig3 on (December 19, 2012, 7:06 GMT)

@Sinhaya - you are a cracker mate. The aussies are surely shaking in their boots at facing your fast bowling attack. To prepare for the Lankans the Aussies need to face club level fast bowling.

Posted by chrynnon on (December 19, 2012, 7:00 GMT)

At last, a T20 decision that makes sense. Now if the Test team can be permanently quarantined from T20 then Australia will regain the no. 1 position.

Posted by PrasPunter on (December 19, 2012, 6:50 GMT)

While this is good, why is that we didnt apply the same yardstick before the crucial SA test-series ? Anyway, good step in the right direction. Hope we can do the same to the team before they go to india - quarantine the team from playing the meaningless ODIs and t20s!!

Posted by Solace1 on (December 19, 2012, 6:46 GMT)

Just shows how much CA is worried about a lankan comeback in the second test which will surely happen, don't worry about missing the 'big bash' boys, my team will show you what bashing is in test cricket!!

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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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