Bold McDonald chances his arm
The allrounder Andrew McDonald hopes his new aggressive approach to batting will catch the attention of Australia's revamped selection panel this summer. McDonald has just returned home from England, where he was voted the player of the tournament in the county Twenty20 competition after topping the run tally and playing a key role in Leicestershire's title victory.
It was a fine way to finish an off-season in which he lost his Cricket Australia contract, one of the lower-profile casualties on the same day that Simon Katich was controversially sacked. But while Katich is unlikely to play for Australia again, McDonald, 30, has not given up hope of resuming his international career, and he believes other fringe players will also be encouraged by the upcoming overhaul of the selection panel.
"Now that the Argus review has come out and the panel of selectors is going to change, and there's a new captain, a few of the views that in the past people had of you might change," McDonald told ESPNcricinfo. "It's an exciting time - you can probably start fresh again. That's exciting, the fact that they're going to open it up.
"I think it was bandied around last year that if you were over 30 you were pretty much finished but that's probably going to not be the case this year, so it's opened up for everyone again. A new selection panel, fresh ideas - you never know what direction they're going to head. It's definitely a good time to be involved in Australian cricket. There's going to be lots of opportunities."
And over the past year McDonald might have done enough to encourage the new selectors, whoever they should be, that he still has an international future, in the shorter formats if not Tests. When McDonald played his four Tests in early 2009 it was as a bowling allrounder, a role he performed well, but as a batsman he looked unadventurous and didn't make the most of his international opportunities.
That was a perception McDonald wanted to change, and his T20 heroics for Leicestershire followed a home summer in which he made three Sheffield Shield centuries and averaged 76.33 at a strike-rate of nearly 85. It was quite a statement from a man who had spent a decade with a strike-rate in the mid-50s, and only injury prevented McDonald from enjoying a 1000-run season with his new attacking method.
"It definitely was a conscious thing," he said. "I think I was pigeonholed as, maybe not a dour batsman but someone who couldn't strike up there with the best of them. But I always knew that I could do that. It's probably been dictated by the role I've had in the middle order for Victoria, I've played that complementing role to the attacking likes of Dave Hussey and Brad Hodge and Aaron Finch.
"Last year I took it upon myself to change that perception in a bid to make my runs in a different way, to get some sort of notice from up at the next level. As it was, I missed out on Australia A selection, but I think I'll still stick to that formula. With the medium-pace bowling I think [the selectors] see that I can't hold down a position bowling at 120kph, so my batting had to stand up at some stage and take over. It probably has over the last 12 months."
His batting has become so dangerous that he spent much of the Friends Life t20 opening for Leicestershire, and made 584 runs at 53.09, enough for him to be voted the MVP by the Professional Cricketers' Association. McDonald enjoyed the challenge of opening, having spent most of his career in the lower middle-order for Victoria.
"It's definitely something that I've always wanted to do, to open the batting," he said. "It was a different role but it actually excited me after playing ten years in the middle order. Something different was the sort of stimulus I probably needed in the shorter formats to reinvigorate my form in that game.
"You get to face the best bowlers, the ball comes on to the bat. The pace on the ball is something I probably like. Two men are out and you have to chance your arm a bit, whereas in the middle your role is dictated by what's happened before you, so your role is ever-changing. But at 0 for 0 you get your own blank canvas and you can stamp yourself on the game in whatever way you want."
Now all McDonald needs is a big home summer for Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades. Australia's new selectors will be watching him with interest.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo