March 10, 2009

Australia in South Africa 2008-09

The secret to playing Tests for Australia

George Binoy

Why did some prolific run-scorers in domestic cricket - like Jamie Siddons, Brad Hodge, Martin Love, Jamie Cox and Darren Lehmann - not have long Test careers for Australia? Read Greg Baum's reasons in the Age.

Four peculiarities of cricket weighed against all these men, and many others besides. One is that a cricket team is relatively small, and made up of specialists. Only two opening batsmen can be picked at a time, four middle-order batsmen, three seam bowlers, but perhaps only one spinner and certainly only one wicketkeeper. It means that even for a struggling team, wholesale change is rare.

Secondly, cricket is less dynamic than, say, football, so can be played for longer, 20 years or more even at professional level. It means the rate of attritional change is low, at least among batsmen. Thirdly, it has become such a lucrative profession that none are inclined to volunteer for redundancy. Finally, it draws out a sentimentalism not much evident in the Australian character in other spheres.

Phillip Hughes is a tough, pesky 20-year-old lefty from the sticks who bats and lives by his own lights, writes Peter Roebuck in the Age.

Australia's newest batting prodigy was raised by banana-growing parents in Macksville, near Coffs Harbour on the NSW coast. From the start he was mad on the game. Many fathers hang a ball in a sock so that sons and daughters can practise their strokes. Greg Hughes had to provide three balls before his son was satisfied. When darkness fell across the back veranda he would come indoors, put on his full cricketing regalia and rehearse his shots in front of the mirror until his Italian mother announced that supper was ready.

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George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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