February 18, 2010

Michael Jeh

The secret behind Nathan Hauritz's success?

Michael Jeh

"Hauritz’s success in the last year or so has been more than just the sheer numbers" © Getty Images

Cricket is full of intra-sport rivalries, even though much of it is meant to be in a light-hearted tone. Fast bowlers are said to be a bit ‘thick’, wicketkeepers are apparently eccentric and opening batsmen are often associated with having no fear. Perhaps none of these myths have any real basis but it adds to the romance and character of the game.

Another school of thought centres around the notion that it’s often a batsman’s game. Bowlers are forever complaining that flat pitches, shorter boundaries, covered wickets, new technology for bats and restrictions on the use of the short ball have made it even easier for the batsmen. Not surprisingly, batsmen are quick to point out that while bowlers get plenty of chances to make mistakes, one false shot and an innings can be terminated.

Here’s a question for you then. I only thought about it when thinking about the rise and rise of Nathan Hauritz in the last 12 months, despite not really being rated highly by any of his opponents. If you are underrated by the opposition, is it easier to be a bowler than a batsman?

Hauritz’s success in the last year or so has been more than just the sheer numbers. Anyone who has watched him closely will see a bowler who is now a genuinely a world-class performer, in the context of contemporary off-spinners. He has drift, he turns the ball much more than he used to, has a good arm ball and now operates (and can execute) a plan. I’m not going to get into an argument about how he compares with Murali, Harbhajan, Ajmal, Mendis etc because that will just distract readers from the theme I’m seeking to explore: has Hauritz actually benefited from being underrated and does this make it easier for a bowler to succeed?

Just about every team that has come up against Hauritz in recent times has not been particularly concerned about the threat he posed, yet they have succumbed to him in reasonable numbers. Most famously, Pakistan recently, somewhat ungraciously bemoaned giving him a bagful of wickets in the series. Reading between the lines, the not-so-subtle insinuation was Hauritz should not have got so many of them out …. but he did! Two five-fors on Australian pitches against an Asian side for an offspinner is a creditable achievement. He certainly out-bowled the much more fancied Ajmal, despite not really having a doosra up his sleeve. Or perhaps the Pakistani batsmen treated him with less respect than their counterparts showed to Ajmal and Kaneria.

It all started last summer when the New Zealander Aaron Redmond launched a stunning assault on Hauritz in Adelaide before lunch on the first morning, showing him scant respect, only to lose his head and the war and hole out to deep midwicket. Hauritz kept improving and kept believing in himself while his opponents kept refusing to acknowledge his growing stature. Even on the Ashes tour, Hauritz more than held his own, ironically, only to lose his place in the final Test at The Oval when his bowling on that pitch may just have decided the fate of the series.

My hypothesis is that it’s a lot tougher for a batsman in a similar position to Hauritz. If he is not rated, bowlers don’t really bowl with less intensity to him. If anything, they smell blood and actually raise their game a touch, thereby making it even tougher for a batsman who knows that one mistake finishes his innings. A bowler who is severely mauled can still win the battle, a la Hauritz in Adelaide in 2008-09 or even Jason Krejza on Test debut in India in 2008 (although his wickets came at a considerable cost and Australia lost that match).

I suppose Paul Collingwood and maybe even JP Duminy are two batsmen who weren’t really feared by opposition bowlers at the start of their careers, only to prove the folly of those assumptions. Collingwood has continued to thrive, despite still being seen as unfashionable and dour, even though he can be a devastating hitter in limited-overs cricket. Duminy is now finding out the hard way that once you become a target, batting becomes a whole lot more difficult.

Back to Hauritz though; it will be interesting to see if his performances start to wane over the next 12 months as teams eventually acknowledge that he cannot afford to be disrespected. If they treat him with more respect, will that play into Hauritz’s hands or will he find the soft dismissals won’t come as easily? His economy rate might improve but it might be at the expense of his strike rate.

Returning to the argument about batsmen and bowlers, I was always happy I was an all-rounder. As the Overseas Professional in League teams in England, there was always the comfort that it would take more than one bad ball to ruin my day as a bowler, especially when the hard-bitten old club faithful expected the pro to do the business every weekend. Needless to say, they were often disappointed! Like Hauritz, I too was severely underrated but in my case, it was entirely justified.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Isma on (August 2, 2012, 4:58 GMT)

Good on you for trumpeting him, the most ioatrmpnt one on that list is he made the other three more comfortable. He not only anchored that first session in Leeds with discipline but inspired most notably Mitch to tighten up his game. So Clark had a loose final day, but they were in total control from the end of that first session, in which his approach had the biggest effect. England were culpable of shit batting, yes, but even if he hadn't have taken any wickets that morning, he had already made the bowlers as a unit so much sharper.Even if people think Hauritz has bowled well, there's no way you could match the effect Clark has had on the other three. Hauritz is not a threatening bowler, or a very skilled one. He has been effective this series but that has been as much due to England's insipid batting at times than his pressure and intelligence when bowling.It will go back to being much more of an even contest with Hauritz in, how Clark can be dropped after the first day of the last match I can't understand, but if you want a tight match, then yes, get him in. I would rather see the teams playing quality cricket for the win rather than the nervous cricket that I think will happen if Hauritz is brought into the team again.

Posted by Neena on (May 7, 2010, 2:36 GMT)

Hauritz is definitely a very valuable bowler. why is it no one sees his quality? if we all stopped looking behind at Shane Warne, we'd certainly see that Hauritz is more than just average. and yes, Hauritz will soon be the best spinner in the world (currently right after Swann). perhaps underestimation is a good thing. and why do people underestimate Nathan Hauritz? it might be because of his very friendly personality and his amiable demeanor. but, despite not really having all those fancy tricks, he is definitely one to watch. for the batsmen and the spectators too.

Posted by plsn on (March 16, 2010, 13:35 GMT)

Hauritz's real test will be only against India. Look at bowlers like Mendis, who knocked the Indians out in their first outing against him. But what happened the second time round later is there for all to see. So give him some time and an Indian summer before passing any judgements. He will have to contend against the who-and-who of the spin butchers.

Posted by Andrew on (March 8, 2010, 3:08 GMT)

I find it amazing how many people want Hauritz to fail and I'm really not sure why. What he's doing for Australia at the moment is up there with any Australian spinner over the last 30 years aside from Shane Warne. His average and wickets taken are more than satisfactory when compared to anybody else during that time period (in fact better than a lot of them). People need to remember what life was like before Shane Warne and get off Hauritz's back. And, seriously, if anyone thinks Steve Smith is ready for test cricket at this stage of the game they're kidding themselves.

Posted by ravi on (February 24, 2010, 9:15 GMT)

Would like to put Hauritz in the same bracket as Kumble. Kumble suffered to ignominy of being introduced as a fifth seamer on his maiden tour to SA (though whether in fun is not too clear). but as he said, he just has to turn 2.5" to get an edge, Hauritz is doing the right thing by ignoring the idiots focusing on that aspect. What I found lacking was the monotonous (aka Panesar) length and pace. He has recently got quite a few variations which will force batsmen to take him lightly at their own peril. But I am at no point suggesting that he will end up being as successful or adept as Kumble because of differing circumstances but also its too early to judge.

Posted by Anshu - Yeh hai cricketistan on (February 22, 2010, 7:55 GMT)

my vote is also with swann...he is far better thn hauritz..to find out details about both the bowlers visit...yeh hai cricketistan

Posted by kelvin on (February 21, 2010, 12:05 GMT)

on a point, alan, think u will find hauritz averages about 18 with the bat in first class cricket, and about 5 more in tests.still improving.

Posted by Paul on (February 21, 2010, 2:17 GMT)

Sumit Gupta makes an interesting comment, except that Harbhajan and Murali are both sliding backwards into Hauritz's league. They are both spent forces, as is Mendis. Swann, Harris and Vettori only get wickets when batsmen treat them with too little respect. That leaves Hauritz as the last spinner who's improving and is nearly the best in the world. Face facts, the next world-dominating spinner isn't going to come from the subcontinent, just like the last (law-abiding) one.

Posted by Sumit Gupta on (February 19, 2010, 14:43 GMT)

I recon Graemm Swann is a better off-spinner than Nathan Hauritz.He has taken 4 five-wicket hauls compared to Nathan's 2.Also,Nathan needs to prove his mettle on subcontinent before coming in the league of Harbhajan and Muruli.

Posted by Ill Chicken on (February 19, 2010, 14:38 GMT)

You neglect the fact Hauritz was neglected during the previous summer as well. All bowlers generally need to be able to grow into a position and continual run of test matches, not just off tests to try and prove yourself.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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