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December 26, 2012

Australia cricket

Australia's 'best XI policy' goes for a toss

Michael Jeh
Mitchell Starc finished South Africa's innings with six wickets, Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day, December 2, 2012
Mitchell Starc has played just two consecutive Tests with long gaps in between  © AFP
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Five minutes into the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. It is a historical day in so far as it is the first time in my memory of Boxing Day Tests, dating back to the Ian Chappell/Clive Lloyd era of the mid-1970s, when the "best available" Australian team has not taken the field. I suppose the recent Test in Perth against South Africa almost qualifies in that category but at least the turn-around for that match was only a few days so that the resting of Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus was almost fathomable. The fact that Ben Hilfenhaus, despite being protected from injury, still broke down when he next bowled in earnest makes a slight mockery of that decision but one can almost understand the rationale.

England haven't always been as insistent when it comes to selecting the best eleven available players for Test matches. They used to subscribe to a system where the captain wasn't necessarily among the best eleven players in the country; the Mike Brearley example in the 1981 Ashes was proof that it is not always a strategy to be scoffed at. Brearley's calm manner and astute leadership brought out the best in Ian Botham and we all know what happened in that series.

Australia on the other hand have always held fast to the tradition that the baggy green is never handed out unless you are among the best available on that particular day, injury, suspension or family emergencies notwithstanding. Some would argue that this has not always been the case but that is more a debate around which cricketer deserved to be in the team ahead of another, an argument that did not necessarily have any black and white answer. Some may also argue that when Bob Simpson was recalled to captain Australia during World Series Cricket, that time-honoured tradition was dispensed with; but his brave performances in unique circumstances can perhaps be written off as a temporary deviation from normal policy.

Not so today. Mitchell Starc's omission from the starting line-up in Melbourne is the beginning of a new tradition. The rotation system has been around for a few years now but never before has the issue come so starkly into focus. Here is a man who has played just two consecutive Tests in a summer where he has not played that much cricket, and eight long days after he took five second-innings wickets in Hobart this modern-day professional whose sole job it is to be fit enough to, well, simply to do his job, is deemed not fit enough to risk turning up for 'work'.

So Australian teams from now on will not comprise the best eleven cricketers available on the day. They will not be selected according to cricket ability. They will proudly wear the baggy green based on a complicated and utterly unproven science based around their likelihood of being injured. There we are. That is the new reality of modern cricket in Australia - a selection system run by sports scientists and executed by selectors.

Even in not-so-recent memory, the opposite was true. The selectors made the decisions and the allied medical health professionals did their best to keep those best players fit and firing. That system has now been turned on its head. The boffins consult their spreadsheets and plot probability charts that are then acted upon by the selectors and reluctantly justified by the captain when confronted with thorny questions at the post-toss interview.

Michael Clarke informed us today that it wasn't "rotation" but "player management". He even made it sound as if they were doing Starc a favour and that the player concerned would be (should be) eternally grateful for the thoughtful gesture that sees Jackson Bird making his Test debut at his expense. I'm not sure about player management but it sounds like management speak is now part of the skill-set that the captain requires. As well as the ability to keep a straight face.

The frustrating thing about the Starc omission is that the evidence around this so-called injury-prevention theory is lacking in results. The whole point of resting Hilfenhaus was apparently to prevent the very thing that made him leave the field halfway through the Hobart Test. So where is the evidence that these strategies actually work? Why not just entrust the fitness of an individual to that individual himself, trusting his commitment to his own career progression and allowing him to live and die by his own fitness regime? Especially when the player hasn't actually complained of a niggle or is showing signs of an injury, and has just come off a rousing five-wicket haul to win a Test match …

It is especially ironic that this same system encourages another player, albeit a batsman, to do everything possible to take the field despite having a definite injury. If the Starc philosophy had been applied to Clarke, they would not even have to predict the likelihood of an injury; Clarke's dodgy hamstring is there for everyone to see. Yet, they allow him to take the field in the same selectorial culture that allows pre-emptive, crystal-ball-gazing, statistics-driven decisions that now hand out baggy green caps to players who, arguably, are not among the best eleven cricketers in the country on that particular day. We might as well be playing a computer game.

On the Channel 9 commentary this morning, Bill Lawry and Mark Taylor were discussing this very issue and posed the hypothetical question about what would happen if both Mitchell Johnson and Bird picked up six-wicket hauls in Melbourne? Let's add Peter Siddle to that mix too. If all three of them get wickets against a relatively weak team on a fast bowler-friendly pitch (on paper anyway), who misses out in Sydney? Will it be Siddle, based on the theory that he would have played two consecutive Tests, without anywhere near the rest periods that Starc had between Perth, Hobart and Melbourne? Using the statistical models used by the sports science staff, Siddle must surely be the next bowler most likely to break down. If they are being consistent (and fair), it would appear Siddle must be rested in Sydney. Despite Clarke's protestations to the contrary, that sounds very much like 'rotation' to me. They don't need selectors - a Lazy Susan will do!

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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Keywords: Burnout

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Ravi on (January 1, 2013, 12:51 GMT)

@Marcuss, I don't agree with Mr. Science. Amir was 19 when he was banned. Till then he was playing in almost all the matches. It all depends on the stamina of players irrespective of their age. Shane Bond was almost always injured irrespective of his age.

Posted by Anonymous on (December 29, 2012, 9:33 GMT)

Well, considering that Starc hadn't done anything at first-class level to be justly considered for his initial selection, (averaging 2 wickets per match until the recent Perth test), then I don't think that he- nor his supporters- can have any complaints. Esecially since his 5/63 came against weak opposition on bowler-friendly pitch, as you mentioned might be the case in Melbourne for iddle and co. His 6/154 against SAf was riddled with poor bowling as he went for 5.34 per over, and his 5/63 was bolstered by taking the final 4 tail-end wickets. He was selected for test cricket because he is from NSW and had preformed well in the shorter formats.

Posted by MarkDal on (December 29, 2012, 1:02 GMT)

I think it was Andrew McDonald raised an interesting point on commentary yesterday. With the rotations, are the going to take 6 or 7 pace bowlers to England for the Ashes tour? Traditionally, they take 5, but that may not be enough to 'rotate' effectively. Are they going to take a squad more akin to a Rugby tour than a cricket tour, with 20-25 guys there?

Posted by Spex on (December 28, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

Really, is there really a "Best XI" in Australia right now? Despite their successes, they are still a team in transition and nowhere is this more obvious than in the pace attack. Of these, only Peter Siddle has the long term form to be an automatic selection. The rest have either lost that status (Johnson, Hilfy, Harris) or are yet to cement their long term credentials. Everyone bleating about Starc being rested are basing that on his performance in, what, two innings over two Tests? Meanwhile, they ignore what happened to Pattinson in the SA series.

In these circumstances, and where some of your options are in a high injury risk phase of their careers, it makes perfect sense to try new options while managing the workloads on young bodies.

Posted by Drew on (December 28, 2012, 4:05 GMT)

I think Jeremy makes a good point which questions the fundamental assumption upon which this article is based: that Australia has a 'best group' of fast bowlers. I would suggest no country has ever had the depth in quality of fast bowlers Australia now has. Statistically, most countries could probably be represented by a bell curve, where the frequency is highest around the average ie average quality fast bowlers. Australia's distribution is not normal and heavily skewed towards the right with an astounding number of high quality fast bowlers. As is usually the case with high quality it can be very difficult to differentiate between the quality of these bowlers. That Bird can bowl as he did in his first test only illustrates this. What sense does your argument make when, say, starc, harris, pattinson, cummins, hilfy, siddle and johnson are all fit and in form? You can add bird to that list now. I would rest Siddle in Sydney for Starc, why not!

Posted by Martin on (December 27, 2012, 22:52 GMT)

@Jeremy Bennet It's a terrible policy that is making your selection panel the second most laughable thing in world cricket after NZC and the Ross Taylor debacle. The fact is that 50-odd % of this so called fast bowling unit you're building up in unavailable through long term injury and the one accusation we never thought we'd be able to throw at the Aussies is coming true. You've periodically had poor sides, but never physically flimsy ones. Is Australian cricket going soft? Glenn McGrath wouldn't have let the selectors rest him and, what is more, they wouldn't have wanted to rest him. This doesn't send out a message about strength in depth, but one of a lack of outstanding quality fast bowlers...For the first time in my life as a Pom cricket watcher, I can honestly say I'd be dismayed if we didn't win the next two Ashes series.

Posted by MarkDal on (December 27, 2012, 12:02 GMT)

I was just discussing yesterday that we now have something like 14 pace bowlers around the country who have been picked in the Australian squad! That's fine for Pat Howard, who is using Rugby Union thinking of how to best use his forward pack, but ridiculous for cricket! If you refer to the previous article about Siddle, you'll know my feelings. Jeremy, it's fine to say that we've developed a 'squad', but Hastings, McKay, George and probably Bollinger and Copeland will never play again. Cutting & Hazlewood were teased but not picked. Harris may be finished as well, and I can't see Hilfy getting back, so the 'rotation' has just shortened the Test careers of some quality bowlers. I'd like to think that Bird was picked on the traditional form, not rotation, and I'd pencil him into the Ashes squad. Let's see the bowlers get quality EARLY wickets, and not tailenders and big-hitting players, and then we can see who is quality and who is not.

Posted by Mad Hamish on (December 27, 2012, 11:31 GMT)

Considering how Johnson bowled in Perth compared to how Starc bowled in Perth the best attack didn't line up in Hobart either. (and Hilfenhaus ahead of Johnson this summer was dubious as well)

Posted by Royce George on (December 27, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

I think indian team must take a cue from the australian management Indians overely on Zaheer khan,I wish he was told to get fit and come back...By now he would have been more fitter...and some youngsters would have also got a chance to showcase te talent

Posted by Ben on (December 27, 2012, 10:50 GMT)

Spot on! This rotation policy is absolutely ridiculous. John Hastings will never play test cricket again. Jackson Bird has bowled well, but you have to wonder what is going through Mitchell Starc's mind right now. Surely as a professional cricketer you want every opportunity to play for Australia. To be told that you are to be rested, when you have no injury, must be a huge kick in the teeth, a feeling akin to being dropped! The test side should always be made up of the 11 best available cricketers in the country. 'Resting' players on the basis that they may get injured is insane! People will stop turning up to work on the off chance they may hurt themselves! How we have come to this I don't know but it is a sad state of affairs.

Posted by rawnsa on (December 27, 2012, 10:38 GMT)

I would have thought that the best way to gain match fitness would be to actually play matches. Can't help but wonder if that is why our bowlers seem to break down on such a regular basis. A bit odd that five of our top six bowlers are currently occupying the role of spectator.

Posted by Phantom1945 on (December 27, 2012, 10:38 GMT)

Starc should have played. It's as simple as that. Unfortunately, the selectors are simpler than that. Bird, through no fault of his own, was picked at Starc's expense. A crazy policy, akin to some of the worst policies produced by the incumbent rabble posing as a government in Canberra. If selectors had tried that caper with blokes like Dennis Lillee they'd never have heard the end of it! If a player is fit and in form, he is entitled to be picked; no ifs, ands, or buts.

Posted by induchoodan on (December 27, 2012, 10:28 GMT)

I think a few people including accomplished cricketers are missing the plot here,because if you simply look at the injury list of Aussie fast bowlers over the last year or so..Mitchell Johnson,Ryan Harris,Pat Cummins,James Pattinson,Ben Hilfenhaus,the list goes on.Aussies have been saved only by the quality of bench strength available similar to the West Indies of the 80's. While it is only fair to drop a fast bowler harboring a niggle to protect him , the fact remains that fast bowlers more than any other cricketer thrive on rhythm which can only be achieved by actual test match bowling.The only rotation we require is that of the bowling arm.

Posted by tommy on (December 27, 2012, 10:25 GMT)

Well done jeremy bennet, great point and sound reasoning. I'm all for it too,. Jeh can bash the scientists all he wants, but the scientists are only acting on the proven results of high quality research. The only certainty in sport is that overload will result in injury, and this can take up to a month after a high load session (2 test in a row for hilfy a month ago?).

Posted by Jon on (December 27, 2012, 10:09 GMT)

Agree with this. Although it must be said that while Bird has performed well on debut, surely the best available XI players don't, and are unlikely to ever include Mitchell Johnson, so his selection is a big step backwards and he is perhaps the main beneficiary of this hare-brained policy.

Posted by Nick on (December 27, 2012, 10:07 GMT)

England don't drop there best players now. They get rested for pointless ODI/T20's or the occasional dead test rubber. Anderson has bowled more overs than anybody in international test cricket this year. The chances of him getting rested are zero for a live test match. Australia are putting rotation before common sense.

Posted by Rajeev on (December 27, 2012, 9:50 GMT)

1> Batsman can always play as 'batting' is much easier than bowling or wicket-keeping unless the same batsman is being heavily challenged by others in line. 2> Batsman can always drop down the order if he is not doing well but main bowler cannot be played as 5th one. 3> Batsmen can plan to avoid to get into strike to his nemesis bowler but bowler cannot avoid bowling to the batsman.

Let us come to one fact - that laziest part on that cricket field batting (as compared to wicketkeeping / bowling and/or fielding aspects). All this is because - ball is bowled first and now batsman is to decide how to tackle it. This can be 'learned' and in anyways the rules are always tweaked to suit batsmen.

This is open secret - that it is batsman game!!

Posted by Raj Sundararaman on (December 27, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

There are 2 problems with your arguments. 1. Fast bowlers need that much more recuperation time than batsman. Micheal Clarke more or less proved that he is fit enough. There is a high probability that fast bowlers will succumb to more serious type of injuries. i would rather preempt that from happening especially when they carry niggles. 2. You have to understand that Starc carried a huge workload in the last 2 test matches especially since Hilfenhaus broke down. If Australia wrap up the series in the 2nd test match, I would rest Siddle again for the 3rd test match and make sure he is fot and ready for the Indian tour. Like Jermey says I am all for the rotation program as that means that at any given time there is a pool of 5-6 fast bowlers to choose from who have had the experience of playing test matches.

Posted by John M James on (December 27, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

To call the back-room advisors "sports scientists" is inappropriate.They are men who apply the findings of physiology, anatomy, statistics, etc, but that does not make them scientists! They have not made any scientific discoveries themselves.

Posted by Andrew Schulz on (December 27, 2012, 7:30 GMT)

At least try to understand that batsman would be treated different to bowlers in assessing injuries. You don,t seem to understand this at all.

Posted by Vulture on (December 27, 2012, 7:27 GMT)

Tests as a test? One eye on the Ashes? A policy of never putting the Mitchell's on the pitch together at the same time (which makes a fair amount of sense given dodgy radars)? Take your pick but it does look strange from the outside.

Posted by Aditya Shamlal on (December 27, 2012, 7:19 GMT)

I completely disagree with this post. The best example of what happens when you let the player decide on his fitness can be seen in the Indian test team. You have key bowlers breaking down in the middle of series, because the deem themselves too important to rest from injury. This rotation policy is a wise long term policy which will only benefit the Australian fast bowling resources and give them a wider pool of players to pick from.

Posted by Hitesh on (December 27, 2012, 5:21 GMT)

You call it "rotation" or "player Management" but interesting part is that, Australia has a big bench strength of fast bowlers!! As an Indian, I feel jealous of the same

Posted by Salman on (December 27, 2012, 5:11 GMT)

""""As such Australia has now developed a squad of bowlers who are capable of performing for Australia'"'"

Sorry my friend, but they would perform only in Oz. All great bolwers of yearsteryears are laughing on this strategy. Ii really wanted to see Starc huffingand puffing onthis pitch andKhawaja to playsome hook shots hear in place of an actual unfit player.

Yes starc has taken wickets but has not developed fully yet .as a good fast bowlers.the more he play, more he would get strong and be experienced.

Posted by Tambo on (December 27, 2012, 3:32 GMT)

Jackson Bird should have been selected in front of Mitch^2 well before this anyway as his first class record is so monumentally superior to Starc's (first class bowling average under 20 versus Starc's first class average of 31+) that it's a farce that Mitch2 walked into the team ahead of him. So maybe this new rotation policy has the excellent unforeseen advantage of purging all of slowly purging all the usual horrendous selection errors and east coast biases out of the system so that eventually the merry go-round eventually gets to the hard working Shield performers from unglamorous states that they should have selected in the first place.

Posted by shak on (December 27, 2012, 2:37 GMT)

I agree Jeremy Australia are widening their pool of quickies. A frightening prospect for the rest.

Posted by Tom. on (December 27, 2012, 1:54 GMT)

I know that the exaggerated, sarcastic tone of this article announces that it won' t be especially balanced right from the get go but still, a discussion of Australia' s policy to rest a young fast bowler that doesn't even once mention the threatening stress fractures recently suffered by young Australian fast bowlers is just terrible writing.

Posted by David D'Elia on (December 27, 2012, 1:52 GMT)

the "best XI available" policy is well and truly intact....Starc was unavailable for selection based on the amount of bowling his 22 year old body could sustain....He will be right for Sydney and will then be selected as he will be part of the "best XI available"....the decision on Siddle will be based on what is best for his 28 year old body can sustain....simply following a scientific formula based on historical & medical evidence....not old school ideas based on personal opinion.

Posted by David on (December 27, 2012, 0:44 GMT)

I agree with Jeremy but would like to add a few points. Firstly, we have several bowlers currently out injured including Cummins, Pattinson, Hilfenhaus and Hastings (although the latter is yet to prove himself at test level). The selectors do not want to lose another front line bowler with big series against India and England coming up. Secondly, I think they want to have only one left hand quick in the side and I think Starc is preferred over Johnston (particularly for England). Starc is not yet 23 and a long term prospect whereas Johnston is 31. Starc is also a useful 20/20 and one day bowler so will have extra workload in those formats. If Siddle bowled 30 overs in each innings of the 2nd test, I would expect him to be rested for the third test. However, he only bowled 8 overs in the first innings so (unless Sri Lanka bat for a very long time in the 2nd innings) he will probably play in Sydney. I don't always agree with the selectors but I think they are getting the bowlers right

Posted by Graham Burton on (December 26, 2012, 22:29 GMT)

They are only resting players when they are susceptible of injury anyway what is our best 11, Siddle has proved to be the leader of the attack and Pattinson a walk up start when fit. The others Hrris, Hilfenhaus, Cummins, Johnson, Starc and Bird appear to be of equal ability. THen you can throw in Faulker, Richardson, Putland, Coulter-Nile, Cutting, Hazlewood who are all not too far behind. Any of these players can do a similar job and the Australian team is not suffering at all from resting players who may be sucsceptible to injury.

Posted by Simoc on (December 26, 2012, 22:21 GMT)

This is the best team available to play. Starcs five wickets came among lots of rubbish bowling. He's fast improving and bowls some great unplayable balls but was lucky to be selected for Hobart in the first place ahead of Johnson. Bird at first view appears to be a better prospect than Starc and Pattinson so the future looks bright if these guys can keep their bodies functioning.

Posted by Jon Bonfiglio on (December 26, 2012, 22:07 GMT)

Michael Jeh's article and opinions are incredibly myopic and lacking of context. I am no supporter of Australia but 'player management' of fast bowlers in particular, especially at ages when stress fractures are likely to occur, is hardly bad practice, rather the reverse. With some heavyweight series coming up, Australia have the luxury (which England have had for a while now) of having a stable of quicks, which can only be a good thing for Australian cricket. I would have been very happy to see Clarke and Inverarity make the sort of crowd-pleasing daft, knee-jerk selections of the Hohns-ian recent past, but they are demonstrating the kind of vision which sees sides be competitive over time. Finally, it always amuses me when hokum attempts to put down science, even the sports-science brand. A Jeh article denouncing climate science would be good to read for sure. This is the first genuinely poor article I've read on cricinfo for a very long time.

Posted by Omar on (December 26, 2012, 21:58 GMT)

If I was Starc, I wouldn't have given up a boxing day test that too after taking two 5 wicket halls in last two tests. James Anderson played 14 tests this year, missed out on one test against West Indies when series was already sealed, he never needed any rest nor he broke down durng the year so what's wrong with the Ausi bowlers? I hardly recall Glen Mcgrath missing test matches apart from a couple in England in 2005, he never needed player management so why Siddle and Starc needs? They played a second string attack against SAF in Perth and saw them scoring 550 at 5 an over, with this strategy, Ashes is gone for Australia for sure.

Posted by Nath on (December 26, 2012, 21:57 GMT)

One key factor you failed to mention in this article is the enormous injury rate to the crop of young fast bowlers. It's now got to epidemic proportions. While I m not in theory in favour of resting Starc, I can see far enough beyond the end of my nose to understand where the selectors are coming from. Simply, they had to try a different method of managing young fast bowlers

Posted by Brondoug on (December 26, 2012, 21:42 GMT)

Jackson Bird did not make his test debut at Starc's expense. He is a like-for-like replacement for Hilfenhaus. Starc was replaced by Johnson whose omission in Starc's favour after the Perth test was seen by some as unfair.

Posted by Asim on (December 26, 2012, 21:28 GMT)

I am a Indian cricket fan. And I must say, I am extremely impressed by Asutralian "rotation" system. We would love to have such a bench strength of fast bowlers in India. I am so impressed by Jackson Bird. I had been reading about him for a long time and finally saw him in action. I think Australian team is blessed in fast bowling deptt. What you need is more batsmen of calibre and a spin bowler of warne's class. Rotation system for fast bowlers is not doing anone no harm, to be honest! And everyone is getting a chance. I am curious where the hell is Doug Bollinger, though?

Posted by Jagger on (December 26, 2012, 20:58 GMT)

@Jeremy, we should already have seasoned state players ready to go, players who have had their technique pulled apart and revisited many times over, and who are as tough as nails. Then the best of them should be picked to play every, single match. I am both disturbed and disapointed by your comment. If I may be frank, not only is it not yours (as any cricketer would know), it is flawed. Test Match Cricket is NOT the time to train men, to give them "experience" as you say, with the hope that this may lead to them becoming better players. That's schoolboy stuff. Naturally, the good ones improve over time, but there should be an army of experts raring to go and only the elite should chance the legacy of those who have come before them. Consider Ponting, a most gifted individual, went because the selectors were of the belief there are superior batsmen around. To this end, Warne should be playing because there's still no spinner in the country who can legitimately claim to be better.

Posted by Dave Stephen on (December 26, 2012, 20:56 GMT)

If the South African cricket Board rested Dale Steyn when they thought he was overbowled, tired or potentially injury prone I think he would have gone and played tiddlywinks instead of reaping 300 wickets. Key focus should be to implement effective fitness campaigns and select the best team for the next match. Anyway does this rotation policy also apply to batsmen and wicketkeepers? It may be a good plan to rotate selectors too.

Posted by Sky Baba on (December 26, 2012, 20:22 GMT)

Michael, if Bird, Johnson and Siddle each picked up six wickets in this Test, then we'd have to question some of the fundamental physical laws of reality, or wonder how it is that an Australian bowler is playing for Sri Lanka? For it's impossible for 3 players from the same team to pick up 6 wickets in a Test...duh!

However in general you make a good point, as does Coverdale in the antithesis, as does Jeremy above.

Posted by ygkd on (December 26, 2012, 20:21 GMT)

I'd also like to say that if the rotation is about "squad development", it is a departure from the tried and tested principle of 'A tours'. Jackson Bird was recently on an A tour. Does he now need a gradual introduction to test cricket? A seat on the interchange bench, perhaps? Does one not learn to play Test cricket through playing Test cricket? If he is worthy of a spot (and he may well be) then perhaps he should given an extended run? Otherwise, we may as well rotate the whole team. We could bring back Brad Haddin in Sydney. We could bring in Michael Klinger too (a proper right-handed opener would be a novelty). Michael Clarke's back could be rested and so George Bailey could come in as captain. I'm sure that the possibilities are endless. We could spin the rotations until we all get giddy with excitement. Then we would be suitably primed for The Big Bash, where one game runs seamlessly into another and you can never have too much of a good thing.

Posted by ygkd on (December 26, 2012, 20:03 GMT)

Perhaps it is a case of if the selectors knew exactly who they wanted to pick, then they wouldn't need the sports science so much. Then again, it could also be a case of the selectors using sports science to justify what they want to do anyway. Yesterday, I listened to the ABC radio coverage (I think it was Bryce MacGain) on the subject and it was said that the sports science people know what they're doing. I'd like to think that's true. However, the public largely perceive that there's a point which needs addressing here. The principle of cricket, where a "best XI" is selected and then allowed to get on with it, is at stake. If we need to have bit parts, then perhaps we should look at the American football model where players constantly go on and off the ground for their 15-second cameos? Otherwise, we have to strengthen grade and FC levels so that we can be more certain who our "best XI" actually are and whether or not they're sufficiently conditioned to play for a full five days.

Posted by Sifter on (December 26, 2012, 19:53 GMT)

I think we're being a bit precious and nieve about this 'best XI' policy. Look at other sports like baseball and football/soccer - they employ rotation, I mean player management, to keep their players fresh over a long schedule - even in things as important as the World Series the pitchers get rotated to get the best out of them in the medium term, not the short term. Why must we live in a dreamland and keep thinking that cricket is somehow different? Answer: because of ex-players whining about how they didn't rotate in their day. We've just seen bowlers fall like flies, and yet Joe Average fan is yelling at the selectors to 'ignore the science, let Starcy play!'

Just to add, I think if this kind of rotation/player management had started in the ODI series (like happens EVERY summer) then no one would be caring at all. Another point, if a schedule was mapped out well beforehand and strictly kept to so that bowlers knew exactly when they'd be rested, it would help too I feel.

Posted by SunnyM on (December 26, 2012, 18:48 GMT)

As an Indian, i really appreciate the effort, the evolved thinking- planning and strategic decision making (incorporating probability of bowler breakdowns and the likes) that goes in to Aussie Cricket. It reflects in their performances and their rankings. All with one goal in mind - to get them back to #1 in all forms of the game. And that should happen sometime in 2013-2014. Love how CA has clearly prioritized test cricket over BB, inspite of the financial argument for the latter. They have their priorities right.

Contrast this to India, THE richest body in World cricket. thinking - absent, planning (short and long term)- absent, strategic decision making - whats that? Fast bowling resources - none, slow bowling resources - none. Only 1 goal - Go IPL.. And even then we mostly suck at T20.

An BCCI VP talks about IPL and presence of English players in the 2013 circus at the end of a losing test series. What timing..!

Afraid test cricket will only survive in Eng, Aus and SA.

Posted by marcuss on (December 26, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

fast bowlers until they reach the age of 25/26 are always prone to injuries.this isn't an opinion of a random dude who writes a blog it's a scientific fact.Australia were warned about james Pattinson's workload last summer after the MCG test but it was ignored so Pattinson was out for the summer.Starc is 22 years old and is entering the same danger zone pattinson was in last summer(yeah two tests are enough for a 22 year older according to mr science).He might not be physically injured yet but theres a strong chance of that happening again due to his age so they decided to not to take the risk of seeing one of the few fit young fast men getting ruled out for three months so he can play a game against a mediocre side.the bottom line is that fast bowlers should be managed well till they reach mid twenties.both lee and gillespie suffered a plethora of injuries in their early twenties and mcgrath hardly played any serious cricket till mid twenties so its not a new thing get over it.oh and i don't know if you realize that cricket blogs can be used to serve other purposes as well other than whining and complaining all the time.

Posted by Jam Germain on (December 26, 2012, 15:43 GMT)

Australia abandoned their "11 best players policy" when they dropped Katich two years ago (after he had a good year with a 43+ score in 9 out of 18 innings)-- and they sunk accordingly. The replacements at that time were Hughes and Khawaja: In both cases the ex-pros who were selectors used all of their skills to identify who would be better players for the future; and showed why they would have done better reading tea leaves. On the other hand, the England selectors threw their tea leaves down the sink when recently picking Compton -- well done to them! --- just like, once upon a time, Australia picked top pros like Lehmann and Katich who had THE RUNS to justify giving them a go. England's recent policy of slipping in the young players (hopefully future stars) like Bairstow and Root at #6 also means that they can prove themselves with a little less pressure to perform. On the other hand, it does makes sense to try to find ways to stop fast bowlers breaking down.

Posted by Jeremy Bennet on (December 26, 2012, 15:28 GMT)

I think what hasn't been discussed in all of this is that not only is this rotation of bowlers a ploy to preserve them but it also helps develop young bowlers by providing them with the experience that Jackson Bird has been afforded in this test match. As such Australia has now developed a squad of bowlers who are capable of performing for Australia. This was not evident maybe 2 years ago when we had Siddle, Hilfenhause, Johnson and Lee and then daylight. I'm all for it.

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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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