January 15, 2009

Six obsession

The Australian selectors' fixation on creating allrounders out of players who aren't has affected more than a few careers
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Andrew McDonald: "the latest Frankenstein-style construction to be wound up at his back and sent on as Australia's new No. 6" © Getty Images
 

When Andrew Hilditch played Test cricket for the first time, the man listed at No. 6 was Phil by name and fill-a-hole by nature. Phil Carlson, tall and fair, bowled 10 wicketless overs in that game. He batted twice, enduring seven minutes in total, outsmarted by an Ian Botham long hop and sparring with bat too far from body at a John Emburey offbreak. The ball ballooned - Carlson's final act of the match and his Test career - and as it hit short leg's hands the captain, Graham Yallop, squatted at the non-striker's end and slowly shook his head.

Hilditch himself was dumped soon after, and he stayed dumped for most of the next six years. The last time Hilditch played Test cricket, Wayne "Flipper" Phillips was Australia's No. 6. "Flipper" was a simple bastardisation of Phillips' surname. Coincidentally, the selectors looked on him as a kind of performing dolphin. His first trick was a scintillating 159 on debut. Then the selectors got thinking: Phillips should not merely make runs but keep wicket too, not that he wished to, and not that five other wicketkeepers in the land weren't considerably more dexterous. The experiment was a flop. Phillips, a freewheeling and clear-headed batsman, grew bedraggled at a time when clear-headed and freewheeling Australian batsmen were nigh on extinct.

If Hilditch now has an odd and twisted notion of what a No. 6 should be, that is understandable. The trouble is that Hilditch is chairman of Australia's selectors. It could be that the effect his dysfunctional upbringing had on the young Hilditch's mind is influencing the make-up of Australia's cricket team now.

Selecting is hard. Always selectors, knowing they can pick only 11 men, wish somehow to turn 11 into 12. Under Hilditch's chairmanship the wish has become an obsession. Normally selectors see that there is no allrounder worthy of summoning and so content themselves with 11, the best 11. Hilditch's method is different: where no allrounder can be found, we shall build one. Andrew McDonald of Wodonga is the latest Frankenstein-style construction to be stirred from sleep, wound up at his back and sent on to the Sydney Cricket Ground as Australia's new No. 6.

History is against Hilditch. Australia has fielded more allrounders than most countries. Even so, if we rule out wicketkeepers and stick to the classic definition of an allrounder as someone who bats and bowls well enough to earn a place in any team for either discipline, then Australia has produced seven: George Giffen, Monty Noble, Warwick Armstrong, Jack Gregory, Keith Miller, Richie Benaud, Alan Davidson. That's one every 19 years, and none in the past 46. Even these are inflated figures. Technically, if Benaud or Davidson had elbow niggles that prevented them bowling, selectors would seldom have picked them as specialist batsmen; the reverse applies to Armstrong and, less strongly, to Giffen and Noble too.

If we believe the classic definition, only Garry Sobers and about six others were ever true allrounders. The classic definition is too strict. Really, an allrounder is someone who commands selection with one skill and is an invaluable contributor with their second string. By this logic, handy sorts like Gus Gilmour and Greg Matthews just about qualify. By no available logic do Hilditch's projects - McDonald, Cameron White, Andrew Symonds or Shane Watson - amount to Test allrounders.

McDonald looked at home in that Sydney Test without quite appearing menacing. Wish him well. Attempts to manufacture a No. 6 allrounder out of Watson have come at the cost of Watson's health and his batting. An upright defence, a taste for boundaries and a brace of hundreds signalled a bright new batting prospect in the summer of 2003-04. It didn't win Watson a Test berth - but what if he bowled more? Geoff Lawson ranked him back then as Australia's 17th-best seamer. Now Watson does enough with the ball to have taken seven-for against South Australia. But the first-class hundreds have dried up - four in his past 65 outings - and the backache that scared him off bowling as a child is currently stopping him leaving the couch as a man.

Symonds was saluted by pressmen at summer's beginning as "the world's finest allrounder", when it was not necessarily evident that he was an allrounder at all. Not so long ago, Greg Chappell spun the ball harder and wobbled cutters and swingers more deadly; he batted, too. No one called Chappell an allrounder, let alone a fine one. People look at how far Symonds has fallen and they try to explain it. They say he is mentally not right, and they are probably on to something, although for a player with a mental approach so simple - "Give it some Larry Dooley" - it would seem strange if that were all there was to it.

 
 
Symonds was saluted by pressmen at summer's beginning as "the world's finest allrounder", when it was not necessarily evident that he was an allrounder at all. Greg Chappell spun the ball harder and wobbled cutters and swingers more deadly; he batted, too. No one called Chappell an allrounder
 

A true batsman - a dangerous if not totally reliable one; that used to be Symonds. He'd bowled little spinners in his junior days, taking up quicker stuff much later, at the urging of the state selectors and his Queensland coach, John Buchanan. As Symonds tells it: "Buck's line of thinking was that I should add medium-pace bowling to my batting, slow bowling and fielding, and frankly, I could see no real counter-argument." Had he spotted the counter-argument, he might still be in the Test team today.

For Hilditch, one answer is to do what selectors have done forever: pick the six best batsmen, four best bowlers - including a spinner - and one wicketkeeper. To do anything else is to overcomplicate an already complicated job.

Australia now has no real allrounder. Of the seven they used to have, none batted regularly at No. 6. It stands to reason that the person who bats at six should be his country's sixth-best batsman. A 21-year-old Victor Trumper started there. Don Bradman debuted at seven, graduated to six, and conquered the world from three. Neil Harvey, two Chappells, two Waughs, Allan Border and Ricky Ponting did apprenticeships at No. 6.

In the time the selectors have been playing snakes and ladders with McDonald and company, David Hussey and Brad Hodge have grown two years older. Who knows what they could have been?

Selecting is not a one-man job. Presumably Hilditch's three companions share his obsessions. All are young enough to remember the days of Carlson and Phillips. All understand the urge to turn 11 into 12, or 13. Still, perhaps it's time they had another conversation and drew once more on their own experiences.

David Boon is the panel's second longest-serving member. When Boon played Test cricket for the first time, against West Indies in 1984, his team-mates were being tenderised by four blokes bowling fireballs. His captain was writing out his resignation note. Malcolm Marshall had promised to come around the wicket and kill him. Boon killed time. Two-hundred-and-thirty-six minutes he batted. Fifty-one runs he made. He went on to play another 106 matches for Australia in which he bowled a grand total of 36 balls.

Boon batted, that first time he played Test cricket, at No. 6.

Christian Ryan is a writer based in Melbourne

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vanguard on January 17, 2009, 10:34 GMT

    That was a good read.

    My opinion is that against India and South Africa we couldnt land the telling blows with the ball. Sure our batting was frail at times, but we had opportunities and didnt take them.

    Pick 5 batsmen, Haddin, and 5 bowlers.

    With a combination of Johnson, Kreija, Siddle, Lee, Hauritz, Hilfenhaus & Bollinger I am confident that, for the most part at least, the tail will contribute strongly. On the occassions that they dont, well thats just cricket and they have to back themselves to bowl sides out.

    Cricket is a simple game: to win, you have to take 20 wickets. At the moment, we just cant do it.

    I have liked what i have seen from the new boys in the attack, but my personal preference for the 5 bowlers would be Lee, Johnson, Kreija, Siddle and Hilfenhaus. I would take Hauritz and Bollinger on ever tour however, and bowl them when conditions suit.

  • Vishnu27 on January 16, 2009, 16:29 GMT

    It's not a groundbreaking, earth shattering relevation we are talking about here. It is a concept of the game everyone wants to maximise; an extra bat & that extra bowler. It is fairly common knowledge in world cricket that Australia & ever test playing nation covets an all-rounder of the calibre of Kallis, or even Vettori. It's a fascination of the game, a guy that come in & routinely do it all. There is dearth in world cricket of such players. Kallis is probably the only one of true allrounder status in the game. Vettori is a good finger spinner & a vastly improved bat, Flintoff is primarily a bowler, who when on form can hit the ball, Oram has his moments, India appear to have given up on Pathan, Afridi rarely plays due to the nature of Pakistani cricket. There are others. Every country flirts with the idea of an allrounder. Completely aside: there is reason for Brad Hodge not being in the test team: he CANNOT play the short ball. Hodge should NEVER EVER wear the baggygreen again!

  • thewombat on January 16, 2009, 14:40 GMT

    I agree with 'TheMissingAllrounder' who backed up my points, and illustrates that while other posters, and Christian, may have a point about a batsman at 6 being better than a at best moderate allrounder...they miss the point that we MUST have an allrounder otherwise all our bowlers will be overworked into the surgeon's room. Advocating this over a 'bits and pieces' player seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face insanity.

    However if a true allrounder is what's required, I agree with 'Governor', look towards Henriques! I don't know if I'd take him to the Ashes yet as he's so young, but long term he might be the solution.

  • BigWillieStyle on January 16, 2009, 2:37 GMT

    What planet is this bloke on? Alan Davidson a "true allrounder" who could have claimed a Test spot in either batting or bowling?? Davo is certainly in Australia's top ten best ever bowlers, but he had a first-class and Test batting average sitting in the low 20s, and never scored a Test century! Greg Matthews has far greater claims to being a Test allrounder than Davidson.

    And why isn't Gilchrist on the list of Australia's only "true" allrounders? Was it his batting or his keeping that let him down?

  • eyballfallenout on January 16, 2009, 2:30 GMT

    We must stick with the best of what we have, at the moment we have a better 4 fast bowling attack than a 3 + spinner attack so we should go with that, we also have 6 great batsman but no great al-rounder so team should be 6 great batsmen 1 wicket keeper and 4 fast bowlers. it would be a really good side. katich, new guy, ponting, clarke, hussy, new guy, haddin, lee, clark, johnson, siddle. then we make all our wickets green tops, and teams would struggle against us.

  • 7bish7 on January 16, 2009, 1:28 GMT

    Outstanding article. Good to see sports journalism can still be extremely well structured...moving on to the cricket, why can't the selectors see that between Johnson, Krejza (if they'd pick him) and Siddle they are likely to produce at least 1 tail-end score per innings? Along with a genuine number 6, that makes for a deep batting line-up. Then you have 4 quality bowlers, plus M Hussey, D Hussey (if they'd pick him) and Clarke who can bowl. Consider it "Collective flexibility" instead of 1 man expected to provide that extra dimension.

  • Ben99.94 on January 16, 2009, 0:45 GMT

    I think Christians definition of someone who could make the side for either discipline is a bit harsh. I'm happy to say that the greats are those who could make the side doing either but there is room for the good who could make the side doing one or the other. I think he is also unecessarily harsh on McDonald, and his outlook reeks of having been spoilt by the past 10 years of batsman who averaged over 50 and bowlers who went sub 25 runs per wicket. As far as I am concerned any person who averages above 35 and bats in the top 6 of a line up has the right to be referred to as a good test cricketer, same goes for averaging 25-32 with the ball. Plus 45 for an average and you go down as a great player, plus 50 - use whatever superlatives you want.

  • chapnis on January 16, 2009, 0:34 GMT

    Poos to Aussie! We have got Jacob Oram!

  • TheMissingAllrounder on January 16, 2009, 0:19 GMT

    The article, while interesting, is flawed. Virtually all test innings use at least five bowlers, frequently six. So selectors often pick as their sixth batsman someone who can bowl a bit if no-one in the first five fits the bill. Steve Waugh was picked for this reason in his early days. He gave up bowling to prolong his batting career but the selectors probably wouldn't have persisted with him if it wasn't for his bowling. His early batting returns were pretty poor after all.

    In the Warne-McGrath era, Australia were spoilt not only in having two bowlers who could regularly destroy batting line-ups but in having the same two bowlers able to bowl long spells so we rarely needed more than four. But with our current attack, we definitely need a fifth bowler who can take some of the load off the other four. If Clarke or Katich were willing to bowl more they might fit the bill but both seem reluctant to injure themselves by bowling too much. So we need a Symonds, Watson or McDonald.

  • arya_underfoot on January 16, 2009, 0:18 GMT

    wont be long before mitchell johnson is selected at no.6 i reckon, unless we get rid of hilditch and his buddies, and replace them with professional full-time selectors who're not necessarily former test players.

  • Vanguard on January 17, 2009, 10:34 GMT

    That was a good read.

    My opinion is that against India and South Africa we couldnt land the telling blows with the ball. Sure our batting was frail at times, but we had opportunities and didnt take them.

    Pick 5 batsmen, Haddin, and 5 bowlers.

    With a combination of Johnson, Kreija, Siddle, Lee, Hauritz, Hilfenhaus & Bollinger I am confident that, for the most part at least, the tail will contribute strongly. On the occassions that they dont, well thats just cricket and they have to back themselves to bowl sides out.

    Cricket is a simple game: to win, you have to take 20 wickets. At the moment, we just cant do it.

    I have liked what i have seen from the new boys in the attack, but my personal preference for the 5 bowlers would be Lee, Johnson, Kreija, Siddle and Hilfenhaus. I would take Hauritz and Bollinger on ever tour however, and bowl them when conditions suit.

  • Vishnu27 on January 16, 2009, 16:29 GMT

    It's not a groundbreaking, earth shattering relevation we are talking about here. It is a concept of the game everyone wants to maximise; an extra bat & that extra bowler. It is fairly common knowledge in world cricket that Australia & ever test playing nation covets an all-rounder of the calibre of Kallis, or even Vettori. It's a fascination of the game, a guy that come in & routinely do it all. There is dearth in world cricket of such players. Kallis is probably the only one of true allrounder status in the game. Vettori is a good finger spinner & a vastly improved bat, Flintoff is primarily a bowler, who when on form can hit the ball, Oram has his moments, India appear to have given up on Pathan, Afridi rarely plays due to the nature of Pakistani cricket. There are others. Every country flirts with the idea of an allrounder. Completely aside: there is reason for Brad Hodge not being in the test team: he CANNOT play the short ball. Hodge should NEVER EVER wear the baggygreen again!

  • thewombat on January 16, 2009, 14:40 GMT

    I agree with 'TheMissingAllrounder' who backed up my points, and illustrates that while other posters, and Christian, may have a point about a batsman at 6 being better than a at best moderate allrounder...they miss the point that we MUST have an allrounder otherwise all our bowlers will be overworked into the surgeon's room. Advocating this over a 'bits and pieces' player seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face insanity.

    However if a true allrounder is what's required, I agree with 'Governor', look towards Henriques! I don't know if I'd take him to the Ashes yet as he's so young, but long term he might be the solution.

  • BigWillieStyle on January 16, 2009, 2:37 GMT

    What planet is this bloke on? Alan Davidson a "true allrounder" who could have claimed a Test spot in either batting or bowling?? Davo is certainly in Australia's top ten best ever bowlers, but he had a first-class and Test batting average sitting in the low 20s, and never scored a Test century! Greg Matthews has far greater claims to being a Test allrounder than Davidson.

    And why isn't Gilchrist on the list of Australia's only "true" allrounders? Was it his batting or his keeping that let him down?

  • eyballfallenout on January 16, 2009, 2:30 GMT

    We must stick with the best of what we have, at the moment we have a better 4 fast bowling attack than a 3 + spinner attack so we should go with that, we also have 6 great batsman but no great al-rounder so team should be 6 great batsmen 1 wicket keeper and 4 fast bowlers. it would be a really good side. katich, new guy, ponting, clarke, hussy, new guy, haddin, lee, clark, johnson, siddle. then we make all our wickets green tops, and teams would struggle against us.

  • 7bish7 on January 16, 2009, 1:28 GMT

    Outstanding article. Good to see sports journalism can still be extremely well structured...moving on to the cricket, why can't the selectors see that between Johnson, Krejza (if they'd pick him) and Siddle they are likely to produce at least 1 tail-end score per innings? Along with a genuine number 6, that makes for a deep batting line-up. Then you have 4 quality bowlers, plus M Hussey, D Hussey (if they'd pick him) and Clarke who can bowl. Consider it "Collective flexibility" instead of 1 man expected to provide that extra dimension.

  • Ben99.94 on January 16, 2009, 0:45 GMT

    I think Christians definition of someone who could make the side for either discipline is a bit harsh. I'm happy to say that the greats are those who could make the side doing either but there is room for the good who could make the side doing one or the other. I think he is also unecessarily harsh on McDonald, and his outlook reeks of having been spoilt by the past 10 years of batsman who averaged over 50 and bowlers who went sub 25 runs per wicket. As far as I am concerned any person who averages above 35 and bats in the top 6 of a line up has the right to be referred to as a good test cricketer, same goes for averaging 25-32 with the ball. Plus 45 for an average and you go down as a great player, plus 50 - use whatever superlatives you want.

  • chapnis on January 16, 2009, 0:34 GMT

    Poos to Aussie! We have got Jacob Oram!

  • TheMissingAllrounder on January 16, 2009, 0:19 GMT

    The article, while interesting, is flawed. Virtually all test innings use at least five bowlers, frequently six. So selectors often pick as their sixth batsman someone who can bowl a bit if no-one in the first five fits the bill. Steve Waugh was picked for this reason in his early days. He gave up bowling to prolong his batting career but the selectors probably wouldn't have persisted with him if it wasn't for his bowling. His early batting returns were pretty poor after all.

    In the Warne-McGrath era, Australia were spoilt not only in having two bowlers who could regularly destroy batting line-ups but in having the same two bowlers able to bowl long spells so we rarely needed more than four. But with our current attack, we definitely need a fifth bowler who can take some of the load off the other four. If Clarke or Katich were willing to bowl more they might fit the bill but both seem reluctant to injure themselves by bowling too much. So we need a Symonds, Watson or McDonald.

  • arya_underfoot on January 16, 2009, 0:18 GMT

    wont be long before mitchell johnson is selected at no.6 i reckon, unless we get rid of hilditch and his buddies, and replace them with professional full-time selectors who're not necessarily former test players.

  • Adstow on January 16, 2009, 0:14 GMT

    This is a great article and confirms what many Australian cricket commentators have been frustratingly saying since Flintoff toweled us up in the 2005 Ashes series. It is incredibly arrogant of the Australian selectors to attempt to manufacture a player of the calibre of Flintoff or Jacques Kallis. I don't recall South Africa or England having a penetrative spin bowler during the reign of Shane Warne - and to their credit, neither of those national selection panels obsessed about it. With the current dearth of quality spinning options in Australia, why not pick David Hussey at 6 - as a batsman - who along with Michael Clarke and Simon Katich - can provide a useful spinning option (who let's face it, aren't going to do too much worse than Hauritz).

    Maybe, just maybe, Mitchell Johnson might turn into the Keith Miller the Aussie selectors are hellbent on reincarnating but in the meantime, the side will be considerably stronger!

  • david_robbo on January 16, 2009, 0:09 GMT

    The worst aspect of this is that Australia already have players that are more effective all rounders then the likes of Symonds and McDonald. In the tests against S.A. Johnson, Siddle and Hauritz all scored alot of runs down the order as have both Krazjia and Lee when in the team. Add the fact that Katich and M Clark are better spinners then White or Symonds and we can see how pointless the allrounder obsession really is! With enough players in the team who can contribute outside of the discipline they are selected for the selectors need to decide if they need an extra bowler or batsman more, and choose somebody who justifies their selection.

  • skidmark on January 15, 2009, 22:51 GMT

    Very good article! And remember when a wicket keeper was selected to just keep wicket? Since Gilly they all have to score hundreds too...

  • cdt36 on January 15, 2009, 21:52 GMT

    tjsimonsen, you're forgetting Flintoff and Kallis. I agree with the article. However, Johnson and possibly Lee are already great bowlers who can hold themselves up with the bat. Brad Hodge deserves more batting and instead he's not being selected because Australia want allrounders! Due to Australia's spinnerless sad excuse for a team and the moment, in my opinion a four pronged pace attack (Lee, Siddle, Johnson and Clark) and a couple of part time spinners (Clarke and Katich) could do the job. Hopefully my suggestions aren't taken seriously as it might ruin England's chances of regaining the Ashes.

  • Roscoe on January 15, 2009, 21:47 GMT

    Don't be too hard on Symonds. Most all-rounders are really batsmen who bowl or bowlers who bat. The great Aussies of 2001 had not one historical world-class bowler but two. Therefore not bothering with an all-rounder was a luxury they could afford. In any case, Gilchrist was the all-rounder. And Warne was a pretty handy bowler who batted.

    It's true that some careers are badly affected by having to do both duties. To Shane Watson we could add Jacob Oram, good enough to be a test class batsman if the NZ selectors could just let go his bowling which keeps giving him injuries. But others can do both disciplines pretty well and hardly ever break down: Sobers, Botham, Hadlee, Imran.

    Selectors choose multi skilled players when they are short of enough world class batsmen or great bowlers. Maybe that's why NZ produces so many all-rounders. Just occasionally, selectors choose genuine all rounders in the strictest definition: that's when they have the luxury of having one available.

  • lesshero on January 15, 2009, 21:20 GMT

    at the moment the only true allrounders in world cricket must be flintoff, oram, bravo and kallis. chris cairns is an example of a good allrounder who wouold definetely be picked for bating or bowling.

  • Nambat on January 15, 2009, 21:15 GMT

    Mike Procter, if he had had more test cricket, would have been one of the genuine all-rounders. A fearsome opening bowler & devastating batsman worthy of No 6 in any team.

  • thebarb on January 15, 2009, 21:13 GMT

    Australia's recent fixation with all rounders began after the 2005 Ashes when Andrew Flintoff was softening up the top order, and adding valuable runs in the top order.

    After watching McDonald bowl at Sydney, I can only compare him to Paul Collingwood, and the English do not consider him in test cricket (although that differs in ODIs). He will only bowl to give the front line a rest, and would need to be averaging 40 plus to merit a place in the side.

  • BellCurve on January 15, 2009, 19:52 GMT

    Part 3

    On this basis the top 20 all-rounders in the history of test cricket are: 1 Kallis (9.35); 2 Sobers (7.24); 3 Keith Miller (6.24); 4 Imran Khan (6.09); 5 Pollock (4.68); 6 Hadlee (4.24); 7 Trevor Goddard (3.48); 8 Monty Noble (2.69); 9 Tony Greig (2.20); 10 Wilfred Rhodes (1.44); 11 Botham (1.25); 12 Maurice Tate (0.75); 13 Cairns (0.71); 14 Trevor Bailey (-0.16); 15 Kapil Dev (-0.39); 16 Flintoff (-1.31); 17 Vinoo Mankad (-2.10); 18 Pathan (-2.30); 19 Vettori (-3.95); and 20 Abdul Razzaq (-5.10).

  • BellCurve on January 15, 2009, 19:51 GMT

    Part 2[Continued from Part 1]

    The aggregate batting average for these players is 27.27 and their aggregate bowling average is 28.06 - the combined average is 27.85 runs per wicket. We can use this number as the Test Cricket Benchmark Average. To illustrate, let's take Garfield Sobers. He scored 8,032 runs and lost his wicket 139 times for a test average of 57.78. We can therefore say that as a batsman he outperformed the Test Cricket Benchmark Average by 29.93 runs per wicket. As a bowler he took 235 wickets and conceded 7,997 runs, for a test bowling average of 34.03. As a bowler he therefore underperformed relative to the Test Cricket Benchmark Average by -6.18 runs per wicket. On a combined basis he outperformed the Test Cricket Benchmark by 7.24 runs per wicket.

  • BellCurve on January 15, 2009, 19:49 GMT

    Part 1 In the history of test cricket there have been only 20 players who have taken more than 100 wickets at an average of less than 40 runs per wicket, and who have scored more than 1,000 runs at an average of more than 25. There must be a definitive statistical way to determine who of these all-rounders is the greatest. One way to approach this problem would be to consider the average "net value" each all-rounder has created for each wicket taken as a bowler and lost as a batsman. The net value could be calculated with reference to the average runs per wicket for all test cricket played since 1877. This number should be easy to calculate if you have access to the appropriate database. Unfortunately I do not, so I had to come up with an alternative. I used Cricinfo's list of all player that have taken more than 100 test wicket and scored more than 1000 test runs. [Cont'd]

  • India_will_win on January 15, 2009, 18:01 GMT

    Nice article but Surprisingly Adam Ghilchrist is not menionted once in the article who could have played just for his batting alone. In a true sense, He was an allrounder.

  • Rajesh. on January 15, 2009, 17:58 GMT

    Not just Australia, many teams have this obsession which actually takes them no where........ It's the best eleven should play, even if that means your 4 best bowlers are all quick bowlers or both your spinners are leggies or your best 6 batsmen are all lefties..... As simple as that !

  • AndyLong on January 15, 2009, 16:59 GMT

    It seems funny Aussies talking about all-rounders, as since the glorious times of the 1950s and very early 60s they don't seem to have had one! Then they could call on Richie Benaud, Keith Miller and Alan Davidson at different times - now they can't even boast an all rounder as promising as Bangladesh!! Even Saquibal Al Hasan is better than theirs!

  • Paddles431 on January 15, 2009, 16:24 GMT

    In response to bigbang, I think Stuart Broad definitely has the talent to become a decent allrounder - maybe not as someone who can be picked for either discipline (and let's be honest, only 2 or 3 guys in history have been able to) - but his batting technique is well above the average tailender. In my opinion it's his bowling that lets him down, he rarely gets above the 130kph and without a helpful track is not very penetrative. With his height of 6'7 or so, he needs to be up near the 140kph mark. This may come with age as he is still very young (22 or so?), and he gets stronger and more intelligent ie. learns to swing the ball and develop a wider repertoire of deliveries. The game needs more all rounders, a return to the 80s where we had that splendid quartet of allrounders would be a boon for the game. There are a few candidates around, Al-Hasan of Bangladesh, Vettori, Pathan, Morkel, Bravo (who is probably one guy who really excels at both).

  • tjsimonsen on January 15, 2009, 15:52 GMT

    Great article once again! Six-seven "true" allrounders in 130-odd years of test cricket sounds about right: Grace, Rhodes, Miller, Sobers, the young Botham, the "old" Imran, Cains - who else? Number six is very important and should be occupied by a true batsman only. Perhaps a younger man learning, or an veteran - but a true batsman nonetheless. Just as the fourth bowler has to be a true bowler. However, a batsman who bowls well enough to be recognized as a force at test level (without being worth a place as a bowler alone) like Kallis or Oram, or a bowler who is good enough with the bat to be a treat in the lower middle order (but again without being worth a place for their batting alone) like Pollock or Flintoff, do add another dimension to the balance of the side. And even in a settled, six batsmen - a keeper - four bowler - side, some of the batsmen should preferably be able to bowl some economic and/or wicket taking overs to enable the captain to rotate his true bowlers.

  • rellik1 on January 15, 2009, 15:45 GMT

    Re allrounders from the past, one guy that, given the chance, would have been right up there with Botham, Imran, Dev and Hadlee in the 80's: Clive Rice. His record for Transvaal, Notts and for SA in the rebel series speaks for itself.

    Also, Trevor Goddard opened the batting and (occasionally) the bowling in the 50's and 60's.

  • AvinashGodkhindi on January 15, 2009, 15:31 GMT

    I think Australia need an all rounder because they don't have McGrath and Warne, in fact today they don't even have Gilespie and McGill ( you could say they were a poor man's McGrath and Warne) But they need an all rounder, not a cheap imitation of an all rounder. Symonds and McDonald surely fall in that category. Watson is the most promising but he keeps breaking down, no point in pushing for him. White is a curious case, probably his spin bowling is no worse than Huwritz ( both can contain but aren't really serious wicket taking options) but he is desperate to highlight he is a batsman and is super reluctant the bowl enough overs for Victoris when when McGain is not around. If Australia need to play 2 spinners ( like in the subcontinent) or come across 4 decent quicks ( Lee, Clark, Johnson, Siddle/Tait/Hilfenhaus?) then I would back White at 6 ahead of Huwritz and a batsman at 6. But is he willing to bowl 15-20 overs an innings in Tests, that's the key.

  • hitono on January 15, 2009, 14:59 GMT

    Parallels can be drawn with the wing back system (football, sorry!) of the mid/late 90s. Everyone marvelled at the thought of a "12th and 13th man" but unless the system had the right players and was executed properly, you were always found wanting when you most needed it!

  • DeepCower on January 15, 2009, 14:41 GMT

    A very nicely written article. Points about Watson are valid, though he always makes sure to make that superhuman effort at times when batting or bowling, making not picking him very hard, though Aus have managed that well! Symmo is no bowler. Enough said. In my opinion, this obsession with people who can perform dual tasks really germinated in '96 when beating Sri Lanka was almost unthinkable. It was only a coincidence that Ranatunga employed almost everyone to bowl, and not so effectively. Freddie's '05 performance has, of course, fuelled every selectors' imagination. Greg Chappell may have (rightly) deduced that he was primarily a batsman. But his diagnosis of Irfan Pathan as an all rounder went horribly wrong, with Pathan now almost incapable of swinging the ball as he used to. May I, in the same breath, mention England's plan to ruin Stuart Broad? Apparently, one Mr. Boycott suggested that Broad reminded him of Sobers, based on a grand total of one inning of 60-odd.

  • Quarmy on January 15, 2009, 14:31 GMT

    Excellent article. This obsession with finding an all-rounder stems from the '05 Ashes defeat, but they lost that series not because of a lack of bowling options but because they consistently batted poorly. Steve Waugh's great side (far better than the Ponting one) played 6 batsmen and it was always good enough for them. Granted that side had Warne and McGrath so taking 20 wickets was not as much of an issue as it is now but selecting these bits and pieces players has weakened the batting department and hasn't done much to strengthen the bowling.

    I really think the Aussies need to look at how many runs the no. 6 has contributed over the series they have lost recently, my bet would be not many.

  • Salmon89 on January 15, 2009, 14:12 GMT

    How could BaijuSuper11 possibly not regard Kallis as an allrounder? Batting no probs, bowling 252 Test wickets av 31.12 - figures which aren't too different to Brett Lee. And what about Pollock? - Test averages: batting 32.31, bowling 23.11. And what is wrong with Pathan's figures of 31.57 (bat) & 32.26 (ball)?

  • peeeeet on January 15, 2009, 13:36 GMT

    NeilCameron, I agree with you 100% on picking the 4 best bowlers, even if they are all seamers. And I realised I forgot to add Johnson and Hilfenhaus to my best bowlers in the previous post. I think the team should be Jaques Katich Ponting M Hussey Clarke D Hussey Haddin Johnson Bracken Siddle Hilfenhaus.

  • Paddles431 on January 15, 2009, 13:27 GMT

    Excellent article. I think the all rounder obsession is a hangover from the 80s and early 90s where by a freakish occurence there were four all time great all rounders - Hadlee, Imran, Botham and Dev. If you look at these four players, they were all primarily opening bowlers first (though Botham in the latter part of his career was more a 1st change seamer) but they all had the talent and motivation to improve their batting. Australia could have been better served by investing more time improving the batting of Brett Lee and Shane Warne, who both had the talent I feel to become more than useful batsmen. Symonds and Watson are both primarily batsmen, whose bowling, no matter how much they practise,will never get near the standard of being anything more than a 3rd 4th seamer. I think a prime current example is Daniel Vettori, who has improved his batting to genuine all round quality, yet began as a number 10 or so.

  • tomjs100 on January 15, 2009, 13:18 GMT

    1) Get Henriques in the side. 2) Symonds was a good enough batsman... and his bowling was useful. Stop being greedy; his batting average is +7 on Flintoff, and his bowling average is +5. So a better batsman but a worse bowler. Nowt wrong with that.

  • avi-nash on January 15, 2009, 13:02 GMT

    Wowwwwwwwwww!!! brilliant analysis...and i am now sure that the all-rounder is dead in cricket

  • NeilCameron on January 15, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    Maybe I'm too schooled in the Ian Chappell way of thinking but... As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to selecting bowlers, you pick the four best blokes in the country. If one of them happens to have a batting average in the 30s, more power to him. If the four bowlers all happen to be pace bowlers, then pick them instead of 3 pace bowlers and a bad spinner.

    Fact: Australia can't produce either a world-class all rounder or a world-class spinner. We can't create a spot in the top xi for a player who doesn't exist. If the best we can do is to pick four pace bowlers, six specialist batsmen and a wicketkeeper, then so be it. It worked for the Windies back in the 80s.

  • Crusader1980 on January 15, 2009, 12:08 GMT

    'All rounders' have altogether become an endangared species in the last 10-15 years. Apart from Flintoff and Cairns (Kallis..hmmm..can he just qualify as a bowler in the team in both formats..?) there are / were no 'genuine' all rounders in the game over the past 10-15 years. These two can easily command selection with either one of their discipline. Cairns even was playing as a specialist batsman for some time when he had problem with bowling. To add to that both are the strike bowlers for their respective teams. I dont think there is anyone in the current league who can match them ... with proper nurturing and development Irfan Pathan has an outside chance, but streets to go for that.

  • Batsnumbereleven on January 15, 2009, 12:03 GMT

    I agree wholeheartedly. If four bowlers are insufficient to take 20 wickets, having an extra half of one won't make much difference. Stick to picking the six best batsmen and four best bowlers and if any of the batsmen can fill in for an over or two then fine (a la Boycott!)

  • MrKricket on January 15, 2009, 11:50 GMT

    Exactly right. Pick the best side. It shouldn't be that hard. Forget allrounders - if they're as good as Keith Miller they'll let you know!

  • Mangomix on January 15, 2009, 11:07 GMT

    Wow what an article, you had me glued.

  • Loiterer on January 15, 2009, 10:57 GMT

    As many commentors here have said, the allrounder obsession took off after Flintoff's 2005 Ashes performance. I don't know why the Aussie selectors haven't noticed the shambolic nature of the England cricket team since then.

    They would be better to follow the example of India, who (whatever else they might do) manage to pick batsmen as batsmen, and bowlers as bowlers (excepting a brief flirtation with Irfan Pathan as an allrounder). The beauty of this obviously simple plan is that not only do you have consistent batsman and consistent bowlers, it is also naturally the case during a match a batsman will take a wicket or two (e.g. Sehwag, Tendulkar), and a bowler will make a good score with the bat (e.g. Khan, Harbhajan). Thus India get the benefit of what an allrounder could provide, without wasting a selection pick. Australia used to be like this, before the 2005 Ashes.

  • JulesUK on January 15, 2009, 10:56 GMT

    Great article.

    Australian selectors have had it easy for years. First they had the Waugh twins, whose bowling (at least in their earlier years) was very handy. Then along came Warne and McGrath. They were both so good the Aussies only needed four bowlers. Even if they'd needed five, they could have just moved Gilchrist up to bat at 6.

    Now the Aussie cupboard is a bit bare. I would definitely agree that they need to play six proper batters. Otherwise they will fall into the trap of picking bits and pieces players. England tried this for years between Botham and Flintoff - and we all know how well England did over those years!

  • WandererSA on January 15, 2009, 10:36 GMT

    Great article! Both critical and entertaining like a true writing allrounder.

  • henrystephen on January 15, 2009, 10:20 GMT

    I agree with this article. For tests, bowling ability should only come into the no.6 selection criteria if the selectors can't decide which candidate is the better batsman. Personally, I find the thought of playing five batsmen a bit nerve-wracking. It makes it that much easier for the bowling side to get to the tail.

  • Governor on January 15, 2009, 10:15 GMT

    Andrew Hilditch must be sacked as Chairman of Selectors, and the funny part is he has Bob Simpson as a father in law!! Fair dinkum, Bob Simpson stuffed up the batting technique of Steve Waugh, who was a great player of the pull and hook shot, and he was the man who stuffed up our quest to beat the West Indies in 1991 and 1992-93.

    There is an allrounder who plays for NSW by the name of Moses Henriques. He has the batting technique and grace of Mark Waugh and he bowls fast medium seam and swing. HE can bat in the top 4 and he is more than capable of opening the bowling.

    Moses Henriques is the best all round talent Australia will ever have and I am prepared to say that he is a better prospect than Shane Watson.

    I am prepared to take the gamble and take him to England so he can learn from Ponting and co.

    Back in 1995, the selectors took a young Ricky Ponting to the West INdies to learn from the Waugh twins and David Boon. The rest is history.

  • susantcbnu on January 15, 2009, 10:14 GMT

    Easily one of the Best article in cricinfo.From childhood we r taught that dont put ur foot on two boats......There is a obsession of manufacturing all rounders,when there r not any,I think in every country.Take the case of Irfan Pathan,the selectors tried to manufacture batsman out of him,consequently he forgot his swing,now out of team.Some people in india term Ajit Agarkar as all rounder.He can bat, bowl,field(But not good enough in one of the fields, ridiculous!!!!).These 70/30,80/20 are good in one day or T20,But exposed when it comes to real TEST.I was curiously waiting to see Andrew Mcdonald in Sydney. When he came out bat,watching his batting I thought as he is allrounder,may be a better bowler,but when i saw his collingwood type bowling that time ,I was horrified that this type of player r choosen as all rounder in worlds best team.I think Sakib Al Hasan is a better bet(As a all rounder).Mr Christian Ryan,Could not agree more.Thanks,for this terrific insight.

  • DWP1 on January 15, 2009, 9:58 GMT

    I'm in absolute agreement. You only need to look as far as South Africa who have improved immeasurably in the last year by doing exactly that - picking specialists. Ever since Shaun Pollock was dropped from the test side in favour of faster, wicket-taking bowlers, the side has been on an upward curve. Shaun was a great player, but towards the end of his career lacked the ability to break through on flat pitches and help the side take 20 wickets. In particular I believe that batsmen take more responsibility when they do not expect to be bailed out by the middle order. One of the big difference in the test series was that Australia's top order threw their wickets away at vital times instead of putting the games beyond South Africa.

  • pghargi on January 15, 2009, 9:44 GMT

    Wonderful, well written article. If you dont have allrounders,dont have pretensions of having one.Agree with the philosophy ofpicking 6 best batsmen and 4 best bowlers and a keeper. I am really surprised that Cricket Australia did not plan for successor-building or contingencies like injuries/out of form/retirements etc. It was not so long ago that they had an A team which would beat most national teams. where have all those players gone?As of today,Flintoff, Kallis, Vettori seem the only genuine allrounders in the world.

  • TheDoctor394 on January 15, 2009, 9:36 GMT

    The funny thing is, Australia went through their years of domination without a world class allrounder. So why do they think they must have one now?

  • jokerbala on January 15, 2009, 9:19 GMT

    Bowling all-rounders have been much more easy to come by.Since bowlers get a chance to bat in each match ,they could work on their batting and become more than usefulbats- like Shaun Pollock.Over the time all bowlers who have some batting talent can become useful bats (Mitchell Johnson,Shane Warne,Brett Lee).Batsmen on the other hand, don't get to bowl regularly in match situations.So the trick would be to unearth someone like Jacques Kallis.My view is that, Simon Katich could be encouraged to bowl, rather than encouraging an Andrew Mcdonald to bat.

  • ithkrall on January 15, 2009, 8:30 GMT

    Very good article, all i can say is this.

    Be thankful Australia that you ahve difficulty getting good all rounders. You have great specialist players and thats a strength. I'm from New Zealand, all we do is produce all rounders and it hasn't allowed us to become a world beater.

    Id take a team with 5 great batsmen, 5 great bowlers and a keeper rather than a traditional NZ team with 6 guys who bat and bowl so so and a handful of specialists.

  • dutchy on January 15, 2009, 8:15 GMT

    Christian

    Thank you so, so much for this excellent article. The obsession over all rounder has done countless damage over the years - it wrecked English cricket in the 90s and continues to do it great damage. Yet many in the media remain silent on it - they talk about the "allrounder spot" as if it is a given. Very few commented on the bizarreness of McDonald's selection.

    The fact England continually play Flintoff at six is the biggest single reason they keep losing. He is not a test number six. When he is, as in 2005, it's great - but he hasn't been that since 2005. But Australia insist in copying this pathetic strategy.

    Unless allrounders can hold their spot by one discipline alone (eg Benaud - bowling, Symonds - batting), they can wreck a team. McDonald is one in a long line of bits and pieces players who may be useful at Shield and one day level but not tests - Trevor Laughlin, Simon O'Donnell, etc. Stop the insanity, please.

  • cook on January 15, 2009, 8:05 GMT

    I agree with the article 100%. I believe that Australia should select depending on what's happening with the side. At the moment Australia has struggled to take 20 wickets. I say pick 5 batsmen, have the wicketkeeper at 6 and then have an extra bowler. The bowlers are batting so well at the moment that they could almost be considered allrounders, especially Mitchell Johnson. The tail is wagging and makes our top order look foolish. The trouble with only picking 4 specialist bowlers is when one gets injured in the match as happened with Brett Lee recently. It puts extra pressure on the allrounder who may only be a part time bowler. If we are looking for an allrounder then Ashley Noffke I believe is the best we have at the moment, but I think he is injured. But having an allrounder in a side isn't neccessary.

  • dmudge on January 15, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Fair point. Although I guess until the past 12 months the selectors could point out that having a true batsman at #6 was not necessary .... seeing they had Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Gilchrist to make the runs. So why not put in Symonds who has a test average above 40, bowls both spin and seam and is a champion fielder? Flexibility is surely worth something.

  • Rafiz on January 15, 2009, 7:19 GMT

    I agree that this obsession is ridiculous. The basic tenet is that a batter in the national side has to be one of the best 6 batters in the country. the same goes for bowlers. If they happen to excel at another discipline too then we are lucky. Having said that I do understand why the selectors have stuck with Watson for so long and why they will continue to do so. He is potentially Australia's first genuine allrounder since Benaud. His 1st class record says so clearly. If it wasn't for the injuries he would have settled into the test team long ago and this debate would have been moot.

  • anandhonnatti on January 15, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    Could not agree more. You know an alrounder when you see one ! Aussies have had great time in the last 2 decades and now trying too hard to retain the No 1 position, all trials are being done.

    Only bad thing is that some really good bloke's careers have been ruined. Hodge and Shane are 2 names that figure on top of that list. But I am sure aussies would know many names.

    I guess they should select the best 11 members and leave the team to struggle and come to terms with the hard fact that they are no worldbeaters. Let them find hard way to get there, it will serve them good in long run.

  • GlobalCricketLover on January 15, 2009, 6:36 GMT

    Hilditch doesnt' seem to know the basics. I am surprised how he is hanging on to his post and that too in a high class world of CA! For India tour he picked a spinner as a backup and when the main spin bowler gets injured someone else flies in and gets a game ahead of the original backup! If the one that flew in was better than this backup why wasn't he picked as the first backup? Now again in SA series a similar thing repeated - Hilfenhaus was there in the sqaud as a backup and someone who was not even there in the squad gets a game ahead of him!! If he was not he right guy, why was he picked up in the first place? It just shows absolutely lack of clarity in thinking. Even a moderate cricket viewer could have done better selection.

  • don69 on January 15, 2009, 6:33 GMT

    There have only been two cricketers who match your definition of an allrounder (someone who merits selection as both a batsman and a bowler). Sobers and Miller. That's it. Cricketers who merit selection as one and produce occasional match-winning contributions as another are far greater in number. However, that is not what Australia are looking for, and is certainly not the role of an allrounder today. An allrounder today is a person who WOULDN'T be selected as either a bowler or a batsman alone, but his allround contribution (hence the term, allrounder) add strength to the team. That's also why his batting position is usually 6 or 7. He's not quite good enough to be in the top order, but he should be a better batsman than the tail. That's what Australia are searching for, at least in the shorter format. Someone who gives them enough flexability as a useful bowler plus scoring useful runs. In ODIs and 20/20 I agree with this makeup. In tests the idea is more problematic.

  • riteshjsr on January 15, 2009, 6:30 GMT

    Easily one of the best articles I've read on this site. I hope David Boon gets to read this. I really feel sorry for Hodge. Consistent performer for Victoria with oodles of talent, but could never quite establish himself in the Test team. Had to make way for Martyn, I remember. D Hussey, another Victorian isn't growing younger either. Yes get in Hodge / Hussey or even Klinger (another Victorian) at 6 and select the best bowlers that you have. Lee, Johnson, Bracken, and Krejza.

  • sudhindranath on January 15, 2009, 6:22 GMT

    I am curious as to who would be the half-dozen or so "true all-rounders" in addition to Garry Sobers. Ian Botham, perhaps? I doubt if Kapil Dev, Imran Khan or Richard Hadlee would qualify since they all were mainly bowlers who could bat, but not as well as a specialist batsman would.

    Maybe Vinoo Mankad would qualify? How about Jacques Kallis from the current era? Maybe he is mainly a batsman than a bowler? Anybody else?

  • thewombat on January 15, 2009, 6:16 GMT

    Christian is right about Symonds not being an allrounder! He's also right that Aust's allrounder obsession, particularly in an era when we've had great bowling attacks, was both unnecessary and blinding. However he's wrong that it shouldn't continue now. In the post Warne and McGrath era, the bowling is clearly weak and needs buttressing. Not just to take wickets but to prevent breaking down our bowlers. If your 4 bowlers aren't greats, there's a likelihood you'll regularly need to bowl 100+ overs per innings. With the amount of cricket now played, this means unless u have 1 decent spinner (and on occasions even 2) who consistently commands selection, which Australia does not! then you will be overbowling into stress injuries (see Brett Lee), so an allrounder is needed to share the load. Thus more than 4 bowlers is MUST, so if Christian is right and there's no allrounder good enough, 5 bowlers should be chosen instead, given the bowling is current much weaker than the batting.

  • J-Boydo on January 15, 2009, 5:27 GMT

    Can't agree enough with shirazu. Australia has struggled to take 20 wickets so they should be picking the best bowlers they have and not trying to manufacture a spinner from nowhere. If your batsmen fail, which given the strength of their batting shouldn't happen twice in a game, then at least they have 4/5 quality bowlers to try and take the 20. Picking an average spinner instead of the 4/5th best quick is ridiculous. Mind you, I think Krezca is a promising long-term prospect who with support and tuition from someone like Warne could have a big impact. Aggressive, attacking, big turners who aren't afraid to throw it up are going to take wickets, and if they go for a few runs at least you'll get your 20. Picking a bowler as a defensive option (Hauritz) rather than a wicket taking option is crazy.

  • dan.the.man on January 15, 2009, 5:16 GMT

    I agree that the pursuit of the elusive perfect all rounder is causing more problems than good in the Australian side. We should select the best 4 bowlers available and the best 5 batsmen. Should we call Gillespie an all rounder because he made a double hundred? Select Batsmen for their bat and consider it a bonus if they can throw down a few useful overs. AB (getting 11 wickets in one match), Blewitt, the Waughs, Martyn, Bevan, could get the odd wicket. Come on and bowl a few overs to mix it up. Break up the rythm of the game.

  • DrunkenDuck on January 15, 2009, 5:10 GMT

    The obsession started after defeat in the 2005 Ashes when Andrew Flintoff went so well against us. Up until then the # 6 batsman was a batsman. Simon Katich actually batted at 6 in the Ashes and look where he is now - proving your point perfectly. You're right it is obsessive to the point of madness, and Hilditch and his band of merry men need to fix it.

  • Travis on January 15, 2009, 5:06 GMT

    Great call on (the original) Wayne Phillips, a long-forgotten and ill-treated Australian talent. A class player who could hit the ball hard but with sweet timing too. His 120 at number 8 against the 1984 West Indians says it all about his abilities. Not to mention being a childhood favourite too - Gunn and Moore would still be my preferred brand of bat because of him. Had he been born 20 or 25 years later, he'd be an IPL millionaire.

  • dcrowle on January 15, 2009, 5:04 GMT

    I agree, it's rather annoying. Luckily Australia can still make the runs. Although given the amount that Clarke bowls ahead of all rounders, what's the point of them? A true all rounder would bowl as many overs as the fast bowlers (Symonds bowled 3 in the first test out of 210 overs and 11 out of 200-odd in the second - possibly influenced by injury). Mcdonald did his share in the first and nothing much in the second innings of the third test. As you say, an all-rounder should be an all-rounder before being pican all-rounder. With Haddin's batting another bowler would have won Australia this series. Especially with the current set of bowlers averaging around 20, that'd be 100 runs in the tail - an eighth batsman.

  • kingofspain on January 15, 2009, 4:49 GMT

    Excellent article! I wish England would heed your advice as well and stop playing Flintoff at 6. He would get in the team, indeed any team, on his bowling alone but his batting is nowhere near good enough to bat at 6 in tests. 7 or 8 is where he belongs.

  • emarald on January 15, 2009, 4:47 GMT

    very good article.hodge and hussey deserve a place in the side

  • Revnq on January 15, 2009, 4:43 GMT

    An interesting article Mr. Ryan, yet it omits the a key factor that will support your argument - the Aussie tail can bat! Perhaps not on subcontinent wickets against quality spin, but on the quicker decks they appear quite competent. When it comes to composition of the side I must disagree however. Australia are no longer the penetrative bowling force of yesteryear, and must adapt accordingly by selecting someone at #7 (with Haddin at #6) who can act the role of 5th bowler. Watson, back problems aside, would be an ideal candidate for the role in my opinion. His bowling in India was honest and useful, and his batting is in the handy category. With Johnson coming in at 8, the lower order would be capable of a triple-figure stand every now and then. Ideally we'd magically unearth someone like Kallis - but for the moment I think the focus should be upon the bowling aspects, top-order failues aside!

  • Huntz01 on January 15, 2009, 4:40 GMT

    Well said YGuru...Why do we need an allrounder, for that matter why does any side have to have an allrounder. In this day and age the majority of bowlers work very hard on their batting and contribute more than handy late innings runs. What better example then the Aus and Sth African lower order during the recent test series. Keep it simple, pick your best batsman, gloveman, spin bowler and bowlers. Guaranteed if they are the best in the nation at their chosen discipline you will succeed!

  • Rufus_Fuddleduck on January 15, 2009, 4:34 GMT

    Dear Sir - A good thought backed by logical and brilliant presentation of in-depth research. Great work. The last David Boon section will endure in this site's archives.

  • redneck on January 15, 2009, 4:34 GMT

    james hopes would have been a better pick than mcdonald!

  • Hodge008 on January 15, 2009, 4:21 GMT

    I haven't liked all of your articles, but this is a fantastic one and reflects what I have been beginning to think in the last couple of weeks. Here's the thing: if your best four bowlers aren't good enough to get the wickets, any of the average allrounders we have are not going to help. Well said!

  • Looch on January 15, 2009, 4:20 GMT

    A great article Christian and a reflection of my own feelings about the selectors. Please send a copy to Mr.Hilditch and tell him to read and re-read the paragraph "overcomplicating an already complicated job".

  • blacksnake on January 15, 2009, 4:15 GMT

    Mr. Ryan is dead right (once again). The idea that Symonds is an All Rounder, as he is refered to in virtually every section of the Australian media, is crazy. He is of course a fine batsman who bowls a bit in support. And that's handy to have in your batting line up, but first of all your number 6 must be one of the 6 best batsmen going around, or a batsmen in development at the very least, such as the young Ponting. The Watson experiment, talented as he is, has been a failure. One half century from 13 innings is a very average return at 6 or 7. One only hopes Hodge and D.Hussey are rightly considered for number 6 shortly.

  • shirazu on January 15, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    The reason why Australia have been so desperate for an all-rounder in recent days is that they lack a decent spinner to go through the overs when the pacemen fail to dismiss the opposition early on. Hence they either give up a lot of runs when forced to use their part-timers, or overbowl their fast bowlers, leading to injuries. Several times in the SA series they couldn't clean up the tail and it ended up costing them one test and almost another. To me this was a sure sign that the bowlers were tired especially given that SA has a relatively weak tail. Even with injuries they have plenty of good fast bowlers and most handle the bat fairly well, plus their batting is still either the best or second best in world cricket, so why not just play five fast specialist bowlers? No one could possibly argue that a spinner would be included among the top five or even top 20 bowlers that one could pick for Australia so why bother? Australia's problem has not been runs but taking 20 wickets.

  • ALLROUNDCRICKET on January 15, 2009, 3:59 GMT

    What a Quality Article this is! It's been a fair while since one appeared on cricinfo which was built on objectivity and not on flimsy justifications and opinionated pundits bent upon moaning the demise of the Australian team and finding all manner of flaws with them, or somehow delighting in belittling the Indian team. Although with Greg Blewett tried at no. 6 as a bowler too during the Ashes and one that flopped, it truly validates Chris' point. Great work mate! Look forward to reading more

  • peeeeet on January 15, 2009, 3:36 GMT

    I have been saying this ever since the obsession re-surfaced after the 05 Ashes defeat. We should only pick the allrounder if he is good enough. I totally agree that the selectors have tried to manufacture the guys like Watson and Symonds who aren't of Test allround quality, mainly cos they saw how well Flintoff did in one series. I remember when I first started watching cricket in the 90s, the team had a whole lot of batters who then bowled a bit of part time stuff - the Waughs, Ponting, Blewett, Bevan, Martyn. And they got the odd wicket too!! And the current team seems to have gone down the England line of picking bowlers cos they offer a bit with the bat instead of picking the 4 best bowlers in the country. Bracken, Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Bollinger, Krejza are the best bowlers and need to play. D Hussey needs to be in the team. With him, there would be 3 batters who bowl a bit and would contribute more than Watson or Symonds in both aspects.

  • Falco on January 15, 2009, 3:35 GMT

    interesting article...i think its not just australia, pretty much every team has this obsession for allrounders which is ok for odis but maybe not for tests...

  • D.V.C. on January 15, 2009, 3:28 GMT

    The assessment of Watson is too harsh, otherwise I mostly agree. However, I don't have a problem with the selectors selecting a bowling all-rounder (someone who can be picked in the team but bats a little more than usefully) if one can be found. Ashley Noffke springs to mind.

    What I have more of a problem with is continuing to put the bowing all-rounder at 6 when the wicket-keeper is a much better batsman. Haddin often bats at 4 or 5 for NSW. He is a better batsman than McDonald by every measure. Why is Haddin at 7 and McDonald at 6!?

  • dyogesh on January 15, 2009, 3:20 GMT

    As england made a mess of many careers searching for a Beefy, Aussies have been messing a lot searching for a freddy. Watson is a decent batsman and a hard-working bowler. The kind that are very helpful in ODIs & T20. He did make a couple of good knocks in India. But it was obvious that he is not yet a test batsman by any means. And btw, you forgot to mention White ? What was he picked for ? Batting ? Bowling ? And the latest victim is Mcdonald. Symonds was the closest they could get. A dangerous batsman and a decent bowler. And this is going to encourage very average batsman-cum-bowlers rather than good batsman or good bowlers. And when Freddy's batting form fails, you can see that England's batting appears shaky and they aren't sure of the combination. Who said it that "you can't put in there, what the lord hasn't"

  • ashish1812 on January 15, 2009, 3:18 GMT

    I take my hat off to you, this is easily one of the most entertaining article I have read.....at the same time informative too.....never had such an insight into aussie cricket.

    Well done Sir !

    [i] his team-mates were being tenderised by four blokes bowling fireballs [/i] .....GENIUS !!

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  • ashish1812 on January 15, 2009, 3:18 GMT

    I take my hat off to you, this is easily one of the most entertaining article I have read.....at the same time informative too.....never had such an insight into aussie cricket.

    Well done Sir !

    [i] his team-mates were being tenderised by four blokes bowling fireballs [/i] .....GENIUS !!

  • dyogesh on January 15, 2009, 3:20 GMT

    As england made a mess of many careers searching for a Beefy, Aussies have been messing a lot searching for a freddy. Watson is a decent batsman and a hard-working bowler. The kind that are very helpful in ODIs & T20. He did make a couple of good knocks in India. But it was obvious that he is not yet a test batsman by any means. And btw, you forgot to mention White ? What was he picked for ? Batting ? Bowling ? And the latest victim is Mcdonald. Symonds was the closest they could get. A dangerous batsman and a decent bowler. And this is going to encourage very average batsman-cum-bowlers rather than good batsman or good bowlers. And when Freddy's batting form fails, you can see that England's batting appears shaky and they aren't sure of the combination. Who said it that "you can't put in there, what the lord hasn't"

  • D.V.C. on January 15, 2009, 3:28 GMT

    The assessment of Watson is too harsh, otherwise I mostly agree. However, I don't have a problem with the selectors selecting a bowling all-rounder (someone who can be picked in the team but bats a little more than usefully) if one can be found. Ashley Noffke springs to mind.

    What I have more of a problem with is continuing to put the bowing all-rounder at 6 when the wicket-keeper is a much better batsman. Haddin often bats at 4 or 5 for NSW. He is a better batsman than McDonald by every measure. Why is Haddin at 7 and McDonald at 6!?

  • Falco on January 15, 2009, 3:35 GMT

    interesting article...i think its not just australia, pretty much every team has this obsession for allrounders which is ok for odis but maybe not for tests...

  • peeeeet on January 15, 2009, 3:36 GMT

    I have been saying this ever since the obsession re-surfaced after the 05 Ashes defeat. We should only pick the allrounder if he is good enough. I totally agree that the selectors have tried to manufacture the guys like Watson and Symonds who aren't of Test allround quality, mainly cos they saw how well Flintoff did in one series. I remember when I first started watching cricket in the 90s, the team had a whole lot of batters who then bowled a bit of part time stuff - the Waughs, Ponting, Blewett, Bevan, Martyn. And they got the odd wicket too!! And the current team seems to have gone down the England line of picking bowlers cos they offer a bit with the bat instead of picking the 4 best bowlers in the country. Bracken, Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Bollinger, Krejza are the best bowlers and need to play. D Hussey needs to be in the team. With him, there would be 3 batters who bowl a bit and would contribute more than Watson or Symonds in both aspects.

  • ALLROUNDCRICKET on January 15, 2009, 3:59 GMT

    What a Quality Article this is! It's been a fair while since one appeared on cricinfo which was built on objectivity and not on flimsy justifications and opinionated pundits bent upon moaning the demise of the Australian team and finding all manner of flaws with them, or somehow delighting in belittling the Indian team. Although with Greg Blewett tried at no. 6 as a bowler too during the Ashes and one that flopped, it truly validates Chris' point. Great work mate! Look forward to reading more

  • shirazu on January 15, 2009, 4:11 GMT

    The reason why Australia have been so desperate for an all-rounder in recent days is that they lack a decent spinner to go through the overs when the pacemen fail to dismiss the opposition early on. Hence they either give up a lot of runs when forced to use their part-timers, or overbowl their fast bowlers, leading to injuries. Several times in the SA series they couldn't clean up the tail and it ended up costing them one test and almost another. To me this was a sure sign that the bowlers were tired especially given that SA has a relatively weak tail. Even with injuries they have plenty of good fast bowlers and most handle the bat fairly well, plus their batting is still either the best or second best in world cricket, so why not just play five fast specialist bowlers? No one could possibly argue that a spinner would be included among the top five or even top 20 bowlers that one could pick for Australia so why bother? Australia's problem has not been runs but taking 20 wickets.

  • blacksnake on January 15, 2009, 4:15 GMT

    Mr. Ryan is dead right (once again). The idea that Symonds is an All Rounder, as he is refered to in virtually every section of the Australian media, is crazy. He is of course a fine batsman who bowls a bit in support. And that's handy to have in your batting line up, but first of all your number 6 must be one of the 6 best batsmen going around, or a batsmen in development at the very least, such as the young Ponting. The Watson experiment, talented as he is, has been a failure. One half century from 13 innings is a very average return at 6 or 7. One only hopes Hodge and D.Hussey are rightly considered for number 6 shortly.

  • Looch on January 15, 2009, 4:20 GMT

    A great article Christian and a reflection of my own feelings about the selectors. Please send a copy to Mr.Hilditch and tell him to read and re-read the paragraph "overcomplicating an already complicated job".

  • Hodge008 on January 15, 2009, 4:21 GMT

    I haven't liked all of your articles, but this is a fantastic one and reflects what I have been beginning to think in the last couple of weeks. Here's the thing: if your best four bowlers aren't good enough to get the wickets, any of the average allrounders we have are not going to help. Well said!