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South Africa in Australia 2012-13

Quiney's slow-burn to the baggy green

Rob Quiney initially made his name for Victoria as a short-form striker. Now, he has evolved into a Test No. 3

Brydon Coverdale

November 5, 2012

Comments: 13 | Text size: A | A

Rob Quiney with the domestic player of the year trophy at the 2012 Allan Border Medal Awards, Melbourne, February 27, 2012
Rob Quiney won last summer's domestic player of the year award as he evolved from limited overs hitter to Test batsman © Getty Images
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Nearly four years ago, Rob Quiney learnt just how fleeting some opportunities can be. At 26, he was called into Australia's Twenty20 squad for a one-off match against New Zealand when Michael Clarke was injured. Quiney didn't make the starting line-up and quickly faded back into domestic cricket, having come tantalisingly close to representing his country. Few people would have predicted back then that his first match for Australia would be in the baggy green.

Like many young batsmen who emerged in state cricket in the early days of Twenty20, Quiney made his name in the shortest format. His call-up for Australia came after he blasted 91 from 56 balls in the 2008-09 Big Bash final. Within a few months he had an IPL contract with the Rajasthan Royals. A T20 deal with Auckland followed in 2010. In the longer format his record remained modest, but as a tall man with a powerful front-foot repertoire he was seemingly made for Twenty20.

Now, he is preparing to walk out at No.3 for Australia in a Test match at the Gabba, where he will face Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, the world's best red-ball pace attack. It is no place for a T20 slogger. But over the past two seasons, Quiney has shown that he is much more than that. In 2010-11, he compiled 724 Sheffield Shield runs at 42.58, second only to Mark Cosgrove, and last summer, he topped the Shield run tally with 938 at 49.36.

"My last two years have been my most consistent," Quiney said in Brisbane on Monday, barely an hour after learning he would make his Test debut this week. "I knew there might have been a little window of 12 or 18 months where I could try to get my foot in. I've needed to continue to make runs. I've never given up. If anything [my desire] has probably grown stronger because beforehand I may not have believed that I could make it to this level."

For a time, Quiney wasn't even convinced he belonged in Victoria's Sheffield Shield line-up. When he was emerging, the state had an impressive batting roster that featured Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Cameron White and Andrew McDonald. His first century - incidentally, scored on an early-season Gabba pitch - didn't arrive until his 15th first-class match. By the time he had played 30 first-class games he had managed only two hundreds.

"It's been a slow-burn and an education," Quiney's state coach Greg Shipperd told ESPNcricinfo of Quiney's progression. "If you come in through the shorter forms of the game it does take a while to click, to manage the way you go about your business in four-day cricket. You need some technique and you need the ability to apply your technique and make good decisions for longer periods of time. For somebody who hits the ball so freely and so very well, it's been a work in progress.

"I think it was about establishing a technique to deal with the new ball and making that as pure as he can. Right now, he's at the best technically that I've seen him. He's very organised and with the last two years under his belt, he's quite confident he can balance that defensive and attacking side of his personality and his game.

"Back-foot play was something he worked on. You need to be able to play a back-foot defensive stroke on bouncy wickets. What that does is it also opens it up for you to be an even more free-scoring player because you bring into play the cut shot, the pull shot, the work off the hip - they're all shots that he's now quite adept and comfortable at playing. He was a very powerful front-foot player but once he's added the ability to go back and change the length of the bowler and give himself more time."

The more rounded 2012 version of Quiney was on display at the SCG on Friday, when he handled Steyn and Philander with impressive poise. To watch Quiney in the longer format these days, it is clear that he has become a mature batsman, comfortable with his game, and that he knows he belongs there. A lack of self-belief might have been an issue early in his career, but the quiet confidence Quiney has developed was one of the factors that attracted the selectors.

 
 
'You can't blood a youngster against a team like South Africa. We want a guy who is very confident in his ability, a guy who knows his game backwards, and a guy that has got a little bit of experience. That gave Rob the nod.' Mickey Arthur on Rob Quiney
 

"I wouldn't want to disrespect any nation, but against a nation like South Africa right now, and we'd probably do the same against England and India, you want an experienced head to come in," Australia's coach Mickey Arthur said. "It's not a case of blooding a youngster. You can't blood a youngster against a team like South Africa. We want a guy who is very confident in his ability, a guy who knows his game backwards, and a guy that has got a little bit of experience. That gave Rob the nod."

Then there's also Quiney's Gabba form. Two of his seven first-class centuries have come at the venue, where he averages 42.10. In one-day cricket, his record there is even more impressive - one hundred and two fifties out of four innings. It's no coincidence that the Gabba is a ground where the fast bowlers do the bulk of the work.

"He's never been a player who has baulked from the speed contest," Shipperd said. "If anything, the challenge for him has been to learn what his plan is to spin. He's made some great strides with that over the last couple of seasons. Improvement has followed him on the back of some really strong focus and hard work."

All of which has led him to the point where he will become Australia's 429th Test cricketer on Friday. And as unlikely as it seemed four years ago, a man who will own a baggy green but not a T20 international cap.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by TheFang on (November 6, 2012, 1:33 GMT)

@Nath Wiltshire God help us! The selectors disagree. 3 time failure with no runs on the board this season, I don't think so.

Posted by Rastawookie on (November 5, 2012, 22:59 GMT)

Quiney has had a decent 24 months, but he hasn't averaged over 50 in that time. His career average is 38, and he is over 30. Well done Rob Q on your selection, and full congratulations, but I fear that Australia have missed an opportunity to give a youngster experience. Everyone is talking Hughes, Khawaja and Smith - and they might be the future of the team, but I'd like to see them give the chance to Doolan - he has 491 first class runs this year at well over 100. Has two big tons, one of which against the Proteas. He is 26 years old, has a better career average than Quiney, and is probably a better fielder.

Posted by Meety on (November 5, 2012, 22:58 GMT)

@ Tigg on (November 05 2012, 15:48 PM GMT) - rightly or wrongly, I believe their is a perception that he is weak against the short ball. So if that is true (perception or fact), he was unlikely to get a gig against the Saffas. I would love to have him tour India, but his form in the SC over the last few months hasn't been great either!

Posted by popcorn on (November 5, 2012, 21:14 GMT)

I hope we have found a good,steady Number 3,as we prepare for Ricky Ponting's last two years in Test Cricket. Shaun Marsh,Usman Khawaja have failed. Shows how much Ricky onting has done for us at Number 3.

Posted by Meety on (November 5, 2012, 21:09 GMT)

@James Hiller - true, but what score did Doolan get? @ Beertjie on (November 05 2012, 20:12 PM GMT) - good comment.

Posted by Beertjie on (November 5, 2012, 20:12 GMT)

Thanks for this perspective, Brydon. I guess the selectors wouldn't have wanted to pick Khawaja or Hughes just for one test because that would be messing with their minds. Anyway, India seems to be the best place for them to rejoin the team. Good luck to Quiney. He should get another chance shortly if one of the openers is found wanting.

Posted by Mitcher on (November 5, 2012, 16:37 GMT)

Okay, so suggestions so far: Phil Hughes and Steve Smith. Thank god selection isn't a popular vote. People always whinge selectors don't go on form. Well this guy has the runs on the board for a couple of seasons. And hasn't yet been confirmed as a domestic hero; international bum. Unlike the aforementioned players.

Posted by Tigg on (November 5, 2012, 15:48 GMT)

...and still no David Hussey.

Posted by jonesy.2 on (November 5, 2012, 14:00 GMT)

i would play smith at 3, i know he cannot bowl, but he can slog a few, so hes better than most of our other up and coming batters.

Posted by Okakaboka on (November 5, 2012, 12:51 GMT)

Hughes??? Geez, yes...great to see Steyn bowling with 10 slips for a couple of balls. And while we are at it, lets pick S Smith as our non batting and non bowling all rounder.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.

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