India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 1st day February 22, 2013

The end of Henriques' hard road

Moises Henriques isn't the precocious talent that he was once touted to be. His chance to tour India came through a some luck, but he has taken his first opportunity

The search for the new Shane Warne (Steven Smith, Cameron White) and the new Glenn McGrath (Stuart Clark, Steve Magoffin, Peter George, Josh Hazelwood, Jackson Bird, Trent Copeland) is a recent development. These are merely fads - a modern world looking for quick fixes.

Generation after generation, Australia have been trying to clone another kind of player. A Royal Australian World War II fighter pilot, full back for Victoria, the best thing to ever come out of the suburb Sunshine and Michael Parkinson's first man crush, Keith Miller.

Australian cricket has never quite found a player since who can bat top order and be a consistent wicket-taking bowler. Not Ricky Ponting bowling, not even Mark Waugh bowling, but a constant bowler who can take two to three wickets a Test, bowl proper spells, while giving them balance, variety and insurance.

Bowlers who can bat a bit have always been around for Australia, and they ruined the art of wicketkeepers who are batsmen. But a batsman who can bowl, really bowl, that is a mostly mythical creature. The cricket gods don't bowl down many players that can average over 35 with the bat in the top six, and fewer than 35 with the ball while averaging something near two wickets a match.

In recent times, Australia had Steve Waugh, who was handy in good conditions, had a decent bowling average, but took fewer than 100 Test wickets due to many reasons. Michael Bevan tried for a moment, and even had a batting average higher than his bowling average. But his batting average of 29 and the fact he never really wanted to bowl ended with him leaving cricket.

Then there was Shane Watson. A teenage top-order player who could bowl at 145ks. The Australian selectors did well not to pick him at 15. Big things were hoped of Watson, but all those hopes on his broad frame seemed to collapse repeatedly. Currently he is not bowling, but soon he may be bowling again, before an injury that forces him from bowling, that will lead to him to wonder if he will ever bowl again, followed by a bowling stint in the IPL. The person who changes his profile from batsman to allrounder is probably the most tired in cricket.

In the mid 2000s Watson's body was like the Pakistan top order against the new ball, and so the search moved on. Before he had even played for New South Wales, you could hear whispers or just read articles about Moises Henriques. He was, the next Keith Ross Miller. Henriques bowled a decent pace, was smart enough to captain the Australian Under-19 side. And batted top order.

His second first-class game, when he was still a teenager, he took 5 for 17. It wasn't whispers any more. The New South Wales media could have talked up Henriques at this point if they were discussing the merits of arm guards. Not that it all went well, like many young allrounders Henriques' early career was odd. Not bowling and batting at four one game, in at eight and bowling 20 overs in an innings the next.

Mostly he was playing limited-overs cricket. Not often starring, but doing enough as a young man with either bat or ball to grab some attention. If you looked at his career as a series of small highlights, you'd think there was a real player there. The talent was there, even if the consistency and big performances often weren't.

After nine first-class games, he played limited-overs cricket for Australia. He bowled okay, made no impact with the bat, and was sent back to domestic cricket to develop his game.

Now this is the bit in the superstar's career where he goes back, fixes his game, and gets picked soon after and by the age of 26 he is a fixture of his national team. Henriques went back, and didn't really improve. In 39 first-class games he's taken only one more five-wicket haul. And despite his bowling average of 27, he only takes two wickets a game. Which as a batting allrounder is okay, but his batting average in first-class cricket is 30.

Australia ignored him, but New South Wales persevered.

Dan Christian went. John Hastings went. Ed Cowan went. Peter Forrest went. Phil Hughes went. And even Usman Khawaja went. All young New South Welshmen who left for opportunities, new or more, while Henriques didn't make a first-class hundred for his state.

First class wise, his batting was rooted in the handy half-century. His bowling seemed to lose all venom as he veered into bowling straight medium deliveries that even club cricketers don't fear. In List A he became a rare wicket-taker who could be fairly economical. As a batsman he barely made a mark at all.

Outside of Australian domestic cricket, Henriques was famous for being the man who gave us Kieron Pollard at the first Champions League. In his last 12 balls, Pollard faced ten from Henriques. One a wide, and one dot ball, but also the three fours and five sixes that took him from 7 off 7 and left him at 54 off 18. Pollard could not have made any more mess from Henriques if he had a chainsaw and some plastic matting.

That was about the time the hype stopped. Anyone who saw that match, or heard about that match, or even saw the face of someone who watched that match knew that Henriques would take some time to recover. Occasionally he would appear in the IPL or county cricket. It was rarely pretty.

Then this year Henriques was being talked about again. This time it wasn't as an all-round superstar, no one could make that claim anymore. But they could say that despite his record, and an average of eight with five county matches for Glamorgan in 2012, he finally seemed to be coming of age: improving, understanding his game, becoming a player not a potential.

The best way to prove this was to start the Shield season with 161* against Bird, James Faulkner, Luke Butterworth and even Jason Krejza. He backed that up with three more fifties in his next five games. Bowling wise he didn't do much work, but still took 14 wickets at 18.

It still took luck. Had Shane Watson planned to bowl, Henriques would probably not have been in India. Had Andrew McDonald been fit, Henriques would probably not been in India. Had Steve Smith or Glenn Maxwell bowled well in the warm-up matches, he would not have been in this side.

The man who was once thrust into Australian colours based purely on potential, now had made it on the back of actual performances and luck. Henriques is now no longer seen as a top-six player. But at No. 7 in his first Test match, he batted like one.

R Ashwin had tortured the Australian top order, but Henriques did not look outgunned. He was solid as rock on the back foot, safe as he needed to be on the front, never allowed himself to get bogged down and put away the bad balls when he had to. It had the composure, discipline and authority that few players younger than 30 have brought to the Australian team in these Argus times.

Even with a dirty low down slog-sweep to end the innings, compared to Usman Khawaja's headline grabbing 37 and Rob Quiney's composed 9, Henriques' innings was a proper Test innings. Those innings were in the safety of home conditions, not in the mysterious subcontinent. If Channel Nine still have the cricket rights next year, someone over there might be making a "68 reasons to love Moises Henriques" poster in a few months time.

Who knows if this is just a lucky one-off from a man who has been given a tour by chance, or the making of proper Australian Test player. It is now clear that Henriques is not the special talent that can join the batting allrounder's Valhalla.

At this point in Australian cricket, hoping for a Keith Miller would be optimistic. However, they will happily accept any assured away performances from a 26-year old in his first Test. That said, if Henriques does take 5 for 12 in the first innings of this match, the title of the new Keith Miller will be a lot closer.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 23, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    It,s very pleasing to watch henriques.... as a pakistani fan i first saw him in champions league 2009 .......... i really was waiting to see him playing well in difficult conditions at the subcontinent if he bowls better and bat like this he sure is gonna cement his place in all three formats as a allrounder

  • Guy on February 23, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    Nice innings, and if he is a bit of a sub-continent specialist (handy batting against spin and skiddy reverse swinging bowling) that would be a great find for the Australian Test team over coming years. But I struggle to see him holding his spot for the Ashes away or back home: one first-class century says he's not in our best six batsmen, and he's probably about twentieth in the list of Australian seam bowlers. But good luck to him and hoping he can bowl well today and keep doing the job

  • Dummy4 on February 23, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    I do hate to be a parochial West Australian but Mitch Marsh,if he behaves himself, has as good a chance as anyone of being the "next Keith Miller". He may end up just being a batsman though. He has already been injured and it seems these type of players usually breakdown a lot, become ordinary or give up bowling. Great article though. Thanks Jarrod.

  • Gopalakrishna on February 23, 2013, 1:37 GMT

    Cracking piece of read this!

    While Indian selectors never seemed to change, australian selectors were 180 degrees to this. Changes almost every match, new guy coming in and going. Why the tried and tested players in Sri lanka (read Copeland) are not part of the squad I dont know..

    I was watching the match yday in the stadium and let me tell you Henriques was the one who was most assured of shot making yday. Even even Clarke was struggling against Ashwin initially, but not this guy! Please give him a chance for atleast a season Aussie selectors. He would do well for you!

  • Pedro on February 23, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    Very good stuff today Jarrod.

  • wayne on February 23, 2013, 0:47 GMT

    I think, even if Australia fail to bowl out India twice in this test without a second slow bowler (I have my doubts they could have done it with two spinners, actually - better chance to go with our best bowlers), they've done well by selecting Mo here and now. It could have been a lot worse, and we'll see what his bowling is like at test level, but I just have a hunch that what we're seeing in the Australian team now is the sort of thing we saw in the 80s & early 90s - the nucleus of a team that has the potential for greatness. There will be teething problems and some hard times to come, but I think the selectors are really on the right track here. Good luck Mo, you've done yourself proud.

  • Patrick on February 23, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    An exceptionally composed innings from Mo, really is hard to believe he's only 26, he's been a potential for so long already it seems. Has been bowling really well and with this added confidence this is shaping up to be a huge debut for him, good luck Mo!

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    Great article - thanks. I watched his innings and thought it was a very mature performance by someone on debut.

    I don't believe in the all-rounder obsession - always vastly preferred the Doug Walters, Greg Chappell, Alan Border, Ricky Ponting type of player - someone who was a top six batsman who could bowl a spell and break a partnership or keep it tight.

    Unfortunately Australia doesn't have someone like that at the moment - Ponting and Hussey have retired, Clarke can't bowl because of his back and Warner's bowling needs to improve.

    I would love to see Henriques batting become good enough to hold down a place in the side - he seems very similar to Andrew Symonds in his style and build. If he can do that, Wade drops to seven and you can pick two spinners if necessary. Good luck to him!

  • Harry on February 22, 2013, 23:28 GMT

    The problem with this article/Henriques is that the 'middling player comes good' ending of the story lacks the 'comes good' part.

    All he's done is score one century. Other than that, he's still chipping in handy fifties and not looking threatening with the ball. Does anyone really think that this guy will somehow magically overcome his inability to dominate in first class cricket, and turn into a world beater? Or even someone who can score Test centuries semi-regularly, or pick up more than a couple of wickets? He's more bits and pieces than Andrew McDonald.

    The rule with all-rounders should be, play one if you have one, but if not then leave the wannabes out.