Eng v Aus, 4th Investec Test, Chester-le-Street, 1st day August 9, 2013

Please, Australia, stop searching for the saviour

Nathan Lyon is not the saviour of Australia cricket but he is a very solid offspinner who should not have been dropped. It is time to stop searching for something that doesn't exist and trust what does
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It was not a contest between a mega shark and a giant octopus. It was more a contest between a mega sharktopus and an offspinner. Kevin Pietersen clearly wanted to dismember Nathan Lyon and end his gene pool.

After only seven balls at Pietersen, Lyon was taken out of the attack. At Old Trafford that meant he was barely seen again until Pietersen was finished. At Durham, Clarke brought him back and it took five balls on a pitch with no spin to deceive Pietersen into nicking behind. Sky's revometer barely moved. Lyon celebrated. Pietersen walked. Lyon was a hero. Perhaps not the one Australia was used too.

Had Lyon played at Trent Bridge, he would have provided at least 80 fewer runs than Ashton Agar. He also wouldn't have moved around the field as well. He would have done far less press. His face would not have graced the front page of the Times.

Nathan Lyon was never going to be a once-in-a-generation player. He is not a saviour. His story was more of the guy who happened to be standing in the right place at the right time. There is a romantic notion that Darren Berry saw Lyon roll his arm over in the nets while on a lunch break from his day job as assistant groundsman at Adelaide Oval. The truth is Lyon played 2nd XI cricket and in the baby bash, the 2nd XI Twenty20 tournament, and was doing well so he was quickly promoted due to a severe lack of spinning talent.

Lyon's bowling will never make you cry. He is not the next Murali. There is no mystery to it. He's not changing the face of cricket. He's just a dependable offspin bowler. A very dependable offspin bowler. One who can lock up an end, exert pressure, drop the ball nicely, get decent spin, can move the revometer into the red and take his wickets at fairly regular intervals.

Agar was a bunny rabbit Darren Lehmann pulled out of a hat. It was neat, and it almost worked, largely by accident, but it showed something deeper. A desire that never goes away in Australian cricket. The thought that there can be someone better, young, more impressive just around the corner. Not just a player, but a legend, a saviour.

"They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn, And in the hour of greatest slaughter, the great avenger is being born" said Paul Kelly in his song Bradman.

It might have started before Don Bradman. Maybe it was Clem Hill who Australians have been longing for all these years. For a secular country, Australians do want to be saved a lot. That one ethereal warrior who can lift them from their doldrums and launch them to where they belong. Up atop the world of cricket.

It's part of Australia's folklore. They don't make their best players wait, they throw them in there. If they're good enough, they're old enough. Get a kid in there. If an old guy and a young guy are up for the same spot, the young guy should always get it. Think of the future. Think of the legacy.

Neil Harvey played at 19, so did Hill and Stan McCabe. Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Bradman played at 20. All champions.

It was hard not to buy into this theory. Who cares about a journeyman? Why would you care about some guy who has been playing shield cricket unsuccessfully for ten years and just gets lucky. Sobers and Sachin weren't 30 year olds who got a chance late, they were young boys playing against men, beating them, and then spent an entire generation doing the same. A 32-year-old finger spinner is a distraction, not the answer. Legends aren't a fad, they're a cricketer you grow up with, grow old with, that is always there, your rock, your banker, your hero.

The start of Ponting's career is barely ever mentioned. People will talk about the dodgy lbw of the 96 on debut, and might even reminisce about the fighting 88 against West Indies. But in some ways Ponting was already a legend. The oracles Marsh, Chappell and Lillee told us he was special, different and once in a generation. So that is what he was.

For 30 Tests Ponting struggled. His average of 38 was not that of a champion, but an also-ran. Some believed, some didn't. The non believers said it wasn't his time. He needed to be less aggressive. He would prop on the front foot often. He could nick off too easily.

Then the Ricky Ponting we all remembered arrived. That was the story we all went with. The first 30 Tests didn't fit the narrative. The next 138 did.

But what if Ponting came in now? Could Australia afford to give him 30 Tests to prove himself? Without Warne, McGrath, Waugh, Waugh, Fleming, Gillespie, and Gilchrist, would Ponting be allowed to sit in the middle order and refine his game. Or would he be cast aside and brought back at random times.

Would he be sent in at No. 3, and discarded only after a few Tests because he hadn't made a hundred (Khawaja)? Would he have opened, scored two great hundreds, shown some technical flaws and be sent away after only five Tests (Hughes)? Would he have been picked as a bowler, top score, and be told by his captain that he couldn't see him as a top order player (Smith)?

Harvey started in the Invincibles. Hill's eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings were 96, 58, 81, and 188. The first 15 Tests McCabe played in had him losing only two. In his first seven Tests, Bradman made two fifties, three hundreds, a double and a triple.

It was only Steve Waugh who bucks the trend of instant success with the bat, or with the team. But he took wickets. Waugh was also in the day of a handful of TV channels, no 24-hour sports radio, and the internet didn't exist in Australia.

If the media were willing to hound Ponting who was averaging over 50 with 160 Tests to his name, how would a young guy survive that scrutiny for 30 Tests as Australia bumbled their way through international cricket?

And that is for a young player. An old player will get far fewer Tests. Rumblings in the Old Trafford press box were suggesting that Chris Rogers had been worked out, that he couldn't play Graeme Swann. That was after four innings of his comeback, one of which was a classy half-century in a very big chase.

If it's hard to be the next big thing, to be the older player who doesn't succeed straight away in Australian cricket is to cover yourself in bullseyes. Rogers was too old, too slow and too ugly right up until he drove England everywhere. At his next failure, you will hear the same comments. With another late picked Western Australian, you could hear something as well.

You can still hear it now. Can't you? That knocking. Listen carefully. It is still there, even all these years later. It is the sound of Michael Hussey knocking on the door of the Australia batting line-up of the 90s and 2000s. It's because of all this knocking that Hussey isn't seen as a late bloomer, but a player who should have been picked years earlier. He should have been a once in a generation player, instead of a statistical anomaly.

It's not really based on any facts, but it's a common zombie myth.

Hussey was picked a year or two late, at most. He wasn't banging down any doors in Shield cricket. He was polite. He was eager. He was almost always (except for a short time when he was dropped by Western Australia in 2002-2003) available. Between 1994 and 2005, Hussey averaged over 50 in Australian first-class cricket in two seasons. He never scored 1000 runs in a season. Knocking on the door? No, more standing on your front lawn and hoping you'd see him there.

Compared to Damien Martyn, who made his debut for Western Australia four seasons earlier, Hussey was hardly making a sound. Martyn was picked for Australia in his third first-class season at the age of 21. He averaged over 50 in his first full season and made hundreds for fun in the next. In December 1992, he made an unbeaten 67 out of 196 against Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop. There was talk of him being the next Australia captain. He was stylish, fearless and very confident. We were told he would be a legend.

Then he made a mistake against South Africa. Chasing 117, Australia completely and utterly forgot how to deal with any pressure and turned Fanie de Villiers into a horrific giver of death. Martyn was in some form in the first innings, he'd made 59.

In the second innings he watched Slater, Boon, Taylor, May, Mark Waugh, Healy and Warne be dismissed. He sat there frozen in fear as Craig McDermott slogged a few around and they crept up to the total. Then, with six runs on the board, and having faced 58 balls, he tried to hit a boundary, and found Andrew Hudson in the ring. Glenn McGrath added one run in seven balls, and Australia ended up six runs short. As Paul Kelly might put it, "they dropped him like a gun".

2256 days later, Martyn played his next Test match.

Once Martyn showed any weakness at all, he was discarded. It will always remain one of the worst and most harmful selecting decisions in Australian cricket. In a low scoring match, he made one of Australia's two fifties, he was 22 and he played a bad shot. He was the escapegoat of that team. But it was deeper than that, it was like he had a loser virus and no one wanted to catch it off him.

Martyn was damaged goods. He was not the saviour anymore. He was not an Australia player anymore. Any hopes of him becoming a captain, a legend or even a ten-year player left once he showed in one innings that he was not the one. His papers were stamped 'non legendary'.

At the end of their careers, Martyn would average 46 with 13 Test hundreds, Hussey 51 with 19. As older men, who had travelled very different paths, they were outstanding for Australia when they were picked at the right times.

If Neil Harvey ran Australian cricket, it would be much like the film Logan's Run; at a certain age you would turn "black" and would have to turn in for a "deep sleep". There are certainly more people than Harvey who believe this myth. Any problem in an Australian side can be fixed by throwing in some kid who will save the day. Those people who believe this saviour myth would never have allowed Australian cricket to choose the likes of Adam Gilchrist (age on debut 27, average 47), Stuart Clark (Age 30, average 23), Colin Miller (Age 34, average 26) and even Darren Lehmann (Age 28, average 44).

Had Lehmann not been picked at 28 because he was too old, he would not be coach and would never have been able to pick Agar.

The list of old players is about the age on debut and doesn't even include the damaged goods like Martyn. Justin Langer got beaten up by West Indies in his first Test, and played eight Tests in his first five years. Matthew Hayden played a Test against a scary South Africa team, then had two years off, then played some more, and had another few years off.

Like Hayden and Langer, Phillip Hughes was thrown in deep. Ponting started at No. 5 at the WACA against a poor Sri Lanka bowling attack. Hughes opened in his first Test against Steyn, Ntini, Kallis and Morkel.

Hughes was compared to Bradman. Was picked ahead of Rogers. Was the bush kid with nervous energy and a technique that was forged together of various scraps. He could keep balls out of his stumps however he had too, and anything wide of off stump would have his name carved into it. He tore Shield attacks apart. Oh, yes, he was another 'the one'.

Hughes was dropped three Tests after making a hundred in each innings against South Africa. Despite being dropped because he struggled with the short ball, he was brought back at Perth in the next Ashes. In this series he was dropped after two Tests despite his quality innings at Trent Bridge.

Hughes couldn't play the full straight ball. Then he couldn't play the short ball. Then he couldn't play the ball outside off. Hughes has no idea what his own technique is. Pick whichever one you agree with. Hughes is the savior. Hughes should be dropped. Repeat.

Can you imagine what was going through Hughes' mind back then? He had defeated the best attack on the planet. He had been ordained. He was the real deal. The next boy wonder. A once in a generation talent. The homemade Bradman. It took two Tests for all that to mean nothing at all.

No matter what he has done since then, he is not the Phillip Hughes we first saw. He is technically and mentally flawed. Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison started the doubts, but it was the Australia selectors who lopped off his self-confidence. It is a whole new set of selectors who have now dropped him for the third time, three innings after he saved Australia's pride at Trent Bridge. At 24, the gloss is well and truly off, and it doesn't matter who he used to be, he is an easily droppable damaged player right now.

Before Agar's debut, Langer described him as the best young talent since Hughes. Despite their stand at Trent Bridge, neither are in the team for the fourth Test.

Nathan Lyon is. Other than Peter Siddle he has been Australia's most trustworthy bowler of the last couple of years. And yet it was Siddle who was almost dropped at Trent Bridge, and Lyon who was. Dependable and sturdy is not what Australia wants. They want X-factor, dynamism and water into wine.

Mitchell Starc was picked over Jackson Bird twice before this Test. Agar and Glenn Maxwell were picked over Lyon. Australia are telling us what their new plan is repeatedly.

There will be people, some who are reading this right now, who won't be convinced. They lived through Border, Harvey, Chappelli, Waugh, Benaud and McGrath. They know somewhere the great avenger is out there. That Australia will find him, and that all this insanity will be over. And they know that he is probably not bowling decent economical offspin.

In the entire history of English cricket, they have picked five teenagers. Australia has picked two in the last three years. How many Lyons, Siddles and Hughes will Australia misuse in search of something that may never exist.

Paul Kelly said of Bradman "Even his friends say he isn't human". This Australia team is human. And humans have bowling averages of 33, good days and bad days, and need better treatment than immortals.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ClippedThroughMid-Wicket on August 10, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    lyon has now played 25-and-a-little-bit tests for 80 wickets. lets extrapolate that somewhat and assume that if he goes on to play 50 tests then he will have 160 wickets. a certain d. vettori has played over 100 tests for 360 wickets and is considered one of the all time great offies. his average is 34. lyon is still 25 and still maturing into the test side. if the selectors stick with him, he will become better than vettori. WILL.

    @Roodog I love your lineup mate, i absolutely agree with that almost 100%, hughes opening with warner, khawaja 3, smith 5, watson 6. the only thing i would dispute is the keeper position at this time. i know you're looking to the future but wade cant catch syphilis is a knockshop at the moment and payne doesnt look like getting the call up anytime soon. haddin, the last couple of tests aside, is very patchy and ive always maligned him but i think hes our best option with gloves at the moment. we need warriors in this squad and he is just that.

  • potter22in on August 10, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    I do not fully agree with this article. Australianism has only 1 meaning- i.e Winning. N.Lyon couldn't get the wicket on a 5th day pitch at Adelaide and Faf du Plessis has become a history. When people let down at the most crucial time, it hurts and that his why he(Lyon) was dropped. Yes to some extent Aussies are trying to find their legend , the hero that is because of their dominance for almost 15 years- Every loss is hurting every draw is frustrating. If Lyon comes to party and erases his historic failure, Australians can smile and he can also feel he is there.

  • on August 10, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    Beautifully written and nice thoughts....Totally agree with the perspective that u have brought out....How people and talents are not something to be played with...but how they need to be given enough opportunities, right nourishment and delicate care proper handling so that they can blossom and prosper into something really beautiful...also how it's not just super humans that we need but how it needs common, ordinary people who can get the job done...without being superhuman...couldn't agree with u more

  • Katey on August 10, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    At long last someone has said it ... thanks Jarrod.

    I heard something recently that seems relevant to this issue, on TV after a team (not Aus) had lost a match. The discusser reckoned that the national team expected to get the finished product from the provincial/county/franchise teams. Oh really? The final, perfectly polished article? And your money back if it isn't 100%?

    Maybe the commercial paradigm has taken over cricket, and now selectors expect to get the final product from the "manufacturers", the lower-level teams. Any shortcoming or failure means you can just send the article back where it came from.

    In this regard, I've always been fascinated by the story of Graeme Smith. He was pretty abrasive and often downright awful when he started out as a youngster. The last thing he looked like was a steady, sensible captain. But in this case the management persisted and he matured into what he is now. But it took some five years, and at times must have seemed hopeless.

  • Thegimp on August 12, 2013, 1:07 GMT

    ......cont.. Aust should look at guys like Bailey & David Hussey, guys you would share a trench with. By all means blood the odd strokemaker but carrying too many for too long will only deapen the hole and strengthen the resolve to find a saviour. Test cricket is called TEST for a reason. It tests your technique and temperment and anyone who has a deficiency in either will be found wanting. Beven couldn't play the short stuff so couldn't play test. Hughes can't play balls in the corridor & has shortcomings off his pads (which for a left hander is unforgivable). Warner likes to smash the loose stuff but in Test cricket, the loose stuff is rare. Khawaja......who knows where this kid is? He looks like a 15yo playing in the club firsts. He needs a solid group around him not Holywood supestars.

  • Thegimp on August 12, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Warner, Hughes and it appears Khawaja are technically deficient. Whilst they may set the world on fire occasionally, you wont be able to depend on them. They might average 40 but that will be on the back of a big score one match and nothing the next three. They might take First Class bowlers apart but struggle against Test attacks. They can take on sides with one good bowler because they can smash the guy at the other end, but they can't absorb persistant pressure. Watson is technically solid and that's why they are sticking with him. If you look at successfull teams they have had 5 technically dependable players and one flamboyant strokemaker. Aust currently have 3 flambyants and 3 technically sufficient. That's why they can score 500 one innings and 120 the next which in turn adds pressure to the Clarkes, Rogers and Watsons who know they have to perform if Aust are going to make totals...........con't

  • njr1330 on August 10, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    Wonderful article, and spot on. However, even when the Aussies do have a 'boy wonder' they seem to ignore him...i.e. Nic Maddinson. He destroyed Ireland with 181, and was described by the Aussie selectors as 'too reckless'. Can you imagine Cookie in the post-match interview saying: 'it's not fair, we were beaten by an appallingly reckless 181' ?!

  • Shawk on August 10, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    Tk66 Hughes averaged over 100 in county cricket in 2009. He was unbelievably good. He wasn't failing at all.

  • on August 10, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    Warnie has spoiled Aussies . They keep looking for him like the second coming of Christ

  • Sir_Francis on August 10, 2013, 11:24 GMT

    Agree with most however, why no mention of the great Doug Walters???!!! (if you don't rate him a champion then we can not be friends)

    As for Hauritz, agree he shouldn't be dropped so often but he still isn't better than Hauritz (who can bat)

    And I'm sad that D. Hussey will never play test cricket.

  • ClippedThroughMid-Wicket on August 10, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    lyon has now played 25-and-a-little-bit tests for 80 wickets. lets extrapolate that somewhat and assume that if he goes on to play 50 tests then he will have 160 wickets. a certain d. vettori has played over 100 tests for 360 wickets and is considered one of the all time great offies. his average is 34. lyon is still 25 and still maturing into the test side. if the selectors stick with him, he will become better than vettori. WILL.

    @Roodog I love your lineup mate, i absolutely agree with that almost 100%, hughes opening with warner, khawaja 3, smith 5, watson 6. the only thing i would dispute is the keeper position at this time. i know you're looking to the future but wade cant catch syphilis is a knockshop at the moment and payne doesnt look like getting the call up anytime soon. haddin, the last couple of tests aside, is very patchy and ive always maligned him but i think hes our best option with gloves at the moment. we need warriors in this squad and he is just that.

  • potter22in on August 10, 2013, 7:39 GMT

    I do not fully agree with this article. Australianism has only 1 meaning- i.e Winning. N.Lyon couldn't get the wicket on a 5th day pitch at Adelaide and Faf du Plessis has become a history. When people let down at the most crucial time, it hurts and that his why he(Lyon) was dropped. Yes to some extent Aussies are trying to find their legend , the hero that is because of their dominance for almost 15 years- Every loss is hurting every draw is frustrating. If Lyon comes to party and erases his historic failure, Australians can smile and he can also feel he is there.

  • on August 10, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    Beautifully written and nice thoughts....Totally agree with the perspective that u have brought out....How people and talents are not something to be played with...but how they need to be given enough opportunities, right nourishment and delicate care proper handling so that they can blossom and prosper into something really beautiful...also how it's not just super humans that we need but how it needs common, ordinary people who can get the job done...without being superhuman...couldn't agree with u more

  • Katey on August 10, 2013, 6:51 GMT

    At long last someone has said it ... thanks Jarrod.

    I heard something recently that seems relevant to this issue, on TV after a team (not Aus) had lost a match. The discusser reckoned that the national team expected to get the finished product from the provincial/county/franchise teams. Oh really? The final, perfectly polished article? And your money back if it isn't 100%?

    Maybe the commercial paradigm has taken over cricket, and now selectors expect to get the final product from the "manufacturers", the lower-level teams. Any shortcoming or failure means you can just send the article back where it came from.

    In this regard, I've always been fascinated by the story of Graeme Smith. He was pretty abrasive and often downright awful when he started out as a youngster. The last thing he looked like was a steady, sensible captain. But in this case the management persisted and he matured into what he is now. But it took some five years, and at times must have seemed hopeless.

  • Thegimp on August 12, 2013, 1:07 GMT

    ......cont.. Aust should look at guys like Bailey & David Hussey, guys you would share a trench with. By all means blood the odd strokemaker but carrying too many for too long will only deapen the hole and strengthen the resolve to find a saviour. Test cricket is called TEST for a reason. It tests your technique and temperment and anyone who has a deficiency in either will be found wanting. Beven couldn't play the short stuff so couldn't play test. Hughes can't play balls in the corridor & has shortcomings off his pads (which for a left hander is unforgivable). Warner likes to smash the loose stuff but in Test cricket, the loose stuff is rare. Khawaja......who knows where this kid is? He looks like a 15yo playing in the club firsts. He needs a solid group around him not Holywood supestars.

  • Thegimp on August 12, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    Warner, Hughes and it appears Khawaja are technically deficient. Whilst they may set the world on fire occasionally, you wont be able to depend on them. They might average 40 but that will be on the back of a big score one match and nothing the next three. They might take First Class bowlers apart but struggle against Test attacks. They can take on sides with one good bowler because they can smash the guy at the other end, but they can't absorb persistant pressure. Watson is technically solid and that's why they are sticking with him. If you look at successfull teams they have had 5 technically dependable players and one flamboyant strokemaker. Aust currently have 3 flambyants and 3 technically sufficient. That's why they can score 500 one innings and 120 the next which in turn adds pressure to the Clarkes, Rogers and Watsons who know they have to perform if Aust are going to make totals...........con't

  • njr1330 on August 10, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    Wonderful article, and spot on. However, even when the Aussies do have a 'boy wonder' they seem to ignore him...i.e. Nic Maddinson. He destroyed Ireland with 181, and was described by the Aussie selectors as 'too reckless'. Can you imagine Cookie in the post-match interview saying: 'it's not fair, we were beaten by an appallingly reckless 181' ?!

  • Shawk on August 10, 2013, 13:14 GMT

    Tk66 Hughes averaged over 100 in county cricket in 2009. He was unbelievably good. He wasn't failing at all.

  • on August 10, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    Warnie has spoiled Aussies . They keep looking for him like the second coming of Christ

  • Sir_Francis on August 10, 2013, 11:24 GMT

    Agree with most however, why no mention of the great Doug Walters???!!! (if you don't rate him a champion then we can not be friends)

    As for Hauritz, agree he shouldn't be dropped so often but he still isn't better than Hauritz (who can bat)

    And I'm sad that D. Hussey will never play test cricket.

  • Bockee on August 10, 2013, 11:18 GMT

    I said at the time that picking Agar could ruin two careers. Agar is now labelled as a talented kid, but no test bowler. Thankfully Lyon is much tougher than most people think.

    For all the knockers out there: Close your eyes. Think of a 25 year old legspinner. 24 Tests, 81 wickets at under 33. Tough. Still learning his game. Improving all the time. What a no-brainer. You pick him, you stick with him.

  • ballsintherightareas on August 10, 2013, 9:39 GMT

    Excellent, excellent, excellent article. Sums it all up beautifully.. Good on you.

  • TK66 on August 10, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    It's nice poetry, effective rhetoric but has the disadvantage of not being true enough. Ponting was dropped a test after scoring 88. It was regarded as a terrible decision. He came back because he was good enough. Steve Waugh was dropped for Mark in 1991. There isn't the rhythm to these decisions that Kimber is claiming. Martyn was not dropped because of one shot but because he was subbing for Steve Waugh. Slater was dropped in 1996 because he palyed poorly in India. He came back. Hughes was dropped because in addition to the tests he was also failing in the county games. He has come back many times but his technique is flawed. Lyon has been dropped because on a couple of occasions he has failed to bowl well enough to do the job to win a test match. No idea why he was dropped for Agar this time. Awful decision.

  • epbrannen on August 10, 2013, 7:32 GMT

    @nerdydad - yes, Damien Martyn was in the side as a replacement for Steve Waugh but they could have dropped David Boon instead, given he hadn't got past 25 in his three innings of that series.

    Anyway, brilliant article. Despite his record-breaking debut, Aston Agar's selection was one of the dumbest decisions I have seen in almost 30 years of watching cricket. Agar may be a great in years to come, but he might not be. Lyon won't bea great either, but at least we know for certain what he gives us.

    I think we need more conservatism in our selection, not less. Rogers won't be around for more than a couple more years, but until some of the younger players EARN their spot through a two or more years of sold first-class cricket then he is the man for the job.

  • on August 10, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    Australian Cricket is certainly looking for a saviour. The current captain, Clarke, was himself a Golden Boy when he entered the side. Lehmann offered to give up his spot for Clarke. Yet there are many areas where there is no golden young player bashing down the door, and the selectors need to recognize the need to 'do a job' - win matches through contribution rather than singlehandedly. However, Hughes has done himself no favours by his inconsistency. Only twice in the last few years has he scored more than 20 in three consecutive innings. While he has been dropped very readily, he has also shown an inability to grasp his chance and overcome doubts about his technical limitations. But Australia will continue to be mediocre while they insist on dropping performing players in the hope of finding a miracle

  • inefekt on August 10, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    Great stuff Kimbo. The way Hughes was treated by the selectors after his extraordinary South African tour was wretched, it was a massive over reaction to a technical 'flaw' which people were speaking of well before the SAF tour, yet the best bowling attack in the world still couldn't stop him from scoring a century in each innings with that same 'flawed' technique. I've never seen a sport that drops players from teams because their technique is not text book. Has a basketball player ever been dropped because his shooting technique wasn't perfect? No, especially not if he'd scored 50 points in consecutive games two weeks earlier! Australian selectors need to look purely at results, not technique and certainly not potential. Results are all that matter.

  • Fireballz on August 10, 2013, 7:08 GMT

    Couldn't agree more. Great article! And lol, "escapegoat"

  • on August 10, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    after reading the article, I saw some past videos of Hughes. I dobt think he was the player that he is being made of by the author.

  • GRHinPorts on August 10, 2013, 6:19 GMT

    I dispair for Aus cricket when I read an article like this with such a conservative outlook. Kimber is right that the whole ethos of Aus cricket is to blood players young but not in the idea that anyone expects them to be instant legends - test cricket is far too hard for that. Rather the idea is that you get in early, learn from the school of hard knocks, maybe take more than the odd setback, and then apply that knowledge and learnt ability for a longer prime moment later in your career. The likes of Hayden, Martyn, Langer, even Ponting, and S Waugh all were dropped after failing at a young age. All returned better players not just because they were older, but because of what they had learnt when they were younger. Playing test cricket! Its what building a side is all about. Plus it doesnt matter so much when you have a great side like Aus did from 1995 onwards. But when your struggling as now and as was the case in the 1980s its the only way forward. It just needs more patience.

  • moBlue on August 10, 2013, 5:44 GMT

    i agree entirely with the author! i am an indian fan and we have plenty of experience with the BCCI shockingly destroying careers of phenomenal world-beaters - the great mohinder amarnath comes to mind, and even he was lucky to have received a second chance at all, which showed us how great he could be, taking on the WI in the windies and PAK under imran! but what the oz selectors did with michael hussey is unforgiveable!!!

    ...and there are still signs of the same old utterly crazy selection policy in the current oz team as well! a selection policy that is high on prayer and dreams and utterly lacking in thoughtfulness or planning or analysis - or patience - required to build a great test team for an "era"!

  • heathrf1974 on August 10, 2013, 5:23 GMT

    You need to write these articles before he begins to get wickets.

  • since7 on August 10, 2013, 4:44 GMT

    A truly relevant article with a striking point.Australians seem to be stuck up in the hangover of being "one of the greatest sides" and this reflects in their impatience in fielding a stable 11.They still seem to be searching for the next Warne which is doing more bad than good.Lyon is bound to have his bad day at the office but overall his record has been one of say a decent to good bowler.It is time the aussies build a team around what they have and not what they would desperately wish to have.

  • on August 10, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    Good thing there is 11 players in the side, room for capable reliables and potential bradman-pontings!

  • nerdydad on August 10, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    A mostly good article, but can we please stop propagating the myth that Damien Martyn was dropped for one mistake? He was dropped because he was filling in for an injured Steve Waugh, and not recalled because his test average was 28 and Langer and Bevan were performing better in 1st class. The mistake in 1994 didn't help his cause, but he wasn't recalled simply because there were too many other batters performing better. Matthew Hayden had the same problem.

  • nerdydad on August 10, 2013, 4:19 GMT

    A mostly good article, but can we please stop propagating the myth that Damien Martyn was dropped for one mistake? He was dropped because he was filling in for an injured Steve Waugh, and not recalled because his test average was 28 and Langer and Bevan were performing better in 1st class. The mistake in 1994 didn't help his cause, but he wasn't recalled simply because there were too many other batters performing better. Matthew Hayden had the same problem.

  • Ninety9 on August 10, 2013, 4:08 GMT

    Brilliant piece, Jarrod. At last, someone has told the Damien Martyn story. Just like Hussey, Martyn was also insecure about his future in the team and therefore retired midway through the 2006/07 Ashes series. Hussey was lucky enough to do so under much more respectable circumstances.

    Australia's mad-search for a spinner is well known. Some might even say that the easiest way to Australian citizenship these days is to take up spin bowling.

  • rockstarev on August 10, 2013, 3:53 GMT

    Extraordinary article. The best I have ever read :)

  • Dangertroy on August 10, 2013, 3:47 GMT

    I've made a similar point to this before regarding joe root. England is a side right now that can afford to let joe root blossom. With four experienced batsmen in decent form, they have room Root and even Bairstow to build experience and develop. But Australia don't have that luxury, the lack or experience and form in the rest of the top six means that Clarke has to carry the batting. No wonder he has a bad back.

  • Roodog on August 10, 2013, 2:14 GMT

    I think the Aussie team need to put the idea of the glory days and being number 1. They have all of the parts of a good solid team, they just need to play them in their correct positions and stick with them.

    The batting line up should be Warner, Hughes, Kawaja, Clarke, Smith, Watson, Wade/Paine.

    The quicks can be picked from Harris, Bird, Pattinson, Siddle, Cummins, Starc. Lyon should be the spinner

  • on August 10, 2013, 2:10 GMT

    Pick one player and stick with him. It seems you will be dropped no matter how well they play. Nathan Lyon dropped after taking 7 wickets against India. Ashton Agar dropped after 2 tests despite scoring 98 on debut. Mitchell Starc dropped after taking 5 wickets in the first test then recalled taking 3 wickets and scoring 66 then dropped for his allround efforts. Jackson Bird comes in and who would be dropped next?

  • on August 10, 2013, 2:08 GMT

    Great read Mr Kimber - I agree with forgetting about trying to find the saviour, and sticking with Nathan Lyon - but dropping players who aren't performing is the Australian way. It toughens them up mentally, and aims to punish mediocrity. Martyn was a better player when he returned to the side in 1999, because he was mentally tougher. Martyn was a scapegoat for the loss in Sydney, true - but he was averaging 31 at that stage of his career, and Steve Waugh replaced him next test. Waugh made 164 and took 4/26, so it was hardly a poor call by the selectors. In Hughes' scenario - they've maybe destroyed his confidence short term, but they're aiming for long term toughness. And, realistically, if you're playing well, making hundreds, averaging in the mid 40's, you won't get dropped.

  • sidzy on August 10, 2013, 1:59 GMT

    Thx for some reality check Jarrod...its the most interesting piece of article i hav heard about Ozzy cricket in a while...

  • IAMGOD on August 10, 2013, 0:33 GMT

    It's not systemic.. it's just a product of times. When things are going well, you are pragmatic - and less likely to look for heroes. Ponting, Hussey, Gilchrist, Langer, Lehman, Hayden - all walked into settled, successful teams. Individual failures were tolerated as teams succeeded. Hughes, Lyon, Martyn all debuted when things were uncertain in the team. When things aren't going your way, you look for saviors, miracles. Any sign of weakness is taken as human & hence discarded.

    And I am not sure whether you want to follow the English model of not blooding youngsters. That's just boring - though they are bucking the trend of late with Root, Cook, Broad

  • Thegimp on August 10, 2013, 0:26 GMT

    The only thing that is spinning since Warne retired is my head Jarrod!!!! Totally agree, we forget that prior to Warne, McGrath, Waugh, Ponting, Hayden, Gilchrist, Alan Border bonded a team of steady, hard, workman like cricketers. He put together a team of dependables, Boon, Marsh, Jones, McDermot, Lawson, Big Merve, Matthews & Tim May. A team where the whiz kids could come in and get a good solid lesson in manhood, with the odd tongue in the ear and a butt squeeze, and then prosper. The current selection committee are building the crown jewels, diamonds and rubies first, without creating a framework of dependables and then when it all crumbles they call them in, dependables like Rogers and I bet if Hussey wasn't so adament about not playing again, they would have flown him out too.

    I hope to the Gods of Australian cricket that they, the selectors, read your Opinion piece. Let's build the structure Foundation & framework up, not the skylights down.

  • SheikYerbouti83 on August 10, 2013, 0:15 GMT

    You need to print off several copies of this, put them in big envelopes marked URGENT and send to every Cricket Australia official you can think of. You've just outlined most of the reasons for our poor performances in the last few years. You must be the writer of a generation. The x-factor. The saviour!

  • on August 9, 2013, 23:27 GMT

    I don't get the reference to a 32yo finger spinner. Nathan Lyon is only 25. Would be interesting to know what Swann's stats were like at the same age...

  • Cricket24 on August 9, 2013, 22:56 GMT

    Great article. Bascially sums up a lot about Australia cricket board's thinking. No wonder their loosing

  • Iddo555 on August 9, 2013, 22:54 GMT

    As an England fan I think Australia need to go back to saviour picking and choose Agar, Lyon is taking too many wickets for my liking. I preferred the next Warne who was averaging 124 per wicket and was throwing pies.

    Bring back Agar please

  • on August 9, 2013, 22:33 GMT

    Nice article. Lyon should definitely been kept in the team ahead of Maxwell and Agar. As for Hughes, I really don't know. In 2009, I was sure he would be better in the middle order. For this series they should have kept him at 6 for the whole series, and then made a decision of whether he could make it as an international cricketer. As it is I am sure he will be back at some point during the next Ashes and he will be in the same position again, no confidence and will fail. I am sorry for him as I have seen it with other talented players like Hick and Ramprakesh. I think Bird is a more accompished bowler than Starc and so should have been picked, but Starc could have been saved for the faster pitches (or pitched as an allrounder).

  • on August 9, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    I can't seem to recall a better article than this.

  • pvwadekar on August 9, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    A very interesting article that explains the quiet a bit about how Aussie selection works. When they get it right, then the combination is awesome, like it was from 199-5 to 2009 but otherwise it sucks lemons. They should stick with a team of consistent performers instead of waiting for the next big thing but maybe that is not just the culture i guess

  • gop_cricket on August 9, 2013, 22:02 GMT

    Mate, such a wonderful language and precise precession in putting facts to perspective. How much test cricket[s glorious uncertainty makes a pleasure to watch it.I feel the same way as you mate that Lyon is not what Australia may be looking for but he is not that bad either. Hard worker and thinker I believe. In a sport or other walks of like you get once in a generation guys rarely. People who excel are from the back drop of hard work and relentless attempt.This Lyon is definitely a lion hearted guy in above virtues.If people think I'm just talking basing today's performance alone then they are wrong. He did show his character in India itself right. It is just that Australian Tour management thought bit differently. On one of Ian Chappel's post I posted my comment saying this guy should be in team basing on the sheer discipline and relentless attempt that he makes. Australia should not squander this initiative if they have to regain some pride. Good luck Aussies.

  • raulraj on August 9, 2013, 21:32 GMT

    A very very nice article however its hard to agree with Mr. Kimber 100%. How can a team improve if they stop looking for new improved young talent???? May be this Dropping, chopping and changing teams is giving us something to read and write about. Cricket will be most likely be boring if every team plays same elen for years unless they are 1990-2000 Australia's "The greatest team in the of all time". All the players mentioned above will be fine n will perform well as long as they are picked in 15 or 20 probables. They are learning even if they are not in playing 11. Lof of players spent years on the bench learning from older guys and then performed. Australia's problem is in domestic cricket and Leadership of team its not the selection or coaching!! Infact as soon as they brought Lehman as coach " I see a different refreshed australia".

  • rafe01 on August 9, 2013, 21:28 GMT

    I couldn't agree more. I think it stems from egostism on the selector's part - believing they can change the outcome of the series by an inspired selection rather that leaving that up to the best players available.

    In Australia's golden era they didn't have that choice - you can't select a 19 year old on promise when there are 28 year olds scoring 1000 runs a season (unless they're Ricky Ponting which is fair enough). But Hughes is not Ricky Ponting. On the bright side, Langer, Martyn and Hayden found their way back in after poor starts so hopefully Hughes can get himself sorted out.

    As for spinners - there is one who averages less than 30 in the shield competition - Steve O'Keefe (he can bat too). Obviously the selectors think he's too short, so they know a 6' spinner with a Shield average of 45 will perform better. I wouldn't be rushing to drop Lyon though.

  • rafe01 on August 9, 2013, 21:28 GMT

    I couldn't agree more. I think it stems from egostism on the selector's part - believing they can change the outcome of the series by an inspired selection rather that leaving that up to the best players available.

    In Australia's golden era they didn't have that choice - you can't select a 19 year old on promise when there are 28 year olds scoring 1000 runs a season (unless they're Ricky Ponting which is fair enough). But Hughes is not Ricky Ponting. On the bright side, Langer, Martyn and Hayden found their way back in after poor starts so hopefully Hughes can get himself sorted out.

    As for spinners - there is one who averages less than 30 in the shield competition - Steve O'Keefe (he can bat too). Obviously the selectors think he's too short, so they know a 6' spinner with a Shield average of 45 will perform better. I wouldn't be rushing to drop Lyon though.

  • raulraj on August 9, 2013, 21:32 GMT

    A very very nice article however its hard to agree with Mr. Kimber 100%. How can a team improve if they stop looking for new improved young talent???? May be this Dropping, chopping and changing teams is giving us something to read and write about. Cricket will be most likely be boring if every team plays same elen for years unless they are 1990-2000 Australia's "The greatest team in the of all time". All the players mentioned above will be fine n will perform well as long as they are picked in 15 or 20 probables. They are learning even if they are not in playing 11. Lof of players spent years on the bench learning from older guys and then performed. Australia's problem is in domestic cricket and Leadership of team its not the selection or coaching!! Infact as soon as they brought Lehman as coach " I see a different refreshed australia".

  • gop_cricket on August 9, 2013, 22:02 GMT

    Mate, such a wonderful language and precise precession in putting facts to perspective. How much test cricket[s glorious uncertainty makes a pleasure to watch it.I feel the same way as you mate that Lyon is not what Australia may be looking for but he is not that bad either. Hard worker and thinker I believe. In a sport or other walks of like you get once in a generation guys rarely. People who excel are from the back drop of hard work and relentless attempt.This Lyon is definitely a lion hearted guy in above virtues.If people think I'm just talking basing today's performance alone then they are wrong. He did show his character in India itself right. It is just that Australian Tour management thought bit differently. On one of Ian Chappel's post I posted my comment saying this guy should be in team basing on the sheer discipline and relentless attempt that he makes. Australia should not squander this initiative if they have to regain some pride. Good luck Aussies.

  • pvwadekar on August 9, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    A very interesting article that explains the quiet a bit about how Aussie selection works. When they get it right, then the combination is awesome, like it was from 199-5 to 2009 but otherwise it sucks lemons. They should stick with a team of consistent performers instead of waiting for the next big thing but maybe that is not just the culture i guess

  • on August 9, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    I can't seem to recall a better article than this.

  • on August 9, 2013, 22:33 GMT

    Nice article. Lyon should definitely been kept in the team ahead of Maxwell and Agar. As for Hughes, I really don't know. In 2009, I was sure he would be better in the middle order. For this series they should have kept him at 6 for the whole series, and then made a decision of whether he could make it as an international cricketer. As it is I am sure he will be back at some point during the next Ashes and he will be in the same position again, no confidence and will fail. I am sorry for him as I have seen it with other talented players like Hick and Ramprakesh. I think Bird is a more accompished bowler than Starc and so should have been picked, but Starc could have been saved for the faster pitches (or pitched as an allrounder).

  • Iddo555 on August 9, 2013, 22:54 GMT

    As an England fan I think Australia need to go back to saviour picking and choose Agar, Lyon is taking too many wickets for my liking. I preferred the next Warne who was averaging 124 per wicket and was throwing pies.

    Bring back Agar please

  • Cricket24 on August 9, 2013, 22:56 GMT

    Great article. Bascially sums up a lot about Australia cricket board's thinking. No wonder their loosing

  • on August 9, 2013, 23:27 GMT

    I don't get the reference to a 32yo finger spinner. Nathan Lyon is only 25. Would be interesting to know what Swann's stats were like at the same age...

  • SheikYerbouti83 on August 10, 2013, 0:15 GMT

    You need to print off several copies of this, put them in big envelopes marked URGENT and send to every Cricket Australia official you can think of. You've just outlined most of the reasons for our poor performances in the last few years. You must be the writer of a generation. The x-factor. The saviour!