Why Ryan Harris should play at The Oval
As Australia deal with the aftermath of not only losing the Ashes series but also the convincing, even venomous, manner in which England crushed their batting to end the fourth Test, the two real positives that have emerged for sleep-weary folk Down Under are Ryan Harris and Chris Rogers.
Their efforts in Durham did not deserve to be left so unrewarded by the final result, but they can at least be consoled by the thought that they have proven themselves beyond all doubt as Test-match cricketers for their country.
I've had a lot to do with Ryan through playing together in the IPL, getting to know him as a cricketer and a man. It's certainly no surprise to see him achieve the success that's come his way in this series. In my experience he embodies everything that is required of the perfect team cricketer. Ryan drives himself as hard as he possibly can for personal excellence, but in pursuing that it's all done with a vision focused on whatever the team requires at any given moment.
Whether he's opening up with a new-ball spell, backing up late in the day for his 22nd over, or being part of a social function and trying to develop a sense of collective spirit, he's very aware of what being a team member is about. I've never seen him shy away from those requirements, whether written or unwritten. A particularly important quality is the amount of interest he shows in his team-mates. He's always been prepared to listen rather than be the dominant voice in the room, and that sort of humility helps enormously in creating a closeness among those around him.
To this point Ryan's greatest challenge has been fitness, and his efforts in England make it easy to wonder how much better Australia may have performed at various times in recent years had a fit Ryan Harris always been available to them. He's a strong guy and he works hard, but unfortunately he's someone who has found a way of picking up what starts as a niggling injury and then can develop into something more significant, leading to time on the sidelines.
With that in mind, it will be fascinating to see which way Australia's selectors go for the final Test of the series. England have themselves lost the sorely underrated Tim Bresnan to a back stress fracture, and the tourists will not want to follow suit. While mindful of the opportunity to rest guys who may be injured and therefore miss future matches, I think Ryan himself deep down would dearly like to play at The Oval. When you've missed as much cricket as he has through injury, and don't know how much you have left, you want to take every opportunity to go out and play.
Australia have a chance to show some of the resolve they demonstrated for most of the two Test matches at Old Trafford and Chester-le-Street, and try to get the kind of result that would lead to a more positive mindset when they start the return series back home. I've always felt that if they're all fit, you pick your best XI, and under those terms Ryan is just about the first man who should be chosen. Only he will truly know if he has any niggles or issues that may stop him from making it through that Test match, but I hope for Australia's sake that he plays.
Having taken part in the 2008 Perth Test match that for so long seemed destined to be Chris Rogers' one and only game for Australia, I've been delighted to see him get a decent opportunity in this series, and even more so to see how tightly he has grabbed it. He was picked specifically for the tour, given his experience in England and the stability he would provide, and he has more than ticked off all of the things that were asked of him. He's been a terrific example to the whole team of how to go about your batting, how to build an innings and provide a solid foundation for the rest.
When he came into the WACA ground dressing room six years ago, he was someone stepping into an Australian team that had been very successful for many years, though we were towards the end of that run and had bid farewell to a few iconic players already. At that stage of the summer, after the dramas surrounding the end of the Sydney Test, we were probably a little bit lost, and he's said in years since that it perhaps wasn't the most comfortable change room at the time. That makes for an interesting comparison with the team Chris has become a part of now, but the main thing he has achieved is to show what can be done when a batsman knows his game and his job very clearly.
Of course, innings of the quality of his 84 at Old Trafford and then his wonderfully gutsy century in Durham raise the question about why Chris was not chosen earlier. For years Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden kept him out of the team with their unshakeable partnership. But once they retired, it appeared the selectors felt that - as he had passed the age of 30 - it was time to start giving younger players an opportunity and get early twentysomethings into the team. That was a judgement made at the time, but fortunately for Australia, Chris kept at it and was belatedly given a chance.
Having taken it up so grandly, there is no reason he should not now play many more Test matches for Australia, going on for as long as he wants to. The collapse of the batting on the fourth evening of the Durham Test showed that Chris' skills and character are in increasingly short supply, and should be valued as such.
At 33 and 35, Ryan and Chris are products of the older Australian cricket scene that pushed the importance of the Sheffield Shield through the 1990s and into the 2000s. If any players of more recent generations are wondering about what is required to become reliable first-class cricketers and then quality Test-match performers, these two men provide a priceless example of how to do so.
Adam Gilchrist was speaking to Daniel Brettig
Adam Gilchrist played 96 Tests for Australia as a wicketkeeper-batsman and was part of three winning Ashes campaigns