Australia A v England XI, Tour match, Hobart November 5, 2013

Henriques A captain in name alone

Moises Henriques has barely had a chance to get over his jetlag before captaining Australia A, but it is a leadership role in name and not much else as decisions are made elsewhere

In Donnie Brasco, Al Pacino's beaten down mob footsoldier Lefty Ruggiero has a moment of pause. Usually harbouring a healthy sense of his own worth, he ponders for a moment to Johnny Depp, playing the title character, about where he actually fits into the grander scheme of Mafia things. "Who am I?" he asks, before providing the answer. "I'm a, a spoke on a wheel … and so are you."

A similar realisation hit the Australia A captain Moises Henriques on the eve of his team's match against Alastair Cook's Englishmen in Hobart. Still jetlagged after returning home from a limited-overs tour of India during which he only played in the opening Twenty20 match, Henriques is set to lead out a team over which he has very little control, not even dictating the batting order as captains are invariably entitled to.

Up north in New South Wales, Josh Hazlewood is similarly at the mercy of central control. As one of eight fast bowlers chosen to be groomed for possible Test match selection this summer he has been rested from the Blues' match against Victoria in Melbourne. Hazlewood did not bowl at all well in the opening match against Tasmania at Blacktown Oval, and in the opinion of his state bowling coach Geoff Lawson needs more time in the middle, not less.

Australian cricket's direction is increasingly dictated by central control, the power residing ever more prominently with Cricket Australia's management in Melbourne. The national team keys are held by the executive general manager team performance, Pat Howard, and it is he and the national selectors who have dictated how Henriques will lead his team, and how much Hazlewood will play. During the India series it was mused more than once that the prevailing ODI playing conditions left captains largely powerless. Likewise Henriques, who will lead by following orders.

"All the roles are already predefined for a one-off match like this, and I think most of the decisions I make will be just on the park and things like that," Henriques said. "Or the roles will be self defined or defined before the game starts, and anything that happens during the match will be more my responsibility.

"I got in yesterday midday to Hobart, feeling okay at this stage, slept pretty well last night through exhaustion more than anything. I should be right for tomorrow. We had plenty of time over there to help ourselves to great training facilities and good coaching, so whilst I wasn't playing cricket I felt I was still improving as a cricketer. I feel like I can come back now and get back into some four-day cricket, and there's going to be a bit before the BBL starts."

Among the pre-ordained dictates of CA will be to ensure the likes of Alex Doolan, Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja get plenty of opportunities to bat against the touring attack. As the next best batsmen outside the Test team, they will be chasing individual goals at Bellerive Oval, and the order in which they walk out to bat will fascinate. All are No. 3 batsmen by trade, but in a line-up also including Michael Klinger, Callum Ferguson, Glenn Maxwell and Tim Paine there will be plenty of jostling for position.

Other considerations will include a desire to make England's players sweat - if such a thing is possible in the face of crisp winds sweeping in off the Derwent River - by batting for as long as possible, then bowling with discipline and tact. Ben Cutting has done both with distinction for Queensland, Trent Copeland likewise for the Blues, and the Victorian spinner Jon Holland will be the latest slow left-armer to try his hand at confounding Kevin Pietersen.

One man who might also have been playing this week is Hazlewood, who instead finds himself out of the Blues' team at the behest of Howard and CA's medical staff. His poor bowling against Tasmania did not change the fact that he will not be playing a first-class match this week - the same result would have followed a 10-wicket haul. Lawson's concerns have been voiced publicly and not endeared him to CA or NSW. But as a compromise, Hazlewood may now play for his grade club over the weekend.

Contrast this, for a moment, with England's approach to fast bowlers, as described by James Anderson. "There's a huge amount of trust there - if bowler wants to bowl it's pretty much allowed," he said. "He'll be told when to stop or when they think we should stop and if we don't want to, [we'll] bowl. They get us in really good condition to work through a five-Test series which is unusual for us and to have back-to-back five-Test series will really test us out. As well as being managed by the coaches and selectors, at the moment I think they've got it spot on."

The whys and wherefores of Hazlewood's status are currently the source of considerable debate. Similarly, the fortunes of Henriques, Maxwell, George Bailey, Aaron Finch and Phillip Hughes, all players taking part in Shield or Australia A matches this week just two days after returning from the subcontinent, will be examined closely. Interested observers will include not only those choosing the Australian Test team for Brisbane, but also the players and coaches who have grown increasingly to question the centralised decision-making of Australian cricket. As for Henriques, he is doing all that a footsoldier can do in the circumstances - his best.

"The only thing I am worried about at the moment is trying to win games for whatever team I am playing for, whether it is down here this week or back at NSW," Henriques said. "The big goal is to put ourselves in position to win the Shield so I think playing good cricket is all I can try and do, and the rest will look after itself."

Said like a spoke on a wheel.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • keval on November 7, 2013, 17:14 GMT

    I think too much of management has spoiled australian sports. Good management can never make players perfect. But good coaches and less management involvement will make players better (good old days). Management is putting too much pressure on players and you can see results with cricket australia. selection should be made purely on basis of merit. who playes better in first class and is in good form. Watson should be dropped and chance shuold be given to players who really deserve it.

  • Mehul on November 7, 2013, 7:19 GMT

    Whats going on with CA? The video title puts it perfectly, 'too much micro management'. I checked Pat Howard's profile & seems to have not played any decent grade level cricket & is making the selection and role calls? There's a saying in sanskrit with translation on these lines - " During the time of destruction, the intellect goes in opposite direction" which aptly fits the state of Aus cricket & administration. Not sure what the Argus report indicated or found. Players come from ODI series & straight into FC matches, huh. Think Satish Acharya can make wonderful cartoons on working of CA and Aus cricket. News of Aus cricket have become source of amusement now!

  • Scott on November 6, 2013, 20:27 GMT

    @Chris_P, I'm not sure what your point is there? You say, if you think Watson has played only one FC game (other than tests) - then in the next sentence try to include test records???? For some reason you're comparing Watson to Henriques based on FC stats when one is playing test cricket and the other playing shield. If you're incapable of coming to the conclusion that we're comparing apples and oranges here, then yes, you're right, there's no point in discussing this further with you! Watson's last shield game was in Nov 2010 - do you disagree?

  • Peter on November 6, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    @jimmy787. You are not the only one who is stumped by the Marsh line of thinking. Last season he avergaed 18, got dropped from the WA state side, hasn't made runs since in the longer format, then gets selected to Captain WA!!? And to be selected for this game is equally puzzling. I got no answer to this one.

  • Paul on November 6, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    You can't learn much about a batsman if he sitting in the sheds. England will be very happy to bat for 4 days at this rate I am sure.

  • David on November 6, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    0-200 Yep thought the bowling attack for Aust A looked insipid. Thought it might be a good idea to really put the English bats under pressure in this game.

  • Tom on November 6, 2013, 3:53 GMT

    Can somebody please explain what is exceptional about Hazlewood? He isn't particularly quick, it doesn't look like he moves the ball a great deal, and isn't remarkable in his accuracy. Those are surely the three bases on which a pace bowler might be selected. The one attribute this bloke has is his height - but is that really more important than actual fast bowling skills? Don't know what CA sees in him. Oh wait, he's from NSW - no need for explanation after all.

  • David on November 6, 2013, 0:32 GMT

    Hazelwood should be playing shield cricket period. There is no sense in resting him, he has done next to nothing. Bowlers need to bowl. What is the point in having him uninjured and available but not match fit and with no confidence?

  • Peter on November 5, 2013, 23:56 GMT

    @ScottStevo. I guess we better leave it be. If you think Watson has only played ONE First Class match (other than tests) since 2010 I can understand why you don't believe in statistics. Last time I checked, Tests were included in First Class figures, & let me tell you, Watson's makes for very poor reading. See, I have watched Henriques also, since he made his debut as an 18yo & he always impressed me as something special, & it was always frustrating when someone has got those talents & doesn't deliver. This last year he has put results on the board. Is he ready for tests? I wouldn't pick him yet, but only to let him deliver a full season of results. He also doesn't have injury problems & his bowling figures show him with a FC average of 28 with a promising strike-rate for an extra bowler. Mark Taylor rates him highly, also as a leader, so others see him with the talent as well. To each their own, though.

  • Mark on November 5, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    I know that statistics aren't everything to go by, but Shaun Marsh averages less than 35 in first class cricket. And he is next in line for an Australian number 3 berth?

    Wow have standards slipped in Australian cricket...

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