Simon Katich has lashed out at the Australian board and selectors after being omitted from the list of contracted players for next season, and his stats over the last three years show just why the decision has incensed him so much.
After being out of the national team for two-and-a-half years, Katich returned in the middle of 2008 had three of his best years in Test cricket. (Click here for Katich's career summary.) He'd averaged only 36 in his first 23 Tests, before May 2008, but was fantastic when he returned, averaging more than 50 in 33 matches. Eight of his ten Test hundreds came during this period, and he was easily Australia's leading batsman: no one else averaged 50, with Michael Clarke's 46.51 being the next-best. Overall, only Alastair Cook scored more runs than Katich during this period, while Katich's 25 fifty-plus scores was also second only to Cook's 27.
Of his 2928 runs, 1495 runs came in wins at an average of 59.80 with five hundreds - all three are the best for Australia during this period. And at a time when Australia weren't doing so well overseas, Katich stood out in away series too, scoring 1857 runs at 50.18, with six centuries. Among the Australians who played at least ten overseas Tests, the next-best average was Clarke's 43.66.
Katich's ability to stay at the crease for long periods also meant he forged many meaningful partnerships with the top order. The top three pairs in the last three years, in terms of runs scored, all feature Katich - he added more than 1000 runs with Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Of the 47 century stands that Australia managed during this period, Katich was in 17, which is a healthy 36%. Six of those were with Ponting, but there were also six other batsmen with whom Katich had at least one century partnership. (Click here for the full list of partnerships for Australia during this period.)
One of the reasons for his exclusion that particularly enraged him was the fact that the selectors wanted to groom an opening pair for the 2013 Ashes. "To be given the reason that it's because the opening partnership needs to bed down for 2013, when I know for a fact that Watto [Shane Watson] and I have thoroughly enjoyed opening together, and it's been one of the bright spots of our team in the last two years, I find it very hard to believe that [a new partnership needs to come in]."
Again, the numbers completely justify Katich's comment. Since the pair started opening the batting in the 2009 Ashes series, Katich and Watson have scored 1523 partnership runs at the top of the order, averaging 54.39 per completed stand. On average, they topped 50 once every two innings, which was an excellent cushion for an Australian middle order that wasn't in great form. No other opening pair scored as many as they did, and among the top ones only one - Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir - had a higher average during this period.
In the six innings that Watson paired up with Phil Hughes in last season's Ashes, they only managed an average of 33.67 and a highest partnership of 55. With tough tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa coming up, Australia's opening pair will need to do much better than that. Whoever takes up the job from the list of contenders will have huge shoes to fill.