Confusion, madness reign supreme in Australian cricket

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Australian Cricket selector John Inverarity speaks with spin bowler Nathan Lyon. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

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It’s been a confusing couple of days in Australian cricket. After reading some of the comments in the media, one can only assume that a temporary case of madness has descended over the sport.

First of all, we had Cricket Australia’s High Performance Manager, Pat Howard, and Test captain Michael Clarke stating that all-rounder Shane Watson would need to be fit enough to bowl in order to be selected for the second Test against South Africa.

However, Watson has since confirmed that he won’t be bowling in Adelaide, yet confusingly said that he maintains hope he would still be selected for the Adelaide Test after rejoining the squad this week.

Even more confusing, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Selection Chairman John Inverarity stated Watson could play as a specialist batsmen, provided he could prove his fitness. This obviously dramatically contradicts what Howard and Clarke said.

It certainly seems that not everyone is on the same page at Cricket Australia.

Yet it’s not just those within the inner sanctum that have been saying some strange things.

Respected cricket writer Malcolm Conn suggested that Watson is not good enough to be selected as a top six batsmen for Australia, and that Rob Quiney should therefore retain his position in the team.

Come again?

Before I launch my spirited defence of Watson, let me first clarify that if Watson cannot bowl due to his calf strain, then I don’t believe he should be selected. But not because he isn’t one of Australia’s top six batsmen, but because it clearly means he’s not 100% healthy.

If there are question marks over your ability to send down a few overs, then you are obviously not 100% fit.

As a top order batsmen, it is expected that you should be sufficiently healthy enough to bat an entire day – something I struggle to believe you could do if you have not completely overcome your injury concerns.

However, I’m no medical specialist, so I spoke to respected Sydney physiotherapist John Panagopoulos from Active Physiotherapy.

Panagopoulos has worked with numerous cricket teams around the world during Twenty20 tournaments, along with having an affiliation with the Sydney Cricket Club.

Understandably, Panagopoulos can’t diagnose Watson from media reports. However, he did tell me that it’s reasonable to think that if Watson can’t bowl, then he can’t be 100% fit, and may have issues running, sprinting in the field, and turning quickly when batting.

So I have no drama in Watson remaining out of the side if he isn’t fit enough to bowl. But only because it suggests he’s not fit enough to bat and/or field either, especially for a five day match.

However, that doesn’t translate to Watson suddenly not being one of Australia’s best six batsmen.

Especially when the player nominated as a better candidate was Rob Quiney. I’m sorry, but by any calculation, that is sheer madness.

I thought Quiney appeared comfortable during his short time at the crease at the Gabba, and Conn said he believed he deserved another chance because he looked ‘polished’. I have no idea when ‘comfortable’ and ‘polished’ became the standard on which batsmen were judged.

Without being rude, I think it’s important to remember that Quiney scored a measly nine runs. Yet you would think he scored 99 the way some experts are suggesting he should take Watson’s spot.

I have nothing against Quiney. I enjoy watching him bat, and was very pleased he got selected, for he thoroughly deserved it. However, he’s simply not in Watson’s class.

Quiney averages 37 in first class cricket. Watson averages 44. Quiney averages 9 in Test cricket. Watson averages 37. And let’s not even discuss Watson’s awards, accolades and accomplishments at the elite level.

Case closed. Nothing more to see here. Jog along.

You could argue that Watson doesn’t convert his starts into big hundreds, and I would agree. You can state that Watson has only averaged 25 runs in five Tests over the last 12 months, and you would be right.

But if you tell me that Quiney is a better batsmen or more accomplished than Watson, I think we’re going to have a serious disagreement.

I have no issue with Quiney taking Watson’s spot if the latter is unhealthy, but that doesn’t mean the Victorian is a better batsmen.

Rule Watson out if he’s injured, but don’t claim he’s not one of Australia’s best batsmen. His record may not be exceptional, but his class is undeniable and Australia do not have an abundance of talented batsmen at present.

While on the subject of madness, riddle me this, those that say Watson should be fit enough to bowl to get selected, but are happy to see him bat number three if he is: if Shane Watson truly is not one of Australia’s top six batsmen, what the hell is he doing batting at first drop, arguably the most important position in the team?

Just to round off the madness, last week Mitchell Johnson stated that he was ready for a Test recall in Adelaide.

I respect Johnson’s positive outlook and I love that the fact he still has ambitions to make it back into the Test arena, but to be blunt, he’s a fair way down the fast bowling pecking order at present.

There is nothing to suggest that if Johnson finds some consistent form and takes a bagful of wickets that he couldn’t wear the baggy green again. But for him to suggest it could have been for the second Test this week is slightly embarrassing, along with a little disrespectful to the many bowlers currently ranked ahead of him.

They say cricket is funny old game, and it’s certainly been a funny old couple of days.

Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.
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