Henriques: has Australia unearthed a diamond in the rough?

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Moises Henriques has rather unexpectedly taken to Test cricket like a duck to water.

Despite his obvious and undoubted natural ability, Henriques boasts a rather mediocre first class record as a bowing all rounder.

Rather tentatively and perhaps foolishly I’m going to pigeon hole Henriques as a sportsman that improves as the quality of competition rises.

Henriques is following a well-blazed trail of the sportsman that continues to improve as they rise through the ranks. I’m sure we all have a story of the local kid that wasn’t necessarily the best kid in junior sporting teams but has moved into elite level status at the professional level.

Michael Vaughan is the immediate example that comes to mind. Vaughan will forever be remembered for his lone hand performances in England’s Australian Ashes tour that foreshadowed the incredible 2005 series.

It is an oft trotted out comment that players need to average 50 with the bat or 20 with the ball in domestic cricket to forge a successful Test career. Australian selectors have been derided for their selections of Xavier Doherty, Ed Cowan or Shaun Marsh who have had largely uninspiring Shield careers.

However, according to this criterion someone like Michael Vaughan wouldn’t have been afforded an opportunity at international cricket.

Vaughan had a county cricket average of about 37 when first selected for England.

Vaughan went on to forge a career as one of the great English cricketers of the past 25 years and indeed performed better on the international stage than many of his contemporaries of the same period that boasted superior first class records.

This illustrates, as Moises has last week, that cricket selections boil down to more than just runs and wickets.

I wrote an article a few days ago about the importance of team dynamics in selection and a gut feeling as it is often referred to can often be just as important.

Having been involved in professional sporting sides, the greatest example I have seen of an athlete stepping up his or her performance while rising through the ranks is Jarryd Hayne.

There has been tremendous hype surrounding Hayne since he burst into Jersey Flegg as a 17-year-old in 2005.

In the dressing rooms I can’t describe how many times I was told he would play for Australia, or heard him referred to as a freak by first and reserve grade players dumbfounded by the astonishing abilities of a 17-year-old rookie just out of SG Ball.

This sort of hype is not easy to generate in an environment of highly talented professional athletes that romped to a first grade minor premiership.

When he finally stepped up into Jersey Flegg after four months of SG Ball, it’s fair to say that I was more than a little disappointed.

Playing his preferred fullback position at Campbelltown Stadium, he constantly appeared out of position, had no impact in attack and failed to field a few bombs.

Due to first grade’s unexpected demise in the preliminary final at the hands of North Queensland, Matt Peterson was unavailable for the Premier League Grand Final and Hayne was brought into the side at right wing for what I recall was to be his reserve grade debut.

Forty minutes later he had touched down three times to secure a comfortable victory for the Blue and Golds.

The rest of his rapid rise has played out in the public arena, from his first three months of first grade, to his dominance of State of Origin football as a winger behind a beaten pack and the truly incredible feats of 2009.

The kid has truly got better and appeared to be a superior footballer as the class of opposition has improved. Here’s hoping Moises Henriques can forge a successful international career in the well trodden paths of Michael Vaughan and Jarryd Hayne.

God knows Australia could use a diamond appearing in the rough right about now.

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