CA’s contract list and Inverarity’s comments an eye to the Ashes

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

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    Chairman of selectors John Inverarity. Photo: AFP/William West

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    Cricket Australia’s list of centrally contracted players for 2013-14 has increased in number by three from last year’s list, but the newly anointed group of 20 has some interesting omissions.

    Missing from the list is a quartet of players who all have claims to an Ashes berth in the forthcoming twin home-and-away series – Usman Khawaja, Jackson Bird, Steve Smith and Moises Henriques.

    History indicates that missing out on a central contract is not necessarily an impediment to national selection but, in many ways, the list gives an insight into the thoughts of the National Selection Panel (NSP).

    Nowadays the contract list is heavily biased towards players who are deemed to be ‘employable’ across all formats with many viewed as suitable options across all three – Test, one-day and T20 – while others are seen as specialists in the two shorter forms of the game.

    Very few who are viewed as Test players only have been contracted of late – Ed Cowan (for the first time), and to a lesser degree Nathan Lyon, appear the only two to get the nod this year.

    That trend may have contributed to the omissions of Khawaja and Bird who at present are seen as Test specialists.

    But the other two who were left out – Henriques and Smith – are a different matter.

    Smith handled himself far better than most with the bat on the recent India series, despite his initial selection in the tour party being seen by most as highly contentious.

    Called up for the third Test at Mohali, he scored 92 and 5 and followed up with knocks of 46 and 18 in the final encounter at Delhi.

    Interestingly, his two innings of substance in India were compiled with moderate strike rates – his 92 at 49.7 and his 46 at 31.7 – belying his reputation as a limited-overs specialist.

    He has played 33 ODIs and 20 T20Is so it is a little surprising that he did not make the cut.

    His inclusion in the squad to India may simply been a have been horses for courses selection given his ability to cope with spin and not necessarily an eye to the future with regard to the Ashes.

    Henriques started the India series with great promise, scoring 68 and 81 not out in the series opener at Chennai.

    He was unable to get anywhere near those efforts in the next two Tests with scores of 5, 0, 0 and 2.

    His bowling was economical against a rampant Indian batting line-up but seldom looked threatening.

    Like Smith, he has played all forms for Australia but it would appear that the selectors want him to do more at domestic level before being recalled to the international fray.

    The beneficiary of Henriques missing out is young Tasmanian all-rounder James Faulkner who was upgraded on the back of his performances in five ODIs and three T20Is in the past 12 months.

    Veteran Brad Haddin – called in to replace an injured Matthew Wade for the Delhi Test – has retained his contract, pointing very strongly to the fact that he is viewed by the NSP as the back-up ‘keeper to Wade ahead of the likes of Tim Paine and Chris Hartley.

    Among the other big winners in the latest contract list are two pace bowlers at opposite ends of their careers – Pat Cummins and Ryan Harris.

    Both have spent more time in the last few years in therapy than on the field but they have had the NSP’s faith in them maintained.

    Nineteen-year-old Cummins has hardly bowled a ball in anger following his man-of-the-match winning Test debut at Johannesburg in November 2011 but the selectors have him very much in the frame to play a significant role in national colours in the next 12 months.

    At 33, Harris has played just 12 Tests but in those matches – 47 wickets at 23.6 – he has shown his worth when fully fit.

    Returning to first-class ranks with Queensland late in the Shield season he captured 19 wickets at 22.3 in three matches.

    Having got back into Shield ranks and performed well, the granting of a contract virtually stamps him as an Ashes squad certainty.

    Ben Hilfenhaus, somewhat of a forgotten man over the summer due to a long-term side injury, has been retained.

    Like Harris, Hilfenhaus got back on the paddock late in the Shield season and showed his worth with hauls of 4-84 and 4-33 against beaten finalists Queensland at the Gabba in mid-March.

    All-rounder Glenn Maxwell has been given a contract this time around, as has Phillip Hughes, George Bailey and Clint McKay.

    Bailey’s inclusion is an interesting one.

    As the national T20 captain and a member of the ODI team he deserves to be there but just where he fits into the NSP’s plans for the Ashes series is another matter.

    Many fans have called for him to be included in the squad to England but his form in Shield ranks this summer for Tasmania paints a very bleak picture of his abilities at first-class level – 256 runs at 18.3 with one half-century (66) in eight matches.

    Mitchell Johnson has been retained on the list, but at 31 years of age, he needs to make an impact over the next 12 months to return the selectors’ faith.

    Xavier Doherty is still contracted but given his lacklustre performances in India he can surely only be looked upon now as a limited-overs prospect.

    Tellingly at the announcement of the new contract list, chairman of selectors John Inverarity spoke at length about two old stagers – Chris Rogers (35) and Adam Voges (33).

    He mentioned both as possible Ashes tourists and well he might given the current dearth of quality batsmen in the Australian system.

    The state of the country’s batting stocks was further underlined by the fact that only six specialist batsmen were included in the list of 20 contracted players.

    Given the current drought plight, one man who would potentially be kicking himself is David Hussey.

    The 35-year-old has long been considered one of the unluckiest players in recent history given the fact that he has never got the call-up to don the baggy green despite wearing the national colours 108 times at ODI and T20 level.

    He has had a stellar first-career with an aggregate of 12,697 runs at 52.9, but alas this summer he bottomed out badly.

    In nine Shield matches for Victoria he managed just 358 runs at 23.9.

    That performance, along with a lean ODI summer, saw him lose his central contract, and with it, perhaps any remaining hopes of playing Test cricket.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (111)

    • April 4th 2013 @ 5:28am
      eagleJack said | April 4th 2013 @ 5:28am | ! Report

      You nailed it in your 3rd paragraph.

      “History indicates that missing out on a central contract is not necessarily an impediment to national selection”.

      Bird, Khawaja and Smith will all play their part in the upcoming Ashes series.

      I was a little surprised they handed out 20 contracts yesterday. Up from 17 last year I would have thought that that number would have decreased significantly this year. If you want to talk about it only going to those that deserve it then only 1 should have been handed out.

      But I guess that would have been an embarrassing admission that we really are seeing a dearth of talent in Australian cricket right now

      • April 4th 2013 @ 7:33am
        Matt F said | April 4th 2013 @ 7:33am | ! Report

        Agreed. The fact that Cowan didn’t get a contract last year, but ended up playing every test match, suggests that we shouldn’t read too much into this re Ashes selections.

        The biggest concern was Inverarity saying that he believed the Ashes squad would be very similar to the India squad!

        • April 4th 2013 @ 8:29am
          Freddy of Bondi said | April 4th 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

          I agree. He actually said that they picked the best Australian side possible in India! Is this man for real??

          • April 4th 2013 @ 9:22am
            MrKistic said | April 4th 2013 @ 9:22am | ! Report

            Well he’s hardly going to come out and talk about how terrible he was at his job is he?? A little contrition would be nice though, perhaps he could even admit that by talking about Rogers and Voges in the same breath, despite talking about them playing in England, they possibly didn’t pick the best available XI in India.

            • April 4th 2013 @ 11:04am
              Matt F said | April 4th 2013 @ 11:04am | ! Report

              I think it would have been better received if he did admit to making mistakes. Everybody will make mistakes but the important thing is learning from them to improve in the future. Inverarity’s comment was head in the sand stuff.

              Even if they did genuinely believe that the India squad was the best available squad, a 4-0 defeat should lead them to at least consider the possibility that they may have been wrong on certain players. Apparently that’s not the case

              • April 6th 2013 @ 8:57pm
                A Punter said | April 6th 2013 @ 8:57pm | ! Report

                Good point. It seems that the people in charge of Australian cricket have such big egos that they can never be wrong.

      • April 4th 2013 @ 11:30am
        Ken Hambling said | April 4th 2013 @ 11:30am | ! Report

        Some common sense comments here EagleJack, about 5 guys not on contracts will go in the ashes squad and Khawaja/Bird are near certainties out of them. I expect both of them to do very well for us. And as for the comment We are looking for consistent, prolific run-scorers in all forms of cricket” – my goodness, there’s the biggest issue staring right at you. How many batters we know who can be a mindless hitter in T20s and have genuinely good technique for the 5 day game at the same time? Now we know the source of the problem.

        • April 4th 2013 @ 1:39pm
          Sanjay said | April 4th 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

          +1

          • April 4th 2013 @ 9:58pm
            Praveen said | April 4th 2013 @ 9:58pm | ! Report

            +2

    • April 4th 2013 @ 6:05am
      rossco said | April 4th 2013 @ 6:05am | ! Report

      Qld first in 20/20, first in one day, second in Sheffield Shield and we get one player a hopeless squad. It is very obvious the selectors do not rate the Sheffield Shield. Now there’s your problem.

    • April 4th 2013 @ 8:21am
      Chui said | April 4th 2013 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      Maybe I’m showing my clear bias for the long form of the game, but I find it hard to get my head around Maxwell and Johnson getting a gig. Maxwell in particular needs to go away for twelve months and earn a contract.

      If Jackson Bird wasn’t injured, would he have got a start? But then again Cummins did.

      *scratch head*

    • April 4th 2013 @ 8:56am
      Christo the Daddyo said | April 4th 2013 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      “That trend may have contributed to the omissions of Khawaja and Bird who at present are seen as Test specialists.”

      Yes, because Khawaja has played so many Tests hasn’t he…

      • April 4th 2013 @ 11:26am
        Ken Hambling said | April 4th 2013 @ 11:26am | ! Report

        I have said it before and will say it agian, these contracts consist of test, ODI and T20 specialists, guys such as Khawaja will not only be in the squad but should be in the top 6 batsman come the first ashes test, and Inevarity made this clear yesterday. On a seperate note there should be a winter comp arranged, or one early in Spring, to allow long stay batting practice (Aust a versus B) and not the 20/20 nonsense that promote players with a good eye and a poor technique.

        • April 4th 2013 @ 1:40pm
          Sanjay said | April 4th 2013 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          UTK will have his time in the ashes, shame he wasn’t able to get a game in before the ashes but that’s just how its worked out.

          • April 5th 2013 @ 8:58am
            Praveen said | April 5th 2013 @ 8:58am | ! Report

            It will be tough for him but he can do it

    • April 4th 2013 @ 9:19am
      Nick Inatey said | April 4th 2013 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      I just find it astonishing that Australia was so comprehensively outplayed in India, yet 15 of the 17 who played have been rewarded with a contract! How can you reward such mediocrity en masse?

      What happened to the days of dropping people for poor performance, instead of paying them.

      Australian cricketers = Cashed up bogans. Paid way too much, and don’t ever work

      • April 4th 2013 @ 2:29pm
        Bob said | April 4th 2013 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

        Be interesting to see what happens if we go Down badly England. By then the selectors will be under siege from the press and cricket following public. But there won’t be au lot of first class cricket to find new players before the first test next spring.

      • April 4th 2013 @ 9:54pm
        Train Without A Station said | April 4th 2013 @ 9:54pm | ! Report

        Mate, run through the list of who else you would contract then. The players just aren’t there.

    • April 4th 2013 @ 9:39am
      Hairy Pear said | April 4th 2013 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      Some of these selections are totally stupid. Inverarity said D Hussey missed out because he is too old & they are focussing on youth but they give a contract to Haddin. Bird misses out but they give a contract to Johnson. If everyone is fit, Haddin & Johnson shouldn’t get a game in the next 12 months. Money well spent. I can’t even begin to work out how Maxwell got a contract.

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