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It’s time we all forgot about Phil Hughes

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Phil Hughes. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

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    Even amid Australia’s Ashes celebrations, many home fans have been arguing for changes to the batting line-up.

    On sports websites and social media there have been frequent calls to drop any or all of George Bailey, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson.

    Following their poor dismissals in the first innings there was justified concern about their form.

    But Australia are in the luxurious situation of being on a roll in this Ashes series.

    They can afford to provide further opportunities to newcomers Bailey and Rogers, in particular.

    The one name that has dominated debate about potential batting replacements is Phil Hughes.

    I cannot fathom why.

    The 25-year-old has been an abject failure the last two times he has been given a crack at Test cricket.

    Between December 2010 and December 2011 he played 10 Tests on the trot for a batting average of 24.

    He was then dropped after a horrendous home series against New Zealand.

    Hughes returned to the side in December last year and over a run of nine consecutive Tests averaged 29.

    This paltry average was inflated by cheap runs against a toothless Sri Lankan attack on home soil.

    Against robust opposition on the tours of India and England, he averaged 21 over six Tests.

    He looked slightly more assured against pace than he had during his previous run in the Test line-up.

    But his struggle against spin was downright comical.

    From the 259 balls of spin he faced in India, he scored just 74 runs, while being dismissed seven times.

    I am acutely aware of the full extent of Hughes’ woes during this tour as I kept ungodly hours to watch every day of the four-Test series.

    It has been argued by some that he overcame his struggles with the Indian tweakers in the back half of that series.

    He did not. Hughes simply began throwing his bat, seemingly out of desperation due to the lack of a more constructive plan.

    He rode his luck to scores of 69 in the third Test and 45 in the final match.

    When he astoundingly avoided being dropped for the first Ashes Test he abandoned that reckless approach to the spinners and reverted to type.

    The result? In 76 balls he faced from Graeme Swann he scored just nine runs, while twice losing his wicket.

    Once again he was exposed for having no reliable methods of getting off strike against a Test spinner.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Hughes should never again wear the baggy green.

    He has another decade of cricket left in him and may well become a far more versatile batsman.

    But why would Australia recall him to the side just months after the end of his last woeful stint in the Test side?

    His supporters say the reason is obvious – he is piling up runs in the Sheffield Shield.

    That is nothing new, however.

    Hughes has always been a class above the majority of his opponents at State level.

    Each time he has been reinstated to the Test team it has been on the back of brilliant efforts in the Shield.

    Then he has swiftly proven he is not up to Test standard.

    History is strewn with stories of athletes who dominated lower leagues but could never reproduce similar success when offered opportunities at the highest level of their sport.

    Others, like Ryan Harris and Mike Hussey, have done the reverse.

    Both were merely good Shield cricketers before exceeding all expectations by becoming phenomenal Test players.

    Since making an astounding start to his career in South Africa more than four years ago, Hughes has averaged 27 in his past 23 Tests.

    He has been tried and failed, and tried and failed.

    It is time to move on and offer a chance to someone new.

    Who knows, in doing so Australia might unearth the next Hussey or Harris?

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (269)

    • December 19th 2013 @ 5:33am
      Christo the Daddyo said | December 19th 2013 @ 5:33am | ! Report

      “Hughes returned to the side in December last year and over a run of nine consecutive Tests averaged 29.”

      Fair enough point. And what was Shane Watson’s average during this time? Or any Australian batsman barring Michael Clarke?

      • December 19th 2013 @ 6:50am
        Praveen said | December 19th 2013 @ 6:50am | ! Report

        Good writers Ronan, for guys such as Hughes and khawaja they need time in shield cricket to come back strongly, our issue as fans is that we jump on the bandwagon as as soon as a player gets a few centuries, I did the same when khawaja was killing it in Ryobi cup, then we jumped on Doolan when he got a century and now we are doing the same for Hughes when he got runs in the last month, forget about just a few good innings and leave our best young batsman in khawaja and Hughes in shield so they come back hardened batsman, for now we must stick to the winning combination even though bailey has yet to convince me but I wish him luck

      • December 19th 2013 @ 8:11am
        Jammel said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        Agree – what were Watson’s stats during the same matches? And Cowan? And Khawaja?

        I think once Rogers and Watson are gone from the top 3, Hughes is the future.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 10:05am
        Matt F said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        It’s hard to compare as not all players played in the same matches but over the same general period, Warner averaged about 32 and Watson averaged about 18.

        Given how unsettled our line up was over that period it as difficult to compare him to anyone else. The only other players that could have been included would have been Cowan and Clarke but we know that Clarke was far ahead of everybody already and Cowan is obviously no longer in the frame for Test selection so there didn’t seem much point.

        • Columnist

          December 19th 2013 @ 12:19pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          It’s not once but twice in a row he’s been offered a decent run in the side and failed miserably, particularly so when he’s had the face tougher opposition like in India and England.

          • December 19th 2013 @ 1:36pm
            davros said | December 19th 2013 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

            im almost tending to agree with you on this one Ronan…I have allways been a big Hughes fan…and he is going gangbusters for my beloved Redbacks …if he stays in the shield we will lift the trophy this year …but all that aside I have been thinking much the same myself …is his technique REALLY up to Test standard with a swinging ball and a green seaming pitch ? Im not sure …and we really do have some exciting young talent coming thru….if Hughes is to come back and I think 24 is way to young to be writing any body off…he must do it thru sheer persistency and weight of runs…I really think he will have to score and score massively and consistently to be given a look in again…and if he does get back he had better grab it with both hands

            • Columnist

              December 19th 2013 @ 4:24pm
              Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

              davros I’m less concerned about his technique against the moving ball than his inability to score from or keep out spinners.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 8:31pm
                Paul Giles said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:31pm | ! Report

                I agree about Hughes’ inability to play spin and that’s why people are saying he should be considered for South Africa as they don’t have a spinner and haven’t had a good one in my lifetime. I hope Bailey proves me wrong but I just can’t see him making any runs against the South African pace attack whereas on the subcontinent, I think Bailey is the better option than Hughes.

              • Columnist

                December 19th 2013 @ 10:18pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:18pm | ! Report

                Paul the problem is that straight after the SA series we have 7 Tests against Pak and India where Hughes would be buffeted by spin.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 10:31pm
                Paul Giles said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:31pm | ! Report

                Where do we play Pakistan next year? India’s bowlers won’t have much of an effect down here, I tend to remember Ashwin taking 9 wickets at 62 two years ago. Australia and South Africa are graveyards for off-spinners. It is not ideal to chop and change your test team too much. I see it like Monty Panesar though. When England play on the subcontinent, he must play, when they don’t he struggles to get a game. My point is I think you can interchange one batting spot in your order if you don’t have a really good batting line-up like we had for close to 20 years. So until a really good player arrives, maybe it is best to play Hughes or North against South Africa and give Bailey a chance in the test matches against Pakistan.

              • Columnist

                December 19th 2013 @ 10:49pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:49pm | ! Report

                Australia play Pakistan in the UAE Paul…3 Tests in October.

            • Roar Guru

              December 19th 2013 @ 4:28pm
              wisey_9 said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

              Apologies for rehashing something I’ve said before, but ruling out someone because of the ‘technique’ is ludicrous. Some of the greatest batsmen in history have techniques that would make the Don cringe.

              Going back to an old comment of mine – in order to take all of the emotion out of selection, I’d favor a Buchanan-like academic approach to it all. I don’t have access to anywhere near the amount of data required, but I’m sure you could do an analysis over the past 10 years of Test/First Class cricket to figure out what constitutes a loss of form, and what is simply a bad patch.

              For arguments sake, lets say that 10 poor innings in a row is a droppable offence. After that, selection becomes pretty simple. A batsman is only dropped from the Test side once his average is the lowest (or in the bottom 2) of the batsmen in the side (i.e. the top 6) for 10 consecutive innings. Their replacement would be simple reverse of this – the batsman who has the best average over the past 10 Shield innings. Of course this is a bare bones solution, and adjustments to the formula would have to be taken into account for Australia A games, County cricket and the like, but the general gist is workable.

              Apologies for the long-winded comment. My answer to your question is – within my system – Hughes gets as many chances at Test level as his form dictates.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 1:22pm
                Rob McLean said | December 20th 2013 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

                Why would the Don cringe? By all reports, his technique was considered unorthodox by many. His ability over rode that ‘deficiency’.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 9:43pm
        Wozza said | December 19th 2013 @ 9:43pm | ! Report

        Maybe he’s worth a go under boof … He’s worked miracles with everyone else …

    • December 19th 2013 @ 6:46am
      Steve said | December 19th 2013 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      Yep, forget Hughes like we were told to forget Johnson.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 8:18am
        AlanKC said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:18am | ! Report

        At this moment though it appears Johnson did what was required to become a consistent performer at test level – I’d suggest Hughes needs a bit more time to develop his skills (much as Ronan said “He has another decade of cricket left in him and may well become a far more versatile batsman.”).

        • December 19th 2013 @ 10:05am
          Pope Paul VII said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

          Dunno about that, Johnners always had the skill and speed. He’s already made a solid return last summer. For some reason Mickey and the selectors went off him in India with Starc preferred and dubious allrounders and then effectively dudded him for the Ashes in England.

          The selectors seem to be forever forgiving the faults of some, Watto, Smith, Warner but for others, like Hughes and Khawaja it’s a different ball game. Happily for Hughes he’s still in the game. It’s debatable whether Bailey has brought much to the team in terms of his primary skill but you never know I guess.

          • December 19th 2013 @ 10:17am
            Andy said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:17am | ! Report

            Completely agree that for some their faults are completely ignored. When Hughes burst onto the scene he looked unorthodox but comfy. They then sent him packing when even Stevie Wonder knew he’d been given two of the most dubious decisions anyone could receive. No one deserves to be sent home for not being out, but they did and it set the kid back a long way. It killed his confidence and momentum, then everyone wondered what happened to him. It wouldn’t bother me if the same standards applied across the board, but they never have.

            • Columnist

              December 19th 2013 @ 12:21pm
              Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

              Johnson was a former ICC Player of the Year with more than 200 Test wickets to his name…comparing him with Hughes is disingenuous.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 12:50pm
                Daniel Hackett said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

                You love that word, Ronan! lol

              • December 19th 2013 @ 1:27pm
                Steve said | December 19th 2013 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

                Johnson was ICC Player of the year in 2009, the year the Poms broke him during the Ashes (although save for the 2nd Test at Lord’s he wasn’t that bad to be honest).

                Interestingly it is also the year that Hughes debuted in South Africa with a series just as fantastic as MJ’s. If he hadn’t been dropped after 2 Tests in the Ashes, there is no reason why he couldn’t have performed, which surely would have put him in contention for Emerging Player of the year.

                Besides, we are not comparing Johnson and Hughes’ skills or techniques, although we could. Rather we are comparing the media reactions the two players have received. Before the current Ashes series, even though Johnson was an ICC Player of the Year as you rightly point out, we only heard how terrible it would be if he were to play in the Ashes. The fact that he has previously torn South Africa and even England in individual test to shreds meant nothing apparently. Turned out well for us Aussie fans, not so much for those pundits who predicted gloom.

              • Columnist

                December 19th 2013 @ 4:32pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

                Steve I think it was fair to have doubts about Mitch’s ability to perform consistently when he’d averaged 40 with the ball in Tests the previous 3 years. But I think you’ll find pundits like myself who argued against his inclusion are also fans and as such are delighted that he’s performed well and Australia have won as opposed to being distraught we were wrong in our predictions.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 7:15pm
                Marcus Halberstram said | December 19th 2013 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

                writing off a 25 year old who averages 50 at shield level when everyone else averages 35 and while our young batting stocks are so generally low is disinteresting.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 8:42pm
                Paul Giles said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:42pm | ! Report

                The myth about Johnson’s bowling 2 years ago was that he was bowling rubbish and just spraying it everywhere. In the South African series 2 years ago, he was fairly accurate but his pace was significantly down to an average of about 137 kph compared to 147 kph. For Johnson to succeed, he needs his pace up as he is not a swing or seam bowler. When he returned last year against South Africa his pace was back up to about 140 to 145 kph and he bowled decently and he was man of the match against Sri Lanka in last year’s boxing day test. Once his pace had got back to 150kph with all the injuries we had, it was an absolute no-brainer to pick Johnson for this test series.

            • December 20th 2013 @ 4:21am
              Aussie in London said | December 20th 2013 @ 4:21am | ! Report

              Pope, I agree totally with your 2nd parragraph… and on top of that, which sort of fits in with what Andy’s saying is that he was up and down the order so much that it woud have been unsettling to even the more senior/established batsman.

              My overriding feeling is that he’s just been poorly managed in the baggy green, sure he has some technique flaws, but there is quality there and I get the impression that if he had some of the nurturing available in the current side he’d fare well?

      • December 19th 2013 @ 10:18am
        Pedro the Maroon said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:18am | ! Report

        Mojo has proved himself many many times at test level. Hughes has not.
        Hughes is akin to that great Pommie/African flat track bully via Worcestershire – Graham Hick. Phenomenal at county level. Not as good in tests – unlike Matthew Hayden who proved himself time and time again at state level before finally being given another crack after the broken hand in South Africa.
        Hayden’s way was barred for many years by another left-handed opener who was nowhere near as good as him but just happened to also be a selector. Had Tubby been more gracious, Hayden would have played another 30 tests and re-written very record in the book.
        Hughes is not fit to even polish Haydos’s jock strap. Maybe he can cut the oranges …

        • December 19th 2013 @ 4:11pm
          Armchair Expert said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

          Hayden was given another “crack” in test cricket in 96/97 after his broken thumb but was dropped with an average of 26, while Taylor and Slater both averaged in the 40s in tests, along with most of the other Australian batsmen at the time, maybe the next 4 years at shield level were the making of him and maybe Hughes needs a year or 2 to prove himself worthy of another chance at test level.

          • Columnist

            December 19th 2013 @ 10:21pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:21pm | ! Report

            That’s my thoughts Armchair Expert…when you’ve given a guy two good runs in the side in recent times and he’s failed both times then he needs to spend more than 4 months out of the lineup before being recalled. Give someone new a crack,

            • December 20th 2013 @ 11:50am
              Bearfax said | December 20th 2013 @ 11:50am | ! Report

              I operate on the principle that if a top first class ranking batsman is in form in Shield or other first class cricket over half a dozen games or more, and their averages generally are in the forties or fifties, then you should get them into a test team as soon as you can. That’s the point at which they are full of confidence, their batting is at its best and they are most likely to perform at test level.

              I said this about Maddinson when he was having a purple patch, about Doolan and Khawaja for the same reason and now Hughes because of his excellent five games in Shield cricket and credible performance in ODI in India. The caveat is that they must in normal circumstances be top of the averages players for their age and not under the low 40s if they are over 30 years old.

              Its not about individual players, its about grabbing the best available at any one time. As I maintain over and again, confidence is the most important aspect for these young fellows. They’ll address their flaws as all good batsmen do, but confidence can often hold a player back for years. So you strike while the iron is hot.

              What the selectors have done is to promote a bunch of 30 something batsmen for ‘experience’. I think ‘experience’ is over rated personally. If a batsman has had two or so seasons in Shield cricket, he’s experienced. All that is then wanting is to address flaws and raise standards and consistency as the needs arise.

              Rogers was a reasonable selection because he is close to 50 average in first class averages, and gave Australia increased solidity up top. But it was always a temporary measure until one of the younger batsmen started getting big scores in a row in Shield and then you would bring in the younger player. Watson is not a No 3 batsman. He doesnt have the consistency at test level for the role. No 6 with his bowling is his best position. Bailey is there for all the wrong reasons and we still get enamoured when he hits 28 runs in an over. He’s a solid first class batsman, but he’s not test level. Its this position that should have been given at different stages to Maddinson, Khawaja and Doolan and now Hughes. Each were going through hot periods and each were ignored for a batsman whose only talent is to hit out in baseball style.

              And now because of the emergence of Warner and to a lesser extent Smith, both batsmen I indicated 2 years ago were test players in the making, Bailey’s weaknesses are hidden. If he’s chosen for the fourth and fifth tests he already has had a better run than Khawaja ever had, and for little better return. And because of the success of the team he will probably go to S.A.

              This is what I object to here. We have talented youngsters and we’ve toyed around with them or just given their potential test positions to a series of average first class 30 something batsmen. That Ronan is why I object to Hughes being ignored and Bailey being lauded as a success as some journos are suggesting.

            • Columnist

              December 20th 2013 @ 12:44pm
              Ronan O'Connell said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

              I understand that Bearfax but my point is that the last two times Hughes has been picked for the Aussie side he has been in brilliant Shield form and then that form has promptly evaporated at Test level. To me that suggests that at this point in time he is not capable of taking that next step.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 1:32pm
                Bearfax said | December 20th 2013 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

                And Bailey is? As opposed to Doolan, Maddinson and Khawaja. They’re a little off the boil now but the opportunity was there and they went for Bailey.

                If you are going to say Hughes is not ready (which I suspect so much depends on one or two big innings by him at test level…the confidence factor), then how on Earth can Bailey have been deemed ready after his poor first class form. Seems double standards and mates pickings to me.

                And dont suggest experience for Bailey’s choice. They already have Clarke, Rogers, Watson and Haddin….too much ‘experience’.not enough forward thinking. Smith and Warner have succeeded because they were chosen early and allowed to fail and get experience. If they had been ignored for experienced players and were chosen now, we would probably have to wait another two years for them to develop. These kids need test experience so they know what they have to learn,.

    • December 19th 2013 @ 7:28am
      Train Without A Station said | December 19th 2013 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Now Ronan I have been defending Watson, but I think the other two (Bailey and Rogers) haven’t cemented their spots in the side. They form has been indifferent and due to their age, they are at the back end of their careers anyway.

      I agree Hughes has had struggles at test level but the same could be said of Matthew Hayden in retrospect. He seemed to eventually turn out alright, didn’t he?

      Hughes may not be to the level he needs to be to excel at test level yet, but you cannot write him off as a potential test cricketer. With Rogers at 36 we need a replacement and 2 tests in a won series would be a good introduction for a player to settle into his position before the SA tour. Based on the shield Hughes is the best candidate considering he is in exceptional form and has the best FC record of any non-test batsman.

      I don’t watch enough Shield (Or any) to be able to comment on whether he is ready to step back up yet though.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 8:07am
        jameswm said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:07am | ! Report

        Hayden is the perfect example. The first time he had a go in the test team, everyone sai he couldn’t handle that level and was a FC specialist. He went back and piled on Shield runs and we know the rest.

        The problem with Ronan’s argument is that it assumes Shield bowlers are mugs. These blokes know exactly where to bowl to Hughes. They watched the tests too, and they hav analysts telling them where a batsman struggles. He’s scored tons (and double tons) against attacks with guys like Sandhu, McKay, Ahmed, SOK, Henriques, Maxwell, Agar, Coulter-Nile – all of whom have either played tests or been talked about.

        The guy keeps going back to the Shield and killing it. That tells you a lot. I was one saying he had to be dropped after the caught Guptill bowled Martin fiasco. He had to go back to the Shield and score runs, and he did. I also watched how he had no idea against right arm finger spin. Ronan, how did Khawaja and Rogers go against Ashwin and Swann? Can you give us those figures?

        Hughes then went back to India for the ODI series. He played Ashwin reasonably well, and had clearly been working on it. He had started learning about moving right forward and right back. In the tests, all he (and Khawaja and Rogers) did was lunge forward and hope.

        The guy has a huge appetite for runs. Every time, he has gone back and scored BIG in the Shield. He keeps pushing himself to the front of the queue, wherea the others most likely (Khawaja, Cosgrove, Silk, Maddinson, Ferguson, Burns) have their ups and downs.

        If it’s so easy to score Shield runs, why aren’t Ferguson and Klinger, experienced and quality bat from the same team, doing likewie?

        • Columnist

          December 19th 2013 @ 12:32pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

          I agree, Rogers and Bailey definitely haven’t cemented their spots in the side but they should be given at least until the end of this series.

        • December 19th 2013 @ 4:25pm
          bryan said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

          Hughes has a huge problem against spin, offspin especially. The only spinners you named, Agar, Maxwell and Ahmed are not all that good.

          If I was Hughes, I’d skip a season of shield and go play FC in India. Players go to County in England all the time, but County wouldn’t help hughes as much as India.

          • Columnist

            December 19th 2013 @ 4:36pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

            I don’t see why in the off season Cricket Australia couldn’t prepare a dusty turner at a smaller ground somewhere in Oz and get up and coming players to undergo a bootcamp against a clutch of State spinners. Get brilliant players of spin like Damien Martyn and Dean Jones to come and coach the batsmen about how to counter slow bowling.

            • December 19th 2013 @ 7:53pm
              Simoc said | December 19th 2013 @ 7:53pm | ! Report

              Dunno about that. It looks like Warners been watching how Clarke handles the spinners and decided he wants a piece of the action. The counter is using your feet well.
              It seems to me the likes of Hughes and Khawaja aren’t good enough against the best test bowlers which is why it’s a test match. They’re back in training school. They definetly need to be able to turn over the strike when under pressure. Hughes is an ordinary looking batsman so needs a lot of runs but he seems to have the appetite in the longer term.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 8:51pm
        Paul Giles said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

        In England, I thought Rogers was our best batsmen, Clarke led the averages but that was on the back of his 187 in the 3rd test where it was a road to bat on. Rogers hasn’t been as good here but his defence Is solid. If a player occasionally miscues a shot or gets run out, I can handle that, I still think Rogers will be in our top 3 batsmen in the South African series. Hopefully Watson will make runs, hopefully Steve Smith will be able to counter Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn and I hope George Bailey proves me wrong but I don’t see him making runs against the South African pace attack, so I feel more confident in Rogers ability to make a few runs against South Africa than I do Watson, Smith and Bailey.

        • Columnist

          December 19th 2013 @ 10:24pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

          I’ve been surprised by how negatively Rogers has batted this series after really blossoming and averaging 50+ in the last 3 Tests in England. Hopefully he can improve in the last two Tests of the Ashes because his ability to blunt the new ball would be invaluable in South Africa where the Proteas’ pacemen often run amok in that first 20-25 overs.

          • December 20th 2013 @ 12:04am
            Nudge said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:04am | ! Report

            Just been watching a bit of South Africa v India. Gee graeme smith is vulnerable outside off stump. He’s been trying to defend balls on a good length 2 feet outside off stump. It’s like he doesn’t know where his off stump is. Played and missed a heap, and been dropped at first slip by Ashwin. Fair test record though. I reckon our quicks will dominate him. Fair bloody batting line up though when Duminy is batting 7. I reckon we will take it up to them though. Already excited about that tour. Should be a cracker

            • Columnist

              December 20th 2013 @ 12:34am
              Ronan O'Connell said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:34am | ! Report

              Yeah I reckon it has the makings of another great series…Aus and SA have had a string of enthralling series the past 5-6 years.

              Remember Smith at the WACA last year stepping right across his stumps to whip balls from outside off through midwicket for four? That was infuriating to watch but got him a ton.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 4:29am
                indian cricket fan said | December 20th 2013 @ 4:29am | ! Report

                south africa’s batting had a bad collapse and considering the fact that India’s bowling lineup is nowhere near as what australia have,i think you’ll be fine.

            • December 20th 2013 @ 5:24am
              Nudge said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:24am | ! Report

              That’s the best I’ve seen Sharma bowl in a very long time though, Indian cricket fan. Getting up to mid to high 130’s with real good carry. Maybe he’s on his way back?

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2013 @ 1:00pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 20th 2013 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

                Sharma’s always had massive potential but hasn’t shown any improvement at all since he was about 21.

              • December 21st 2013 @ 12:03pm
                Tinfoil Hat said | December 21st 2013 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

                As much as I enjoy watching seam bowlers dominate, conditions at the wanderers are very condicive to seam bowling with both up/down movement + lateral movement. No wonder two such strong batting orders are struggling a bit. Dont know whst happened after morkel hobbled off. Hope he makes it back for the aus series.

              • Columnist

                December 22nd 2013 @ 2:37am
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 22nd 2013 @ 2:37am | ! Report

                Well they were struggling anyway…runs have been flowing the past two days.

    • December 19th 2013 @ 7:40am
      Little Bob said | December 19th 2013 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Bit disappointing to be honest…. Where’s the alternative? You give us plenty of reasons not to pick Hughes but don’t offer one other name as an alternative…. I’ll assume the reason for that is because there is no one else performing better than him and to suggest them would sound farcical.

      A) The current batting line up should remain changed for the rest of the series. But the question should be asked – who is going to fill the opening and number 3 spots in the future? I don’t think the answers are in the current team…

      B) You should never use good performances in Shield as a justification not to pick someone. Ridiculous. What else can the guy do to prove he deserves another chance? How else can he work on his faults and correct them? If he’s the best there – which he is – then he deserves a chance, no matter how many he’s had previously. To promote players who are not doing as well as him in the same competition based on how they’re doing in the same competition is unfair unless they bring something else to the table. I don’t think anyone else in the current crop does – so Hughes has earned another turn.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 8:05am
        eagleJack said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        Yeah I agree. I’m happy to read an article about why a certain player shouldn’t be picked but only if viable alternatives are put forward.

        Saying “Who knows, in doing so Australia might unearth the next Hussey or Harris” is a cop out.

        Who exactly are these magical, mystery players you think exist out there Ronan?

        • December 19th 2013 @ 8:11am
          jameswm said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:11am | ! Report

          You almost need one of those ranking systems, like they use for test batsmen. THat should be the first thing they look at.

          Hughes has averaged nearly 60 over the last two seasons in the Shield, against good players. What more can the guy do? How can you justify picking someone doing worse? If you go by the Hayden theory, sooner or later Hughes’s consistency at Shield level will convert to test level.

          I don’t rate Bailey as even a medium term test option. I’d put Hughes in at 3 and move Watto to 6. Bailey has two tests to save his skin. We can’t keep relying on our keeper to save us.

          • December 19th 2013 @ 8:30am
            Train Without A Station said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:30am | ! Report

            Hughes FC average is still around 45 which is an indication of him as a player. In another generation he may have struggled to get into the test team, but currently that should be enough.

            What’s the fascination with moving Watson… yet keeping the worse performing Rogers? If Hughes comes in, it should be for Rogers. He is out of form and at the age where he isn’t going to keep his spot for more than another season anyway.

            If a genuine Number 3 contender comes along, then let’s move Watson. But for the sake of experimenting on another bloke he probably has a lower FC average (E.g Lynn, Doolan, Burns, Maddison, Khawaja, etc.), let’s not.

            • December 19th 2013 @ 11:18am
              jameswm said | December 19th 2013 @ 11:18am | ! Report

              Watson is a batting all rounder. He has no history of batting long, so shouldn’t be in the top 4. He is useful at 6 as a batsman as he is technically correct, and can really ramp it up if he has to.

              Rogers will make way when a Silk type gets consistent FC runs. He’s a solid influence there for now. There’s no obvious alternativescreaming “pick me”.

              I think you have to weight the last couple of years of someone’s career the highest. Hughes’s career has had ups and downs, but he has been clearly the best Shield bat over the last 2 seasons.

              • Columnist

                December 19th 2013 @ 12:36pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

                Actually I did offer an alternatives to Hughes: “Keep the same batting lineup”.

              • Roar Pro

                December 19th 2013 @ 12:40pm
                aggregated drupe said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

                Rogers can’t keep playing forever Ronan, he is already 36.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 3:37am
                Atko said | December 20th 2013 @ 3:37am | ! Report

                Watson has never made runs at 6. All of his runs are from opening or first drop. He may be technically correct, but he struggles when facing spin at the start of his innings. I’m placing your suggestions into the bin, jameswm.

    • December 19th 2013 @ 7:50am
      Andrew said | December 19th 2013 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      Hughes needs to come in at 6 to get time in the game. Regularly in the past him and Khawaja were not in the side consistently enough to find regular form. Shield runs is what he has as well as a good technique. He may have a weakness for spin, however so has most other batsmen Clarke and Smith the exception to this. Why can’t we put him in so he can work on this technical issue in a proper team rather than against shield spinners? South Africa would be a great time to put him in as it is usually seamers wickets over there. Going by averages being displayed recently for potential candidates to come in, he was near the top of this list and IMO should get another go. Englands doctored pitches for spin and India’s flat turners is hardly the best place to put Hughes in. We need time to get experience into guys like this or our future looks bleak.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 8:31am
        Train Without A Station said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        Can’t disagree with that. No paint carrying a 34 year old (Is that Bailey’s age) at 6. Bring Hughes in at 6 like England did for Root.

        • December 19th 2013 @ 8:55am
          jamesb said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

          Bailey is 31..

        • Roar Guru

          December 19th 2013 @ 8:57am
          The Bush said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

          Bailey is only 31, so theoretically he has a five (5) year Test career ahead of him if he’s up to it.

          The real issue I have with his selection is he isn’t a future No3 and neither is Clarke or Smith. Traditionally first drop has developed their skills down the order and moved up, but we haven’t picked anyone who in the future should play this role. I support dropping Bailey and picking someone like Khawaja, Hughes or whoever and giving them an extended run at five or six and letting them prepare for the inevitable first drop position.

          • December 19th 2013 @ 9:41am
            Little Bob said | December 19th 2013 @ 9:41am | ! Report

            +1

            • December 19th 2013 @ 11:33am
              Jules said | December 19th 2013 @ 11:33am | ! Report

              Exactly, the Bush, that’s how we used to do it with players like Ponting, Clarke etc.

              • Columnist

                December 19th 2013 @ 12:43pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

                How is Bailey being “carried”? He has only have 5 Test innings and while his average of 34 isn’t brilliant it is very premature to ditch him.

              • Roar Guru

                December 19th 2013 @ 2:45pm
                The Bush said | December 19th 2013 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                Ronan,

                Jules, Little Bob and myself aren’t talking about carrying Bailey, we’re talking about the fact that if he’s not a future option at first drop (and neither is Clarke or Smith), then he’s not really serving the right purpose.

              • Columnist

                December 19th 2013 @ 4:37pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

                I was replying to Train Without a Station who said just that.

    • December 19th 2013 @ 8:01am
      Swampy said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      Little Bob – you missed the point of the article. Ronan is advocating no change at all. Rogers is the alternative to Hughes.

      While Bailey is yet to set the world on fire (but he may have brought forward Jimmy Anderson’s retirement plans) he has made valuable contributions and you can see the good chemistry that is happening with the current line up and I’m sure Bailey is a contributor to that. With that in mind and our winning ways there is no reason to drop anyone at all. This gives Bailey and Rogers (& anyone else for that matter) opportunity to find form. A luxury of winning.

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 8:09am
        eagleJack said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        “It’s time to move on on and offer a chance to someone new” would suggest you have missed the point of the article. Ronan wants change, eventually, but apparently someone (anyone) is a better alternative to Hughes.

      • December 19th 2013 @ 9:10am
        Little Bob said | December 19th 2013 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        Really? That was the point? My mistake then. Here I was leaping to the conclusion that ‘It is time to move on and offer a chance to someone new. Who knows, in doing so Australia might unearth the next Hussey or Harris?’ was referring to bringing in someone new….

        I don’t think the batting line-up should change for this series. I think Hughes is a much better option in South Africa then Bailey given he has performed well there in the past, has a better average than Bailey and can bat up the order, which Bailey can’t.

        • Columnist

          December 19th 2013 @ 12:30pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

          I clearly stated that Rogers and Bailey should be given more time. My argument is that, in terms of replacements, it is time we looked at someone else than Hughes, who has failed twice in recent times despite being given good runs in the team.

          • Roar Pro

            December 19th 2013 @ 12:38pm
            aggregated drupe said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

            Well who’s your option Ronan? Australia picks players on shield form and Hughes has the best shield form.

            • December 19th 2013 @ 8:00pm
              Simoc said | December 19th 2013 @ 8:00pm | ! Report

              Wrong droopy. The test selectors select the players they feel are best suited to Australias needs at that time. Australia has never picked anything so you’re making it up..

          • December 19th 2013 @ 12:38pm
            Little Bob said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

            Any names for us? It’s not too much of a stretch to hypothesise that one of those two players will no longer be in the team after SA let alone for the next Australian summer… Who’s earned their spot next if not Hughes?

            • Roar Guru

              December 19th 2013 @ 12:49pm
              JGK said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

              Ussie would be OK in Saf because he is a good player of pace and they don’t really have a spinner.

            • Columnist

              December 19th 2013 @ 12:52pm
              Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

              Ok guys, I’ll let you in on a little secret…after the tour of SA in February, Australia’s next seven Tests are against spin-heavy teams, Pakistan and India.

              In Hughes past six Tests he has been out 9 times to spinners at an average of 9 (while scoring at a strike rate of 1.5 runs per over).

              Does that sound like a batsman you want to face Ajmal on dustbowls in the UAE?

              • Roar Rookie

                December 19th 2013 @ 1:03pm
                Jeremy Shrubb said | December 19th 2013 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

                Well Hughes will get some practice against the spin then won’t he.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 1:31pm
                Pope Paul VII said | December 19th 2013 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

                Punter, Gilly were also dire with spin earlier in their careers.

                Then there’s the Indian spinners being somewhat less effective in Australia.

                UAE could be a bloodbath no matter who they pick.

                If Bails gets bugger all vs SA does he deserve possibly easier pickings? Indians didn’t do too bad on the back of Holy Kohli yesterday, maybe there’s hope for Bails yet.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 2:52pm
                Bearfax said | December 19th 2013 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

                Ronan you really do have selective memory dont you.

                In both Hughes tour of India and England it was his first experience against bowlers on their home turf at the top of their game. Seems to me no batsmen who went on those tours came out with much credit. Yet Hughes was beginning to get his feet against the Indians at the end with a 69 in his final match. He then went there for the one day matches and was best performed after Bailey so I think he was learning from the experience and developing.

                Same applied to England. He faltered with a couple of innings before being dropped but scored 45 in one match and would have scored a century in the match with Agar had he not run out of partners. You do recall he scored 81 not out dont you. The kid was adapting. In fact if you look at his last seven test innings he was averaging over 40.

                Yes I’m being selective but just as selective as you. You criticise Hughes but Bailey is 31 with a 38 first class average, He average 18 in last years Shield and low 30s in English country early this year. Yet you’ll give him a further go, despite all those failures, at test cricket knowing he’s had years of not getting any where near Hughes level of first class averages, which to remind you is just short of 46.

                You are sounding like the people who never gave Bevan further chances, who would have denied Hayden his chances….he was dropped twice remember and was near being dropped a third time when he finally made it..

                At present there is no one who is good enough to take on a test spot ahead of Hughes. He’s outperforming everyone else at present. He deserves his chance…and if he fails and then scores heavily again in Shield he should receive a further chance etc. The kid has the talent to be a top test player. But like Smith and Warner, he needs to be persevered with. I’ve said all along you need to allow these kids to get therer at their own pace. I was right with Warner and Smith. I’m sure I’m right also about Hughes. And later I’m sure about Khawaja, Maddinson and Silk. Champions are developed, not instantaneous as you well know.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 4:10pm
                Andrew said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

                Well said bearfax, couldn’t have said it better myself. Hughes has to be next in line and like all new comers, they need the time in the team to get it right. I’m happy to leave the team the same to finish off the current series and go for the whitewash but heading to South Africa next Hughes needs to be put in and I think it will have to be at the expense of Bailey.

              • Columnist

                December 19th 2013 @ 4:40pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

                Bearfax what are your thoughts on Hughes stats against spin I listed above from those six Tests in India and England?

              • December 19th 2013 @ 5:53pm
                ozinsa said | December 19th 2013 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

                Ronan, I should preface this response by saying I am a Hughes fan and expect he will end his career with a quality test record. That said, he’s been flaky to date. He’s also demonstrated the capacity to reinvent himself.

                I recall Hayden had no method for getting runs against quality spin and taught himself how to sweep off length to such effect he slaughtered Harbhajan in a series where nobody else could, so it can be done.

                Send Hughes on the tour with Rogers as the starter and see what transpires. Better Hughes than Khawaja who has proved he can’t hack it. If somebody else puts their hand up in the interim all well and good but simply saying the guy scoring the most runs in a competition where everybody competes equally shouldn’t be picked because he has failed in tests before ignores his sometime successes and also the reinvented cricketers who came back better than before – Hayden is a very good example.

              • Columnist

                December 19th 2013 @ 10:28pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 19th 2013 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

                As I said below… after 26 Tests, Hayden averaged 47 while Hughes averages 32.

              • December 19th 2013 @ 11:56pm
                Showbags said | December 19th 2013 @ 11:56pm | ! Report

                And you are advocating Chris Rogers who is every bit as bad a player of spin as Hughes is (id actually say worse).

              • December 20th 2013 @ 12:17am
                Bearfax said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:17am | ! Report

                Firstly Haydens matches you describe were over about 5 years because he was banned to the back blocks for a long time. He didnt start performing brilliantly in tests until his late 20s and that’s also because he wasnt given the opportunity.

                But in answer to your comment Ronan, you are judging Hughes on two tours, as far as spin is concerned, where no one else succeeded. I’m not claiming Hughes doesnt have weaknesses. Every player has weaknesses as I’ve said. And some have several. In Hughes case it was two major flaws. He seems to have addressed the first one cutting to slip. His spin problem has only been revealed in the past year. No one talked about spin before that. Against that same spin Warner was just as bad. So was Watson. And how long have they persevered with Watson?

                Point is Ronan that the best place for a batsman to address an issue is to face it. Sending him back to Shield isnt improving his performance against spin. He’s a giant in Shield cricket and he will just continue to plunder runs but not learn how to face the very best spin bowlers. And if he is good enough to have achieved what he has achieved in cricket by 25, this is one kid who knows how to address problems in his cricket. He wouldnt be top of the Shield if he wasnt able and talented enough to address challenges which he has no doubt had to face all of his cricket life and still come out on top in first class cricket. If he was a 25 year old with an average of 30 in first class cricket, I would agree with you. But ‘failures’ dont top the Shield averages at 25. He’s got the weight of years of developing cricket behind him and better than anyone else his age. A batting flaw is just a bump on the road for kids of this ability. But he must face his demons if he is to learn how to adapt. Its like learning to drive and have an accident. Most important thing is to get back in the car and drive again.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2013 @ 12:38am
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:38am | ! Report

                I can’t cop the idea that you bring a player back into the Test side so he can try to iron out the flaw which saw him dropped in the first place.

              • December 20th 2013 @ 7:41am
                Bearfax said | December 20th 2013 @ 7:41am | ! Report

                And how did Warner iron out his issues. Less than a year ago commentators were saying he should be sent back to Shield to address his issues. He wasnt. He was taken out of the test team for a relatively short while, impressed in the one day comp and brought back. Suddenly he’s our champion. He adapted in the test arena. Smith has had more Shield work but again it was sticking with him in the test team and letting him fail for a while that has got him t his feet, Remember it was only a short while ago his average was less than Hughes. And some batsmen take longer than others.

                Hayden was dominating Shield cricket for years but in test cricket even when he came back in his late twenties, it took many tests before he finally hit his straps. He was dropped twice and was almost dropped a third time because he wasnt scoring runs like he could in Shield. His first effort, a single test when he was 22, averaged 10. He was returned to the side when he was 25 and averaged 24 in 10 innings. He returned to the side when aged 28 and over the next year played 10 innings of tests averaging 27.5. Until his break out test against India in February 2001 when he was 29, he was averaging in 22 innings of tests 21.95. It took him a year in his third chance in tests to finally make the break through innings. Up until then he was far inferior to Hughes (35.8 after 22 innings) even at 28 years. Hayden overcame his demons because they brought him back a third time and allowed him a further year of tests to overcome his problems. And it worked.

                Now Hughes is a lot younger than Hayden was when he finally broke through. It was a technique problem that caused Hayden problems both with spin and strokes on the onside. But it was far more psychological and you could see it every time he walked on the field. A year later he walked out on the field like he owned the place…self belief. He adapted especially in test cricket, as all batsmen must, and history was made. Hayden dominated Shield for over a decade. But it wasnt that that got him through in tests. It was playing tests and selectors sticking with him, even after dropping him twice. Like I said, the present scenario with Hughes is deja vu to me..

              • December 20th 2013 @ 10:59am
                jameswm said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:59am | ! Report

                Rogers and Khawaja were equally clueless. Their stats against Swann and Ashwin were similar to those of Hughes. All three were lunging at the ball and hoping for the best.

                As I’ve been saying, if Hughes is so dire against spin, why is he scoring so many Shield runs? Are the Shidle bowlers that bad?

                Also, if you watched Hughes in the ODI tour in India, you would have seen significant changes on how he plays spin.

                The only place Hughes can play against test quality spin is, believe it or not, in tests. Therefore this is the only place for him to work on this weakness at that level.

                Also, most players keep improving once they hit the test team. They keep learning when playing at that level.

                Hughes had issues against two specific bowlers in conditions which suited them. It’s clear after the India ODI tour that Hughes would now go out there with a better plan.

                Runs are the currency and Hughes continues to be the wealthiest of the next in line.

              • Columnist

                December 20th 2013 @ 1:06pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | December 20th 2013 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

                Warner kept his place in the team after the last Ashes because of the fact he had scored 900 runs at 50 in home Tests. If Hughes had a similarly brilliant record to fall back on then maybe he would have been able to stay in the team.

                Alas, the only thing he has to point two is runs in his first few Tests when he caught the opposition off guard with his idiosyncratic batting style. Then all the opposition had a look at him, figured him out and since then he’s averaged 27 in his past 23 Tests.

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