Any concerns about Steve Smith’s form, fitness and ability to adapt to a new batting role have evaporated over the past three weeks as the former Australian skipper has made a sparkling return to high level cricket.
We need to initiate a populist movement to oust the dullards that are our national cricket selectors. We knew that Trevor Hohns was good as chair of selectors, but we did not realize just how good until the disastrous tenure of his replacement, Andrew Hilditch.
We may now look back and contrast the work of Hohns and Hilditch in all ways.
For a start, Hohns was rarely in the media, whereas Hilditch seems to like making explanations to the ABC. Not only should the chair of selectors keep his mouth shut, but in the case of Hilditch all he does with these comments is to illustrate his own inadequacies.
For example, he made personal criticisms of Stuart MacGill after the spinner’s difficulties against Sri Lanka in Hobart. Or more recently he proclaimed that Brad Hodge was too old for Australian selection, even though the T20 World Cup is just a few months away and Hodge has just completed yet another season as the best batsman in the Australian domestic T20 competition (e.g. he comfortably out-performed David Warner in all statistical indexes).
Perhaps the argument about Hodge’s age is relevant for the 2011 World Cup in 50-over cricket, but not for T20 cricket in 2009. Further, just a few months later Hilditch proceeded to select an even older fast bowler (Shane Harwood) to play for Australia!
Then there is the matter of selections themselves. The vexed spinner’s position is perhaps the best example of this. Whereas Hohns would take a long time to make a decision but then stick to it, we have seen just about every young spinner in Australia rushed into the side and then, after predictable failure, rushed out again. There has been a complete absence of analysis and philosophy in these selections, and we still have an embarrassing, dysfunctional shambles.
Similarly, where Hohns based all his decisions on long-term form, the current selectors seem to have been reduced to selecting on the basis of last-minute form, for example the selections of Callum Ferguson and Adam Voges on the basis of a solitary good interstate innings last summer. OK, so Ferguson has worked out so far, but if one throws enough darts into the air, then some will hit the target.
I would include Australia’s test victories in South Africa in the “darts in the air” category. The most crucial of these new selections was Phillip Hughes, and there is anecdotal evidence that he was the least preferred option of the selectors, behind Phil Jaques as top choice and then Chris Rogers.
Because Hughes had the runs on the board, Hilditch even took the extraordinary step of announcing that Hayden’s replacement would be determined by who made the most runs in January (compare with Hohns always selecting on years worth of runs). It’s history now that Hughes responded with some big innings and forced the selectors to choose him, perhaps through clenched teeth.
Which brings me finally to Dirk Nannes. He is arguably the fastest, meanest and most feared fast bowler in Australian domestic cricket. For the last two seasons he has had success in all forms of the game, and in particular he and Hodge – the latter already dealt with above – are the main reasons for Victoria’s three-year domination of T20 cricket in Australia.
So what happens? Nannes is not included in Australia’s recently announced 30-man squad for the T20 WC later this year, and because of this rejection he promptly announces that he will be playing for Holland, the country of birth of his parents.
Instead we find the following fast bowlers in this squad: Brett Geeves, Ryan Harris, Shane Harwood, Moises Henriques and Ben Laughlin. One wonders if the selectors have ever asked players around Australia whom of these they most fear facing, because I am sure that most would say Nannes before any of these others.
Laughlin is an interesting case. He’s been playing first-class cricket for one year, and on the back of some decent form he already finds himself playing for Australia. But Nannes has been bowling with more success and for much longer, yet he can’t get a look in. It all makes no sense, and is the opposite approach to Hohns, who invariably selected on the basis of long-term performance.
I really have no idea why Nannes is on the outer. He is a former Australian skiing representative, so he must be a high-calibre athlete, as opposed to being a liability in the field.
I have never seen a columnist or comment-maker on The Roar with a good word to say about Hilditch and his cohorts. Boon, Hughes and Cox may be good men, but if they are then they have failed to stand up to Hilditch, so they should go down with him.
With the rise of South Africa and India, gone are the days (if there ever were such times) when we can afford to play with one hand tied behind our backs, which is effectively what the selectors are making us do.
Vive la revolution, out with Hilditch and his panel!