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Uninterrupted view from the soapbox

Brett McKay Columnist

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    Sri Lanka are ready to take on the Aussies. (AAP Image/Joosep Martinson)

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    It’s been a big week for cricket-related soapbox manufacturers around the country, with every man and his dog wanting to have their say on the ills of the Australian cricket team.

    And there have been plenty of topics to lecture on to anyone who’ll listen and especially those who won’t.

    A one-day series, which started with so much promise in Melbourne ten days ago, has quickly fallen away in subsequent outings in Adelaide, Brisbane, and Sydney, leaving only a crumbling rubble of a batting order and a genuine fear of what may result on the subcontinent and in the Old Dart.

    We shall not be moved
    Like the staunchest, most stubborn of trade unionists, once the ball started swinging in Brisbane and again in Sydney, the collective front feet of the Australian batsmen set down camp on the popping crease and would not move for anything.

    The result? At least 6/20 in Brisbane last Friday, and I’d argue it claimed another 5/35 in Sydney on Sunday.

    After he started the series with a superb debut century, Phil Hughes has been given the Chris Martin yips all over again, with Nuwan Kulasekara twice getting him with balls pitching on leg stump and moving away from him, taking the nick on the way.

    If you saw those two replays alongside that horror New Zealand Test series from 2011/12, you’d rightly question what exactly Hughes has changed in his approach.

    On Sunday afternoon, David Warner and George Bailey had a proper battle on their hands to see off the twin-swing threats of Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga.

    Bailey’s first four deliveries at the crease were unplayable ‘jaffas’ from Malinga, deliveries that Bradman himself might’ve had trouble getting willow on.

    The swinging ball ends all footwork, and no footwork means a procession of ugly dismissals.

    But why does the moving ball scare Australian batsmen so much? And why, with this generation of Australian cricketers to come though the age and state ranks with specialist batting and bowling coaches all the way, can very few bowlers make the Kookaburra swing, and even fewer batsmen score runs or bat for any length of time against it?

    This isn’t just an Argus Report-type of issue to be touched on and summarised; the ability to bowl and face a swinging cricket ball in Australia is fast heading the way of leg spin bowling and the dodo. It’s a genuine concern in the game in this country that simply must be addressed.

    Roller-coaster squad sizes
    I touched on this late last week in detailing the logistical week of Queensland quick, Ben Cutting, and once again, the selectors have continued to dumbfound with the yo-yo nature of the squad size.

    What started as a squad of 13 for the first match in Melbourne became 15 in Adelaide, when Cutting and South Australian seamer Kane Richardson were added. That 15 became 12 for the third match in Brisbane, and with five players dropped to allow for the return of others from the garden and the physio’s table.

    Cutting was added to the Brisbane squad up until the coin-toss, whereby he quickly jumped on a plane to head for Perth and claim a Big Bash League title with the Brisbane Heat.

    However, while Two and a Half Men repeats filled the gap of what was supposed to be the evening session of that match, Jackson Bird was added to the squad for Sydney.

    Still following? 13 became 15, which was lopped back to 12, swelled to 13, became 12 again for a night, and was back to 13 for Sunday’s game.

    And guess what? Cutting flew from Perth straight to Hobart to link up with the side for tomorrow’s game at Bellerive. But Bird was left behind in Sydney.

    I think that’s still 13, but I ran out of fingers two paragraphs back…

    Rotation is in, so make it work
    Among the numerous elements of stupidity in all this squad business was the fact that only five genuine batsmen, along with Matthew Wade and two alleged all-rounders, were and are the extent of the batting order for the last three matches.

    Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t have dropped/rested/rotated a batsman after the debacle in Brisbane, because to do so would’ve meant replacing him with Glenn Maxwell.

    If this ‘informed player management’ is to be taken seriously, surely the squad needs to carry at least one extra batsman. Hell, even if it’s not to be taken seriously, then the extra batsman in the squad at the very least brings some accountability for the poorer dismissals.

    Rest and rotate blokes as may or may not be required, but a poorly constructed squad should never be an excuse for not making form-related changes.

    10 + all-rounder = 10
    How many more sub-par performances from run-of-the-mill state all-rounders will it take for the selectors and the ‘all teams need an all-rounder’ types to finally end this unhealthy obsession? And to think all last week I was suggesting that Moises Henriques brought more to the Australian team than Maxwell.

    Maxwell? No. Steve Smith? No. Henriques? No. Nathan Coulter-Nile, John Hastings, James Faulkner? No, no, and no. They’re all the same. They’ll make no difference.

    Australia currently has one decent all-rounder, and he is looking to cut one of the strings in his bow. In limited overs cricket, Shane Watson is one of the best players in the world when fully fit, and that’s where the search for an all-rounder should start and stop.

    If the all-rounder adds little to the balance and the performance of the team, then just pick six bats and four bowlers, please. The multi skilled Matthew Wade fills the last spot nicely, and if handy runs come from the unheralded likes of Mitchell Starc and Xavier Doherty – as has been the case – then that’s a bonus cherry on top.

    Picking an all-rounder for the sake of finding another all-rounder before the next World Cup is simply not working currently, because the all-rounders picked thus far haven’t been up to the task.

    None of the three used so far have added to the batting and bowling, in fact they’ve actually shortened both areas.

    If Watson is fit enough to bowl again in 12 or 18 months’ time, then he’s the all-rounder. If he’s not, then don’t worry about it.

    You might not win a World Cup without an all-rounder, but you definitely won’t win one with an all-rounder that adds nothing to the side.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (96)

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 4:09am
      Johnno said | January 22nd 2013 @ 4:09am | ! Report

      I am still a fan of rotation. I just think it’s new to cricket here, and no one knows yet how to manage it.

      Remember Grahame Henry in NZ introduced rotation, and was bashed from pillar to post. Henry didn’t win a world cup in 2007, with rotation, but he won a world cup with rotation in 2011.

      -Guys like Mccaw, SBW, Kahui, Jane, the Franks brothers, Andrew Hore and Mealamu , were all rotated around with divesting effect.
      If Henry lost the world cup, people would of blamed rotation, but they didn’t and Henry and the AB’S medical staff were praised how they dealt with Mccaw.

      -Andrew Flintoff was rotated well in the 2009 ASHES series.

      -Cricket rotation is just new, but it’s neciessary in today’s modern game, especially for fast bowlers.

      • January 22nd 2013 @ 10:04am
        Don Corleone said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:04am | ! Report

        Yankees fans don’t go to every game at Yankee Stadium with the expectation of seeing CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera pitch…they may see AJ Burnett as the starter pitcher and Phil Hughes relieve.

        Cricket fans may have to get used to the fact they may be seeing a combination of either Pattinson, Cummins, Starc, Bird, Johnson, McKay or Cutting.

        • January 23rd 2013 @ 1:41pm
          astro said | January 23rd 2013 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

          Every starting pitcher is rotated in baseball due to the fact that they pitch non stop for over half the game! If bowlers delivered 100 deliveries in a row, then rotation would be common place, but they are rested throughout games. And for the record, Rivera as a closer would pitch in the majority of games (as he only pitches 1 or 2 innings per game).

          As for Henry and the ABs, if the ABs were consistently losing or had been thrashed at the hands of the rugby equivalnet of Sri Lanka in the same fashion as Australia, then rotation wouldn’t be an issue as he wouldn’t have a job!

      • Columnist

        January 22nd 2013 @ 10:50am
        Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Johnno, was Freddie ‘rotated’ in 2009, or just not fit to play some games?? Valid points otherwise..

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 1:50pm
          Pope Paul VII said | January 22nd 2013 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

          He may have been just sober

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 5:10am
      AndyMack said | January 22nd 2013 @ 5:10am | ! Report

      Think you might be 4 from 4 there Brett.

      The obsession with finding this prized all-rounder has cost us a few games over the last few years. I will say that i think NCN and Faulkner might just be good enough with the ball over the next 2 years or so to make the side. They are not all-rounders though, and should be picked as bowlers, with the bonus that they could be handy with the bat at #8, nothing more.

      I also feel we might underestimate the SL’s. They have been poor in Aust over the years, but they have made the last 2 WC finals and are a pretty strong team in the ODI’s. Hope this last game goes down to the wire, the series needs a nail-biter to finish on.

      • January 22nd 2013 @ 6:50am
        James said | January 22nd 2013 @ 6:50am | ! Report

        Agree on the comment on NCN and Faulkner. They shouldn’t be mislabeled as Henriques style all rounders but instead bowlers who can bat as both clearly have the bowling stats to show.

        The only issue is if you have no all rounders, where do you get the final 10 overs from? Either you play 5 bowlers (say 3 of which can handle the bat – Eg Starc, Faulkner and Cutting) or you have to have a couple of the batsmen able to bowl 5 overs each

      • Columnist

        January 22nd 2013 @ 10:56am
        Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        Andy, I’m very much looking forward to being proven wrong about Faulkner and Coulter-Nile over the next year or two, but for mine they’re a little up-and-down for mine. I certainly agree with your point about picking them as bowlers though, I think that’s the right approach..

        James, on the point of the fifth bowler with no allrounder, in the past, even in the current when Watson has been out of action, the last 10 overs have often been well served via the darts of David Hussey, the LAO of the captain, and so on. IN ODIs especally, there has for a long time been a ‘policy’ in place to get the extra 10 through a few different part-timers. I’d have no problem with that being the case again if there’s no genuine allrounders worthy..

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 2:46pm
          Brian said | January 22nd 2013 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

          I think the selectors are looking for another Andrew Symonds. I remember that in the year before he stepped up to help Australia win the 2003 World Cup he was terrible.

          Of course we don’t know what they are looking for because we don’t even know he is being rotated. To me by the 2015 World Cup Pattinson could make a good all-rounder but is he available, injured, rested who knows.

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 6:44am
      Red Kev said | January 22nd 2013 @ 6:44am | ! Report

      So according to SMH Watson after being left out of the T20 squad won’t be allowed to play in the Shield for NSW, won’t play against the WI in the ODIs and won’t play the next Shield match either because the Australians leave for India. So CA is forcing him not to play cricket … that’s a surefire way to ensure great batting performances from him when he waltzs back into the test side on the back of no form and no cricket in the last 2 months. I’m speechless.

      • January 22nd 2013 @ 10:29am
        King Of Swing said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        Haven’t they learnt their mistake from when they forced Watson to sit out the last half of the Sydney Sixers T20 Champions League campaign. He subsequently played no competitive cricket for three weeks, got injured anyway, then when he returned to the side he struggled to find any consistency in his performances.

      • Columnist

        January 22nd 2013 @ 10:57am
        Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        Kev, vaild as those points are, I wonder if Watson is actually still a way off being fit, if this is the case??

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 11:02am
          Red Kev said | January 22nd 2013 @ 11:02am | ! Report

          In which case it is all the more reason to leave him out of the Indian tour squad and play Cowan-Warner-Hughes-Clarke plus two (Khawaja and Bailey most likely).

          • Columnist

            January 22nd 2013 @ 11:51am
            Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 11:51am | ! Report

            Must agree with you here, mate..

          • January 22nd 2013 @ 3:12pm
            Dan Ced said | January 22nd 2013 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

            NO COWAN NO! Worst Aussie batter since Glen Mcgrath.

            • January 24th 2013 @ 12:16am
              Matt h said | January 24th 2013 @ 12:16am | ! Report

              That is an insult to Stuart McGill

      • January 22nd 2013 @ 11:02am
        Lukeling said | January 22nd 2013 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        If this is the case there is no way he should be going to India with the chance of having to turn around & come back at any stage during the tour. Babies are not exactly punctual about when they will arrive & I think Watson is enough of a headcase without the extra worry of the birth of his child.

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 7:48am
      Matt F said | January 22nd 2013 @ 7:48am | ! Report

      I agree with you on the all-rounder obsession. I’ve said it numerous times before that , while a good all-rounder can be like playing with 12 players, a bad all-rounder can be like playing with 10. They’re a luxury, not a necessity and if you don’t have a good one then don’t play them. Given the batting ability of some of our bowlers we could probably get away with playing 5 bowlers in ODI’s. The likes of Starc, Johnson, Cutting (maybe Faulkner or NCN if picked) would be able to cover the loss of an all-rounder.

      That being said I disagree with you on NCN and Faulkner. I don’t think anyone has referred to NCN as an all-rounder. He’s a bowler who can slog you quick runs occasionally. That can make him a pinch-hitter in T20 but apart from that he’s always been a bowler first. Faulkner probably hasn’t produced the batting performances that he should but again his record indicates that he’s a bowler first who is handy with bat. They are more like Cutting, Starc and Johnson than Henriques or Hastings.

      I think we’ve seriously underestimated Sri Lanka though. They’re a very good ODI side. Their test side may be poor but Sri Lanka have been proving for years that you can be great at one format while being poor at the other. They’ve made the last two World Cup finals after all. They’ve also been out here for ODI matches the last three years and have had very encouraging results. They beat us 2-1 before the Ashes two summers ago. They were here last summer for the tri-series and, while we beat them 2-1 in the finals, they were up 4-3 against us over the entire tri-series. They were always going to be competitive.

      That’s not to say that we’ve played well. Our batting in particular has been atrocious and your point about the inability to play swing is spot on, but I think we should be giving a little more credit to Sri Lanka.

      • Columnist

        January 22nd 2013 @ 11:01am
        Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 11:01am | ! Report

        Matt, see my post above about Faulkner and Coulter-Nile, I do agree the ‘allrounder’ tag is probably being misused in their case.

        Certainly agree we’re underestimated Sri Lanka though. In a lot of ways they remind me of New Zealand over the last 20 years of so, where they were competitive in Tests, and capable of springing the odd surprise, but come ODIs, they would suddenly become giant-killers, who probably should’ve had more success than they did.

        SL are, as you say, a very good ODI side, and as soon as they were able to coax Malinga back into the fold, that should’ve had the alarm bells ringing..

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 1:32pm
          Matt F said | January 22nd 2013 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

          I’d rate Sri Lanka ODI side higher then the previous NZ versions. NZ would tend to be quite poor for 3 years and 10 months and pull off some freak performance for a miracle win late in the World Cup to make a semi but Sri Lanka have been a consistently good ODI side for a long time now

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 7:59am
      Boule said | January 22nd 2013 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      Just on the ability to swing the ball and have batsmen who can play the ball. Might it be correct to say that many of the batsmen and bowlers grew up in NSW whilst there was a 10 year drought and thus they did not get any cloud cover or humidity in which to swing the ball? Just an idea.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [].

      • January 22nd 2013 @ 8:06am
        AndyMack said | January 22nd 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        I knew climate change was a bad thing…..

      • Columnist

        January 22nd 2013 @ 11:04am
        Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        Boule, there would be some merit in your theory, but in that same time we’ve often seen international times coming to our shores and making OUR Kookaburra swing in those same conditions. I think techniques and the lengths of deliveries being coached at numerous levels – remember before Craig McDermott took over as bowling coach how the default was ‘back of a length’? – have conspired against swing bowling for a good number of years now..

    • January 22nd 2013 @ 8:25am
      formeropenside said | January 22nd 2013 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      “Multi skilled Matthew Wade”? I know he can bat a bit, but I am not sure what other strings he has to his bow. Mr Cricket did as good (if not a better) job wicketkeeping for WA in the 20/20 final as Wade has performed all year.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 22nd 2013 @ 9:31am
        josh said | January 22nd 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Wade can bowl at a similar pace to Hussey too.

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 10:12am
          formeropenside said | January 22nd 2013 @ 10:12am | ! Report

          I forgot about that. Still, I dont think he can hold his place as a bowler.

      • Columnist

        January 22nd 2013 @ 11:05am
        Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        FOS, Wade’s issues are really only when he’s up at the stumps. I think you’re being a touch harsh saying he doesn’t have any other strings to his bow…

        • January 22nd 2013 @ 11:53am
          formeropenside said | January 22nd 2013 @ 11:53am | ! Report

          Brett, it may simply be because I am still scarred from the Wayne Phillips experiment in the mid-1980’s, but I tend to regard picking a sub-standard keeper due to batting prowess as an error, subject only to the Gilchrist exception.

          • Columnist

            January 22nd 2013 @ 1:02pm
            Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

            Perhaps it’s time to move on then, mate. The days of picking the best ‘keeper in the country are long gone – all ‘keepers need to be able to bat well now, witness the young ‘keepers around the country being omitted from Shield games this season (Ryan Carters for Vic early in the season, Tom Triffitt from WA this week) and being replaced by glovemen doing reasonably well with the bat…..

            (In the case of Triffitt, you even referred to him being replaced in the BBL finals by Mike Hussey, who I reckon hasn’t kept at state level or above since the mid-2000s..)

            • January 22nd 2013 @ 1:28pm
              formeropenside said | January 22nd 2013 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

              and Hussey’s team lost…not that there was necessarily a correlation between the two. I would add that keeping for 20 overs on a good pitch is also completely different to keeping over 5 days on a wearing track. Nathan Lyon’s figures might look better if we had had a competant keeper over the last summer.

              Suffice it to say we will have to disagree on the merits of keeper – batsmen over batsmen – keepers.

              • Columnist

                January 22nd 2013 @ 1:50pm
                Brett McKay said | January 22nd 2013 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

                FOS, I don’t think we disagree on this too much, actually. I know you’re thinking of Hartley, and I’d probably agree with the view that he’s one of, if not the best ‘keeper in the country. My point is just that while in an ideal world we’d just pick the best ‘keeper regardless of their batting ability (and Hartley’s no mug), it’s obvious to me that those days are behind us.

                I certainly agree with your point about Lyon, I even wrote as much at some point in the last few weeks..

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