Henriques: has Australia unearthed a diamond in the rough?

A View From the Top Roar Pro

By A View From the Top, A View From the Top is a Roar Pro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • March 3rd 2013 @ 12:29pm
      Bearfax said | March 3rd 2013 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

      I love it when a commentator comes along and takes a piece of what is being said out of context, to justify an argument.

      Firstly Vaughan was never a ‘great’ English cricketer. He was fortunate that he was surrounded by some very talented team mates that covered for his performances. His test average was 37, but he had the advantage that he could also bowl a little bit.

      But comparing Vaughan’s selection with Ccwen, Shaun Marsh and Doherty is missing one significant ingredient. Vaughan was only 25 when he started test cricket. I’ve suggested that choosing players under 30 with ‘promising’ statistics is sensible because generally they will improve. Choosing someone around or over 30 with a low first class average is choosing someone who is unlikely to improve much and will probably have a test average well below their first class average. I think that is justified by the test averages of Shaun Marsh, Cowen, even Watson, dont you think?.

      It is sensible to choose Henriques at this stage because he is 25 and his stats, though still in the ‘fairly good’ range, are getting better each year. He’s got time to develop, unlike the others mentioned.. Henriques is talented, mature beyond his years and shows leadership qualities. He shows much promise and may well be the ‘Great All Rounder Hope’ these selectors have been looking for as an alternative to Watson, who seems to be struggling at present.

      But lets not expect too much of this kid. His first test showed what he is capable of, but I very much doubt at this stage that we will see that kind of performance consistently for a while yet.

      But Author. Dont play games with what people are saying by taking bits out of context. It reduces your credibility.

      • Roar Pro

        March 3rd 2013 @ 3:39pm
        A View From the Top said | March 3rd 2013 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

        I am making the point that there is a type of sportsman able to step up his or her performances as they climb through the ranks. The article illustrates that simply checking CricInfo for highest average or most wickets is an inefficient method of selecting the national cricket team.
        In the context of early 2000’s English cricket Vaughan is most definitely a great and I’m quite confident he will continue to make a living off his exploits long into retirement. I’m curious as to who those very talented teammates were on his first tour to Australia? Rob Key perhaps? Vaughan had a first class average of 37 when selected for the Test team but finished with a Test cricket average of almost 42. Clearly Vaughan performed better at the elite level then his first class career would have suggested and England did well to select him.
        Simply saying a player must average 40 in FC cricket or 25 with the ball is an overly simplistic method of selection. Your comment on age is fair and something that I haven’t really considered but perhaps you’re failing to realise that most cricketers are peaking at 28-33 in the modern era.
        Finally the article was written more from the perspective of broadening our understanding of selection principles from churning out stat after stat to support whichever argument we like. I’m not suggesting Henriques will go onto dominate Test cricket but his tour of India to date demonstrates an ability to perform at a level above his First Class statistics. Something to think about

        • March 3rd 2013 @ 4:24pm
          Bearfax said | March 3rd 2013 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

          My apologies firstly that I mistakenly read Vaughan’s test averages at 37 when they are 41.44. He is actually unlike the majority of batsmen who’s averages at test level tend to be lower than at first class level. I will also have to allow you the right to call him ‘great’, though with those averages I suspect he may have been a big fish in a small pond.

          My comments about age and statistics probably came out as being more rigid than I intended and there are always exceptions to any hypothesis or theory regarding links identified. Your comment that a batsman tends to reach their peak between 28-33 is actually consistent with what I intended to explain. It is apparent, going through lists of players in the past that players do tend to reach their peak around 30 ad that usually their is not marked improvement after that. Clarke seems an exception here, though he is still within that 28-33 range you mentioned.

          Therefore I consistently argue over selections that promoting a 30 year old with a lower than 40 batting average is usually going to result in a test average in the mid 30s which is not what you’re looking for for test cricket. That’s why I consistently aruged that Cowan, Shaun Marsh, Quiney, Christian etc who were being promote was probably an error, especially when you had batsmen aged 24-26 with better averages sitting on the side line. Logically the younger batsmen is probably going to improve (though he may not in some cases) whereas someone 30 years old is unlikely to improve much (again though he may not in some cases). On balance therefore its wiser to pick the younger player, because even if he fais, he has time to correct his fault. The older player is likely to be more set and change in time may not be likely.

          That’s basically my argument and why I feel that someone like Khawaja should be in the Oz team ahead of Cowan and perhaps even Watson if he is batting only.

          Thankyou for responding to my comment. Well appreciated.

          • Roar Pro

            March 4th 2013 @ 10:05am
            A View From the Top said | March 4th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

            It is my opinion that debate on The Roar has focused too heavily in recent times on averages and stats particularly on players that we don’t or haven’t seen much of in long form cricket. I’m averaging 53 this season from six knocks with an aggregate of 159 which in the end doesn’t really prove anything does it?

            I don’t think averages don’t tell the whole story which of course is not to say they don’t have a story to tell.

            Was never a fan of the Marsh selection or Christian for that matter but Cowan hit four consecutive Shield tonnes which in any era will bring you into the selection limelight while Maxwell averages a respectable 42 which is a hell of a lot better than a lot of specialist Shield batsman. He’s young, a hell of a fielder and can throw them down reasonably yet cops unreasonable abuse on this website from people that have never watched him play first class cricket. From what I’ve seen in colored clothes I have severe reservations but the selectors have seen it too – they have the advantage I hope of more knowledge about his long form game so at least wait til he fails to mark the guy never to play again.

            On Khawaja he has had an okay domestic summer and is the next batsman in line it seems, but he has had opportunities in the One Dayers and Tour games that he didn’t convert and I wouldn’t be dropping an incumbent for a player performing at the same level regardless of age.

            I went to bed last night and dreamt we took nine quick wickets today and Warner hit 300 in a day. I’m heading out to buy a lottery ticket because I’ve more chance of winning that then Australia has today unfortunately.

            • March 4th 2013 @ 12:08pm
              Bearfax said | March 4th 2013 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

              Thanks for your response. I appreciate your willingness to challenge my position. Good exercise.

              I have indicated elsewhere that statistical evidence cannot apply when you are dealing with a small sample of information. Your personal example exemplifies that. Statistical evidence applies over a substantial sample group, in this case I would suggest absolute minimum 20 innings. And the simpler the information you’re after, the more accurate statistics become in determining validity.

              In respect of batting, it can of course also be variable over time, depending on the progress of the player, though the larger the sample the more accurate the medium score of the player becomes. Generally young players stats will fluctuate significantly over several years until they begin to settle, in their late twenties, when it seems a player reaches a plateau that is their approximate talent level. It may get bigger or smaller but generally not by much. Clarke’s performance is unusual because it is significantly improving his stats over a relatively short period from high 40s to mid 50s. But most batsmen when they reach 30 seem to stay at their statistical medium or improve or decrease a little, but not much.

              Players like Cowan, Shaun Marsh, Quiney etc being close to their best years have probably reached close to their best medium, and as is shown that’s in the mid to high 30s. Players like Hughes, Khawaja, Burns, Warner are still in the developmental stage and their medium is likely to continue to fluctuate significantly, but in general its likely to rise. Those four batsmen are in the mid 40s on average and I would suspect by the time they hit age 30 each of them is more likely to be near or over 50. Doesnt always happen but does more often than not. So potentially you have four batsmen who are potentially top line test players.

              The case regarding Khawaja is an unusual one because the selectors have tended to use him in a most unsettling manner. Contrary to what you indicated, both his T20 and one day domestic performances during this season have been in the top grouping. That’s why he was selected for the first time in the international teams for both, whereas in the past he had not shown sufficient competency for such selection.

              Khawaja’s FC matches have also been good and at one stage he was top scorer in the Shield so I think you may not have been watching closely.

              But the problem has been one of opportunity and allowing him the chance to settle into a spot. On each occasion, the selectors have either made him 12th man in test matches (he has not played a test match in over a year) or given one lone match in the limited over form of the game. You would know that match practise is essential if you are to perform to your peak. He is not getting that. He is consistently on the side line and brought up occasionally for one match then dumped again. Sure some times he failed, but sometimes he showed he was on the way to a substantial score but didnt have the time. Take the trial matches here and in India. You’ll notice he did get out early but he also had a few innings where he was on the way to a substantial score and it ended before he had the opportunity.Sure he’s blown some opportunities but not once have the selectors given this fellow an extended period to settle down and show his potential.

              Now even when Khawaja was dropped a year ago, his dismissal from the side was after one lone test and then three tests, in whcih no Australia played particularly well and Khawaja was not playing particularly badly. Yet he has gone away, obviously addressed many of the issues he was asked to remedy and has been back without opportunity. Meanwhile Cowan after almost 15 straight tests is averaging 31.5, a figure less than when Hughes was dropped and only slightly more than when Khawaja was dropped, continues to get the nod of the selectors.

              Now you say dont drop one poorly performing player for another. Yet Khawaja has been performing in all forms of the game in domestic cricket way above Cowan. And no doubt the selectors will rationalise their decision, but in reality their actions are purely based on personal opinion. That is where statistics should have far more sway because everyone has bias, and quite frankly, for whatever reason these selectors are showing quite a significant bias in several areas. You may even say as some is that he cant make the step up. Ridiculous because he hasnt been given the chance this time at test level to show if he can. Its not guess work. Its based on facts and the only way you can get facts about him is to play him.

              You might think this is all about Khawaja. Its not I assure you. Its about justice, which is the career from which I came. I argued the same line in respect of Hughes and I’ll argue the same line about Burns and O’Keefe. Personal favour is determining selection too often and not performance which is best determined through statistical evidence.

              Hope this assists

    • Columnist

      March 3rd 2013 @ 3:51pm
      Brett McKay said | March 3rd 2013 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

      aVftT, I think you’re right about Henriques, and another one to improve as they went up the ranks is Tim Paine. You’ve probably seen them yourself, his figures for Tasmania really aren’t that great, yet whenever he’s played for Australia in ODIs or his few Tests on the last tour of India, he impressed everyone with his abilities and his returns.

      Some players seem to be able to elevate their game and shine, and I certainly hope the remains the case with Henriques. I was one calling for him to bat at no.6 in this Test…

      • Roar Pro

        March 4th 2013 @ 9:43am
        A View From the Top said | March 4th 2013 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        We’re probably going off a little early on Henriques but it was a fine debut and there is very little positives coming out of the Indian tour. Paine of course is another just a shame that finger injuries seem to have curtailed his progress, a good chance he’d be Test vice captain right now if not for his cricket-less summer last year

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