We spend a great deal of time discussing cricketers who don’t live up to their reputations. But which Australian players fail to get the recognition they deserve?
For every supposedly “overrated” player like Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell or Shane Watson, there is an equally overlooked cricketer flying under the radar in the Sheffield Shield.
For whatever reason they are never, or at best rarely, discussed as national prospects and are similarly neglected by the Australian selectors.
Roarers, which Shield players do you consider to be most underrated? This is my top three.
1. Michael Hogan (WA) – 230 first-class wickets at an average of 25
Hogan made his first-class debut at 28, an age at which some fast bowlers are entering the final phase of their professional careers.
The rangy seam bowler had been labouring away in Sydney grade cricket season after season without reward, before being granted a trial by Western Australia. That state’s inability to produce quality pacemen had forced them to trawl the grade competitions in the Eastern States for prospects.
Hogan has rewarded them by being one of the most consistent players in the Sheffield Shield in the past four seasons, snaring 117 wickets at 28.
Hogan is an unremarkable bowler – he is not exceptionally quick, nor does he produce sharp movement through the air. But he offers the batsmen nothing, slowly strangling them until they donate to him their wicket.
He is the type of paceman who, through building pressure, often earns wickets for his bowling partner. This approach has reaped generous rewards in the Shield and county cricket, where he has excelled for Glamorgan.
Hogan appears never to have been seriously considered for national duty. At 32, that is unlikely to change. But he will continue to be cherished by the Warriors.
2. Luke Butterworth (TAS) – 222 first-class wickets at 24 and 2703 runs at 28
Over the course of Butterworth’s ten-year career, Australia have been obsessed with unearthing all-rounders.
Yet, somehow, the selectors have not called upon perhaps the most accomplished bowling all-rounder of his generation.
Seven years ago it appeared a given that the Tasmanian would eventually earn national honours. Just two months after making his debut, Butterworth turned in one of the great all-round performances in a Shield final as Tasmania triumphed.
His man-of-the-match effort saw him notch scores of 106 and 66 with the bat, to go with first innings figures of 4-33. Since that stunning first season Butterworth has been an intrinsic component in a celebrated Tasmanian side.
Yet he has never played for Australia and has not even seemed to be in contention to do so. He has not even been a regular member of Australia A teams.
Similar to Hogan, Butterworth is not an eye-catching cricketer. He bowls a nagging blend of swing and seam which rarely reaches 130 kilometres an hour.
With the blade he is an attractive, languid stroke player, but not the type to smash his way into the headlines with a run-a-ball ton. The lack of recognition he has received nationally suggests that, at 31 this year, he may never get to represent Australia.
He will, however, finish his state career as one of the legends of Tasmanian cricket.
3. Michael Klinger (SA) – 7679 first-class runs at 38
Of this trio, Klinger has come the closest to playing Test cricket.
The Redbacks veteran batted at three for Australia A on their tour of England in 2012. It appeared he was being considered for a top order berth in the Test side and that summer, his opportunity came.
Champion batsmen Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey retired in quick succession, leaving Australia in need of a steady hand. However, Klinger suffered an untimely form slump, averaging just 19 for the Sheffield Shield season.
The likes of Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Ed Cowan were all given a run at the first drop spot he coveted.
Now 33, Klinger’s Test dreams have been dashed. But he remains a sturdy performer for South Australia.
The uncomplicated, circumspect batsman has churned out 4168 runs at 45 over the past six Shield seasons – a record very few players could match.
Since making the move from Victoria in 2008 he has offered South Australia composure and class, attributes which have often been in short supply for the Redbacks.