Peter Handscomb should be in the Australian limited-overs squad

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Peter Handscomb plays a square drive. (AAP Image/David Crosling)

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    If you’ve ever liked the look of a young player, and watched their game develop over time to the point where, as far as you’re concerned, they’re the single best player on the face of the earth, then you might find parts of this column ring very familiar.

    For me, the player in question is 24-year-old Victorian batsman-wicketkeeper Peter Handscomb.

    And I had a bit of a moment the other night during the second leg of the Big Bash League Melbourne Derby, when halfway through yet another tweet espousing the clear and obvious brilliance of this kid, I realised that just maybe it was possible to go on about someone too much.

    I’d already earlier in the game mentioned how well I thought he was keeping. I may have even remastered John Lennon’s famous line about Ringo Starr, and suggested that Matthew Wade wasn’t even the best keeper in Victoria, let alone Australia.

    And Handscomb had kept very well; it wasn’t at all undeserved praise. He took two really good quality catches – the first one a full-length dive to his right, to catch Tom Cooper with one hand, in front of David Hussey at a very wide, almost second slip position – and his glovework throughout the game was really tidy.

    But it goes back earlier this summer than that even. Tasmanian keeper Tom Triffitt played in the Melbourne Stars’ third game of the tournament, their five-wicket win over the Sydney Sixers at the SCG just after Christmas, and with Kevin Pietersen flying back home for Christmas and the birth of his second child, Handscomb played as a batsman.

    It was out of necessity, but to me the Stars looked unbalanced and a bowler short, and I wrote only a few days later, “I can’t help but wonder if they might be shooting themselves in the foot by playing keeper Tom Triffitt, when perhaps they’d be better served by Handscomb keeping and picking another bowler?”

    Triffitt was left out of the following game, the first Melbourne Derby, with Pietersen and all-rounder John Hastings returning and Handscomb resuming with the gloves. Indeed, he hasn’t played since and the Stars have now won three on the trot.

    I reckon I first laid eyes on Handscomb four seasons ago. Quite probably in whatever the state one-day comp was called back then, but definitely in the BBL. With Wade in the Australian one-day set-up, Handscomb was the Stars’ second keeping option.

    He didn’t do a whole lot with the bat – he didn’t have to bat a whole lot, with the Stars again one of the dominant sides in what was the second season of the BBL – but his keeping was really impressive.

    Good, safe hands, and really tidy footwork. I remember thinking here was this young guy, not quite 21, with not a lot of state-level keeping experience, and he was easily as good a gloveman as his more fancied state teammate who was now regarded as the best white-ball keeper in the country.

    He might have already surpassed Wade as a batsman back then, too, but then Wade’s batting – even if it was the main reason for his national selection – has always been a bit hit and miss.

    Nevertheless, when discussion inevitably moved toward the naming of the first Australian one-day squad of the summer in recent weeks, there was healthy deliberation centering on who should be the wicket-keeper, with the natural assumption that whoever was selected would be in the box seat to go to the World Twenty20 in India in March and April.

    Wade won the spot for the first three ODIs, starting this week. But how many of us are convinced he should be the gloveman for the T20 side, never mind whether he should go to India or not?

    The form keeper-batsman of the BBL is probably Tim Paine, and it’s hard to disagree with Ronan O’Connell’s point on Monday that Paine should probably get the nod.

    But if there’s been a weakness to Paine’s batting this summer, it’s been when facing the spinners. Paine has been undone by spin in four of his last five innings, and teams are now opening up with spin against Hobart, presumably for that very reason.

    Wade’s tally hasn’t cracked 80 runs for the tournament in five innings as a top order bat, and you wouldn’t say he’s at home when facing the tweakers, either.

    Handscomb, on the other hand, is one of the best young players of spin in the country.

    This time last summer, when writing a magazine feature on Glenn Maxwell, I spoke to then-Victorian coach Greg Shipperd and mentioned that Maxwell, along with Steve Smith and Michael Clarke, was one of few players around the country who were prepared to use their feet properly to spin. Shipperd certainly agreed, and went on to liken Maxwell with Dean Jones, but very quickly got talking about another player.

    “We’re blessed with two here in Victoria [who use their feet and the crease], ‘Maxy’ and the other one is Peter Handscomb,” Shipperd told me.

    “Like Maxwell, Handscomb has the ability of playing that balanced game where he’s thinking offside, on-side, staying in his crease, moving down the wicket; he’s got all of those options at his disposal, and it’s just about the application of those options.

    “Whereas guys like Cameron White and David Hussey will use width on their crease and their shot selection to play the shot that’s needed, Handscomb will come miles down the wicket. He’s a freak, he’s a wonderful player of spin.”

    That’s certainly been on show in the BBL this summer, but his shot selection and ability to find gaps, in general, has been from the top draw. Pietersen got all the plaudits for the run chase in the second derby on Saturday night, but Handscomb being able to come in two wickets down and get himself ‘in’ so quickly allowed Pietersen to put the foot down in the 13th over and turn what might have been a tight chase into a pretty comfortable one.

    And I’d say it’s worth nothing the praise Pietersen heaped on Handscomb, but the reality is ‘KP’ thinks all his Stars teammates should be in the Australian squad.

    The big thing for me is that of all the keeper-batsmen or batting-keepers getting around in the BBL, none of them have the ability to really bat well down the order.

    Paine’s been opening, so has Tim Ludemann, Jimmy Peirson and Ben Dunk (who hasn’t been keeping). Wade is the incumbent Twenty20 keeper, but he’s been largely ineffective batting down the order for Australia. Handscomb hasn’t batted above number four this season for the Stars.

    We know spin is going to be a major factor for the WT20 in India, so surely it would make sense to pick the players best equipped to deal with what’s likely to be served up? What do they say about doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results?

    Anyway, I’ve said enough about Handscomb over time. Watch him yourself and see what I’ve been going on about. Hopefully, the Australian selectors are seeing it too.

    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 (52)

    • January 12th 2016 @ 7:25am
      Jonty23 said | January 12th 2016 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Your not alone Brett in singing his praises, Viv Richards when he was involved with the Stars when interviewed often mentioned Handscomb`s ability as both keeper and batsman . Lets hope Rod Marsh and co can bring themselves to make the call !

    • Columnist

      January 12th 2016 @ 7:25am
      Ronan O'Connell said | January 12th 2016 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      “Handscomb, on the other hand, is one of the best young players of spin in the country.”

      He started last year’s Australia A v India A unofficial Tests in Chennai with an innings of 91 and reports were glowing of how he handled spin in that Test.

      I was at the ground for some of that match and it was a really dry, spin-friendly deck – the kind on which Australia have floundered over and again.

      What’s more is India A had spinners Ojha and Mishra in their side, who together have taken almost 200 Test wickets. To make runs in such trying circumstances is hugely impressive.

      To me Handscomb is now a good option for Australia in all three forms of the game. I see him pressing heavily for Voges’ middle order Test spot in 12-18 months time.

      • Columnist

        January 12th 2016 @ 8:01am
        Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 8:01am | ! Report

        Yeah, I can’t disagree with that Ronan. If you throw Sam Whiteman into the mix, we’re blessed with quality young keeping options.

        Handscomb’s batting is certainly good enough, but I can’t help wonder if the biggest impediment to his ‘keeping being recognised is actually the Victorian selectors..

        • January 12th 2016 @ 10:16am
          Andrew said | January 12th 2016 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Handscombe is a very good player and should be in the limited formats, however there should also be mention of Khawaja who like last night continues to plunder runs in every game he plays, surely it’s time to get him in the ODIs and also the T20s

          • Columnist

            January 12th 2016 @ 11:35am
            Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            No, in an article detailing why I think Peter Handscomb is one of the best keeper-batsmen in the country, and why he should be picked in the limited overs sides ahead of Matthew Wade, THERE SHOULD NOT be any mention of Usman bloody Khawaja at all, Andrew!!

            I get he’s a good player; I love watching him myself, and he’s in unbelievable form currently.

            But every cricket article written does not have to mention this. Surely you know how context works?!?

            • Roar Guru

              January 12th 2016 @ 12:13pm
              Red Kev said | January 12th 2016 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

              Well to be fair, the first sentence of your article sums up my relationship with Khawaja.

            • January 12th 2016 @ 12:14pm
              Amith said | January 12th 2016 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

              Brett i have to agree with Andrew, i have seen very few articles discussing Khawaja in the ODI or T20 teams whereas his figures are among the best in the country. In T20 he is averaging about 80 in the last 3 years at a strike rate of close to 130 and in domestic one day cricket he has been the best batsman in the last 3 years, i think the question has to be asked on why he is not at least in the squads for the shorter format given our strength in that format as he is a complete batsman

              • Columnist

                January 12th 2016 @ 12:22pm
                Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

                Amith, I frankly don’t care if you agree with Andrew. This article has nothing to do with Usman Khawaja, regardless of how good his form currently is.

                Learn about context. It’s why you don’t see people bringing up Taylor Swift under the David Bowie tributes..

              • January 12th 2016 @ 1:47pm
                Amith said | January 12th 2016 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

                Brett correct me if i am wrong but its very normal to bring other players into discussion, we don’t have to just talk about Handscombe, this is normal practice but something about Khawaja always gets you worked up when he has hardly been talked about in any recent article

              • January 12th 2016 @ 1:57pm
                Christo the Daddyo said | January 12th 2016 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

                Actually, to be accurate you have mentioned both John Lennon and Ringo Starr in an article ostensibly about Peter Handscomb!


              • Columnist

                January 12th 2016 @ 2:05pm
                Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

                Amith, I will indeed correct you.

                It would be perfectly normal to bring up Khawaja in a discussion about wicketkeeping options, if Khawaja was a wicketkeeper.

                But he’s not a wicketkepper, and thus I didn’t mention him, and nor does any subsequent mention of him by you carry any context. Usman Khawaja and his batting form and you wanting to mention his batting form all have one thing in common in the context of wicketkeeping: irrelevance.

                There is also nothing about Khawaja himself that gets me worked up, only the long-held fasciation of people like yourself who want to bring him up at any given opportunity, regardless of the context!

                Did you bring up Khawaja’s batting during spin bowling discussions last week?

                Have you raised Khawaja’s batting form under the news about the Essendon players being suspended?

              • Columnist

                January 12th 2016 @ 2:06pm
                Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

                Christo, you are not helping! And I stand by the Lennon reference to Ringo Wade’s ‘keeping!!

              • January 12th 2016 @ 3:07pm
                Stephen said | January 12th 2016 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

                Brett for a few years now i have noticed that you are not a khawaja fan and simply just push his claims aside. I agree that Handscombe is a very good young player but rather then shut off people like Amith how about we just discuss facts with him. He has put up correct statistics on Khawaja and i also tend to lean towards getting him in the ODI side and potentially the T20 side, and not get so worked up because he refuses to just talk only about Handscombe. Its easy to see you don’t like Khawaja, but don’t just shove Amith away simply because he makes a good point on Khawaja and that is that he should be in the current ODI team

              • Columnist

                January 12th 2016 @ 3:34pm
                Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

                Stephen, I’ll say the same thing I’ve said for years now. I am a big Usman Khawaja fan. But I am not so fanatical that I must mention him in every article I write on any subject. Furthermore, at no point have I ever suggested in any way that I don’t rate him – this is a point that the Khawaja fans seem to have conveniently dreamt up.

                Additionally, I’d be more than happy to discuss Khawaja’s claims to the limited overs side with Amith or you or anyone. But in the correct context. You tell me, in what context to a discussion on wicketkeepers, and specifically, a discussion on why I think Peter Handscomb should be that wicketkeeper, does Khawaja fit?

                This article is not that context, and if we’re honest, bringing up an irrelevant point or person in a discussion that doesn’t concern that person is the very definition of trolling, isn’t it.

              • January 12th 2016 @ 4:29pm
                Anwar said | January 12th 2016 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

                I agree, get UTK in the side, the man is the most in form batsman in the country

              • January 12th 2016 @ 11:12pm
                Andy said | January 12th 2016 @ 11:12pm | ! Report

                Brett you make mention of maxwell and Clarke in your article so it’s ok to talk about other batsman, please don’t try to bully others so they only talk about what you want

              • Columnist

                January 13th 2016 @ 6:16am
                Brett McKay said | January 13th 2016 @ 6:16am | ! Report

                Andy, you and Anwar and Andrew and Stephen and Amith should all meet up and learn about context together.

                Then you’ll all know that I mentioned Maxwell and Clarke in relation to Handscomb, you know, the player this article is all about? There is still just no context in which you trolls can bring Khawaja into this discussion; there just isn’t.

                Anyway, you’ll all be able to save yourself trolling articles that don’t mentioned Khawaja today, because he’s been called into the Australian squad for the next two ODIs in place of Warner. I suspect that will get a mention somewhere..

            • January 12th 2016 @ 12:52pm
              Adsa said | January 12th 2016 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

              Don’t write a column on bowling stocks Brett without mentioning Khawaja!

    • Roar Guru

      January 12th 2016 @ 8:02am
      DingoGray said | January 12th 2016 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      “suggested that Matthew Wade wasn’t even the best keeper in Victoria, let alone Australia.” Absolutely nailed it there Brett.
      No disrespect to Wade, but Victoria really have missed the Boat with Handscomb.
      I think Handscomb could really put some serious pressure on Pete Nevill for the keeping spot if Victoria was to ever pull the trigger on making Handscomb full time keeper.

      • Roar Guru

        January 12th 2016 @ 9:31am
        Julian King said | January 12th 2016 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Once bitten twice shy with batsmen/keepers after Wade’s travails. Nevill is the best gloveman in the country,even though he’s not destructive with the bat. Ask Nathan Lyon who he wants behind the stumps.

      • January 12th 2016 @ 11:33am
        cruyff turn said | January 12th 2016 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        In a way, it’s similar to the situation NSW had with Gilchrist when Phil Emery was keeper.

    • January 12th 2016 @ 8:16am
      Christo the Daddyo said | January 12th 2016 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Why do people insist on calling adults “kids”? Handscomb is 24 years old and been playing at Shield level for five years for goodness sake!

      Comes across as a bit patronising to me…

      • Columnist

        January 12th 2016 @ 8:40am
        Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Anyone younger than me by some margin is a kid, Christo..

        • January 12th 2016 @ 11:39am
          Christo the Daddyo said | January 12th 2016 @ 11:39am | ! Report


          So anyone younger than you by some margin now has a license to refer to you as “old codger”…:)

          • Columnist

            January 12th 2016 @ 11:41am
            Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 11:41am | ! Report

            I’m sure that’s happening anyway..

    • January 12th 2016 @ 9:31am
      SLIM said | January 12th 2016 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      Pete Handscomb is definitely one in the current, and not only for the future. May I pose this to the people, would Handscomb be like say Bairstow in reguards to his batting, as he is a keeper in effect, that on the international test stage, he would be feeling too much pressure batting in the top six, as a result getting paltry scores, as Bairstow. Batting at seven, and being strictly the keeper of the test team, would be more free further down the order, and would be able to post the odd high score, as Bairstow did with a massive century? Would he be ideal to take over from Voges in future. I am concerned with the frequency of high scores, even when not keeping inconsistency would be a problem in the middle order, especially if your not known as a specialist batsman.
      The only keeper/batsman in my lifetime I can remember that could do both at a high standard was Kumar Sanga. That’s not too many as that is the reality of this situation.

      • January 12th 2016 @ 11:31am
        cruyff turn said | January 12th 2016 @ 11:31am | ! Report

        Did you forget Gilchrist?

      • Columnist

        January 12th 2016 @ 11:40am
        Brett McKay said | January 12th 2016 @ 11:40am | ! Report

        Andy Flower probably pips Sangakkara, too, Slim, but it’s a decent point you make.

        Handscomb – like Cameron Bancroft, actually – has the benefit of being a good enough batsman alone, and has already played a fair amount as a batsman only to know of the job at hand batting in the top order..

        • January 12th 2016 @ 7:45pm
          bigmick01 said | January 12th 2016 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

          “Andy Flower probably pips Sangakkara, too”

          Um, no. And it is not even close. Flower is a great player but Sanga is one of the top 5 cricketers in history. There is no comparison between the two. Pick any metric you want.

          Sanga 12000+ test runs at 57+. 200+ dismissals. Top 5 greatest cricketers ever.

          • Columnist

            January 13th 2016 @ 6:10am
            Brett McKay said | January 13th 2016 @ 6:10am | ! Report

            Mick, the metric we’re using is Slim’s “The only keeper/batsman in my lifetime I can remember that could do [bat and wicketkeep] at a high standard was Kumar Sanga”, and which Slim below agrees Flower is another..

            • January 13th 2016 @ 8:06pm
              Armchair Expert said | January 13th 2016 @ 8:06pm | ! Report

              AB De Villiers.

        • January 13th 2016 @ 2:08am
          Nova said | January 13th 2016 @ 2:08am | ! Report

          Flower never kept in Tests.

    • January 12th 2016 @ 10:08am
      sandal said | January 12th 2016 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      made a ‘tidy’ stumping with his chest the other night.

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