Adam Voges deserves some respect

Paul Potter Roar Guru

By Paul Potter, Paul Potter is a Roar Guru

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    It was entirely one-sided when Australia faced the West Indies at Blundstone Arena in 2015.

    With that lack of competitiveness comes with it the temptation to not only put something in context, but in too sharp a context.

    As Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh received a plethora of what might be termed easy runs to several fielders on the fence, the need to contextualise their achievements compared to the success of other individuals when the West Indies were stronger was obvious for proper analysis. The need to appreciate their craftsmanship was less obvious, but no less of a need.

    Neither could afford not to care. Marsh was only in the team because Usman Khawaja was injured, and even 182 wasn’t enough to prevent exclusion when Khawaja was available for Boxing Day.

    And Voges… Voges was 36. This wasn’t his 111th Test, it was his 11th. While he had played well in the previous series against New Zealand, and pulled Australia out of trouble on Test debut in Roseau with 130 not out, he had failed in the Ashes.

    Two half-centuries in his last two innings of the series was enough to secure his place for the start of the Australian summer, but he would have been under no illusions. His age meant that he needed to keep recharging his Test spot whenever possible, and only big runs could do that.

    Adam Voges scores a run in Sri Lanka

    Double-centuries certainly fitted the bill, and Voges scored two of them in his Test career; 269 not out at Bellerive and 239 at Wellington. In doing so, Voges joined a select group. Only 24 men have scored more than one double hundred in Test cricket.

    It is worth dwelling on that, because a single hundred is hard enough. To double up, and to do it twice, is quite a feat.

    Barring a surprise recall, Voges will have played 20 Tests when he retires from all cricket. After the 239 at Wellington, his last twelve innings saw 21 fewer runs. Combined with series defeats away in Sri Lanka and at home to South Africa, it was enough to see him out of the team.

    The battery was flat. The total number of Tests he played compared to the rare breed who have scored three or more double centuries gives some indication as to the different level of talent. Don Bradman is there, of course. He also has the lowest number of Tests out of the group, with 52.

    But hang on a moment. When Allan Border retired, he had played more Tests than anyone else. He only scored two double-centuries. No one could credibly suggest that Voges was a better Test batsman than Allan Border. Yet the second of Border’s double centuries, his 200 not out against England at Leeds in 1993, was not his most important innings.

    When he came out to the crease, Australia was 3-216. England would lose the Ashes at the end of this match, and Graham Gooch would resign the captaincy with it.

    The milestone itself was brought up in an appropriately understated way – a late cut to third man for a single, a quick acknowledgement, before Border and Stephen Waugh walked off the ground with the scoreboard reading 4-653 declared.

    Border could have gone on. It wouldn’t have been for the sake of the match, but if he had wanted to, he could have gone on. England’s bowlers could have found themselves bowling for the entire Test based on the first two days if Border forgot about the declaration rule.

    Steve Smith was in much the same situation at lunch in Bellerive. Voges was on 269 not out, a bit longer probably wouldn’t risk the match, but he felt it was time to declare, so he did. ‘Probably’ didn’t cut it.

    During that innings at Bellerive, I lost count of how many singles were hit to deep-set fielders. I will forever have the image of a single being hit to deep point burned in my brain when that match is mentioned.

    When Mark Ramprakash scored his hundredth hundred in 2008, Michael Atherton wrote that is worth quoting because it touches on how to think of Voges Test career. ‘Sport is neither just nor unjust,’ Atherton wrote, ‘it simply reflects time and again an absolute truth.’

    In 2016, the Frank Worrell Trophy wasn’t Dean Jones hitting Curtly Ambrose through point for four. It was Adam Voges hitting Jason Holder to deep point for a single. There was a weird kind of heroism to an innings that was simultaneously prolific and boring. Here was an ATO employee as a Test batsman, collecting the right amount of tax from every ball. No more, no less. Conditioned to make the most of every opportunity.

    Adam Voges scores his maiden double century against the West Indies (AAP/Dave Hunt)

    An absolute truth is that the cricket world has experienced improvements in hitting but regressions in being able to defend grimly against top Test bowling. It is hard to get away from Voges being a symptom of this change and it helps explain why there are those who have a problem with him being a statistical anomaly.

    That day at the Bellerive Oval, there was no need for the latter, while the hitting was more in line with the more mundane overs of a one-day match. Yet if you do have a problem with that, Voges is the wrong choice of target.

    The inability of the West Indies to form a Test team that is competitive is because of factors outside his control, and is frankly a story you should be angrier about than wondering if Voges offends the statistical gods so much that you’ll be struck by the number thirteen from above.

    It takes a shorter amount of time to represent your country or region for 20 Tests than it did in the past. That Voges had to represent his country for less than two years to play 20 Tests when it took Graeme Pollock six-and-a-half years to play 23 should not be lamented, even if it means he must be included in a statistical list you may prefer he not be included in ahead of Pollock.

    Pollock was prevented from playing more matches because of apartheid. A government policy that was not of his doing, that swallowed the careers of many South African cricketers and did immense harm in society generally.

    Even if Pollock played for another country or region, it would have taken him longer than two years to play for that country or region 20 times. The reasons for this are not uniformly positive; the over-scheduling in the game, for example, deserves no applause. But there are also positive reasons that it takes less time.

    The advancement of technology means that it takes less time for people to reach their destinations. Professionalism means that cricket pays people to play year-round, instead of asking them to make professional sacrifices to play. Not all of them, but more than in 1970. The labour force is willing to work, to play more cricket during the calendar year.

    In sport, a Voges is more commonplace than a Border, more interchangeable. It is why the former was dropped before he retired and the latter retired before he was dropped.

    Voges is not the second greatest batsman of all time – does not even come close – but he is second on the list of highest averages across at least 20 Test innings. That’s innings, not Tests. That is all, but it is also enough. Enough for some respect.

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    The Crowd Says (27)

    • February 18th 2017 @ 4:13am
      Peter Z said | February 18th 2017 @ 4:13am | ! Report

      Agree, Adam Voges deserves respect. Indeed, everyone deserves respect, unless they do something lousy. Voges just did the best he could and you can’t begrudge him that.

      What doesn’t deserve respect, however, is a batting table with a qualification of 20 innings. That’s the real issue here. Cricket’s heritage would be better served if we had batting tables which concentrated on substance. 20 innings, 30 innings, even 40 inning doesn’t deliver that. We need to come up with a higher qualification, simple as that..

      • February 18th 2017 @ 7:54am
        Paul Potter said | February 18th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        The problem with finding different measures is that it reflects the problems of Test cricket – the lack of structure, for instance. You could go by years, but the amount of Tests in a year fluctuate wildly. When 15 Tests a year are consistently played by every team, I’d agree with you. Don’t forget, using 20 innings has been to acknowledge the great players who didn’t play many Test innings, like Graeme Pollock.

        I’m glad you agree with the central theme, which is respect for Voges. Discerning use of statistics is what is required. For example, one would generally agree that number of Tests gives a good indication as to a player’s value. Shane Watson played near enough to three times as many Tests as Voges. Now, I would argue that Watson was a more valuable Test player than Voges, because of his dual role he could play for the team. But that doesn’t change the fact that Voges achieved things in Test cricket Watson could not – namely, a pivotal role in series wins in New Zealand and the West Indies.

        • February 18th 2017 @ 8:32am
          Peebo said | February 18th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

          Good article Paul. Pollock has over 40 innings, by the way. But back on Voges. I can’t speak for the other narks, but this nark doesn’t disrespect Voges, he (being me!) doesn’t like the apathy from types who say ‘oh well, we’re stuck with Voges at number 2.’ I also disrespect any argument that Voges was a fine test cricketer. Voges was a failure, plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean Voges wasn’t as brave and dedicated a player to put on the BG. For that he gets my respect.

          • February 18th 2017 @ 8:47am
            Paul Potter said | February 18th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

            Mea culpa on Pollock. I must have looked at the number of Tests when I looked at him and forgot to triple check and look at innings. Sorry about that.

            It is a statistical list, and statistical lists never give the whole picture. It is undeniable that on this list, Voges is number two. It doesn’t seem apathy so much as acceptance. It is a matter of personal preference how much you professionally respect Voges. I, like you, would not argue Voges was a fine Test cricketer, and I respect him for his dedication.

            • February 18th 2017 @ 8:57am
              Peebo said | February 18th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

              I think you are being apathetic, Paul. We know what Voges was, and we all know he is isn’t in the best couple hundred to have batted in Test cricket, let alone the top two, so why settle on something arbitrary like 20 innings? If a batting chart has him at number 2 to the Don, it’s obviously flawed, so why not put a bit of energy into remedying it? Not to is apathy.

          • February 20th 2017 @ 4:17am
            Chris Love said | February 20th 2017 @ 4:17am | ! Report

            Voges is a failure? Are you taking the piss? How many test centuries you got? How, and I don’t care who they were against, how anyone can call a man that has joined a list that only 24 others in history are on a “failure” is pure ignorance. You my friend are a joke.

    • February 18th 2017 @ 7:51am
      qwetzen said | February 18th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      Paul, you write good sense with even gooder style.

    • February 18th 2017 @ 8:20am
      A keeper said | February 18th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      I think we just need to move on. Voges will just be a story the statisticians and journos can trot when the next candidate comes along. Voges can be very proud of his achievements. He did exactly what was required. A bit like Chris Rodgers he only had a short opportunity but he stood up and delivered for his country when needed.

      For good or ill his contribution will be reconsidered for years

      • February 18th 2017 @ 8:29am
        Paul Potter said | February 18th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        Your reply, touching as it does on the insufficiency of news and the need to appreciate players who only burned bright for a relatively brief time at Test level, is most likely accurate.

      • February 18th 2017 @ 8:39am
        Peebo said | February 18th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        ” …but he stood up and delivered for his country when needed.”

        See, there it is (following my comment above.) An argument that Voges ‘stood up’. Mate, Voges stood up once: in his first test. The rest of the time he was just the most voracious pig at the trough. When we needed him to stand up in really challenging series against England, SA and SL (10 tests and 20 of his 30 innings) he didn’t once.

        • February 18th 2017 @ 8:48am
          Paul Potter said | February 18th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

          What about in New Zealand?

          • February 18th 2017 @ 9:24am
            Peebo said | February 18th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

            Voges v New Zealand

            1st Test Gabba, made 83 (red ink) coming in 3-399. That’s being a pig at the trough.

            2nd Test Perth, made 41 coming in 3-427. That’s being a pig at the trough. 2nd dig, made a ton coming in at 2-50. Ok not a bad effort. But the wicket was a belter (NZ made 624 to our 559 in the first innings) so the game was meandering to a draw. I would call that making runs in junk time.

            3rd Test Adelaide. Failed in both digs in the only bowler friendly pitch of the series.

            1st Test Wellington. Made 239 coming in at 3-130 (following NZ’s pitiful 183). Khawaja and he put on 170. Now that’s a solid effort, but we were in a dominant position chasing 183, so he hardly had a blowtorch on him. And when you make a double hundred and another guy makes 170, the going is pretty easy. All the same, you give him at least getting to his feet here, if not ‘standing up.’

            2nd Test Made 60 coming in at 3-356. That’s being a pig at the trough.

            Windies tests?

            You have the 267 in Hobart against a 3 man attack, with one of the three left standing looking like a grade cricketer (so sad to see Roach diminished this way.)

            Then you have him gorging 106 (red ink) coming in at 3-328 at the G with Smith and Khawaja already have tons under their belt. Now that was gluttony.

            In summary, that’s hardly Kim Hughes standing up to the Windies at the G in the early 80’s

        • February 18th 2017 @ 8:57am
          Peebo said | February 18th 2017 @ 8:57am | ! Report

          (got timed out on editing)

          ” …but he stood up and delivered for his country when needed.”

          See, there it is (following my comment above.) An argument that Voges ‘stood up’. Mate, Voges stood up once: in his first test. The rest of the time he was just the most voracious pig at the trough. When we needed him to stand up in really challenging series against England, SA and SL (10 tests and 20 of his 30 innings) he failed to on every occasion. His only innings of note were a couple of Ashes 50’s, but the urn was already lost by that time. So he stood up once! The runs he made against NZ and WI last summer????? You give him a little credit for the big double hundred in Hobart, because he came in at 3 for a hundred odd, but taking the gloss off it was that Gabriel went off injured before he came to the crease. So that innings was against a 3 man attack, with Roach bowling 15 k’s under what he usually did coming back from a shoulder injury. All the other runs scored last summer came on the back of Australia already being in a impregnable position. Now, I would hardly call that standing up.

          But again, I 100% respect Voges. He did his best for his country. He just wasn’t good enough.

          • February 18th 2017 @ 10:46am
            A keeper said | February 18th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

            I don’t disagree totally but calling him a pig at the trough is a bit harsh and lacking in respect. What was the guy supposed to do? He put a high value on his wicket and made sure he cashed in when he could. He made the most of his opportunity and as far as i can see was a good team player. Respect.

            • February 18th 2017 @ 11:40am
              Peebo said | February 18th 2017 @ 11:40am | ! Report

              Mate, it’s just a colourful expression to illustrate gluttony. Watching all our boys gorge themselves last summer, you couldn’t help see them as anything other then snouts at a trough.

      • Roar Guru

        February 18th 2017 @ 11:46am
        The Bush said | February 18th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        I’m with Peebo here, he mainly did the opposite of stand up when we needed him. His experience etc was meant to be the middle order rock in England and Sri Lanka and he was a failure. He was even worse against South Africa.

        What this situation does deomonstrate is that test cricket has some serious issues. From the state of pitches, through to scheduling and the strength of some teams.

        The issue I have is that now that it’s happened, you can be sure it’ll happen again unless something is done to restore the “test” to all Test matches. Cricket Australia can start with the pitches they serve up.

    • February 18th 2017 @ 9:37am
      Apbdillon said | February 18th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Isn’t this the essence of cricket though. Statistics versus aesthetics: Bradman versus Trumper. Is Jimmy Anderson the greatest English bowler? Was Oldfield with 52 stumpings far greater than Marsh with 9. Ultimately none of it matters. But yet the conversation goes on forever.

    • February 18th 2017 @ 10:02am
      Justin Ahrns said | February 18th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      Voges absolutely deserves his respect. Unfortunate end to his career. but he capitalized on lesser teams, and you couldn’t have asked much more from him.

      Humble and well respected by the players, too.

    • Roar Guru

      February 18th 2017 @ 11:16am
      sheek said | February 18th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      As I said in a couple of other posts earlier in the week, I think it’s good we have Adam Voges’ unusual batting average as it is a salutary reminder we should not consider stats as being the last word in any discussion or argument.

      Cricket stats serve as a guide, they are not the final word. They are informative but not definitive.

      • February 18th 2017 @ 12:22pm
        AdrianK said | February 18th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

        True. Stats don’t make it easy to see comparative strengths of different eras, pitch conditions etc.
        For example, 2 double centuries Border, 2 Voges. However in Border’s era, every team had a great bowler (NZ Hadlee, Pakistan Khan, India Dev, England Botham, WI lots). And Border was carrying the team for much of his career – heaps of pressure and responsibility.
        That some of these teams have weaker bowling attacks now (but possibly better fielding?) is not Voges fault – he made enough the most of his late chance and good on him. Respect.

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