In the ‘real’ battle this summer, it’s 1-0 to the Australian Test selectors

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

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    While Australians shouldn’t get too cocky after the convincing win in the first Test – it’s a long series after all – it does appear as though the battle between ‘armchair critics’ and the Australian selectors may just be the spicier clash this summer.

    It’s a thankless job being a selector. You need to resign yourself to the fact that you will never, ever please all and sundry, as everyone has their own opinions on players, and the merits of them being selected.

    Ask ten people for their Test team, and you may get ten different teams.

    Such difference in opinion sparks great debate, and I’m sure the banter at the actual selection table is no different. That’s part and parcel of having a point of view on something with a lot of ‘moving parts’, emotion, and yes, even bias.

    However, it did seem like there was a higher-than-normal amount of grumpy people after the announcement of the Australian squad for Brisbane.

    The selectors’ three most contentious picks were undoubtedly Cameron Bancroft, Tim Paine, and in particular, Shaun Marsh.

    Bancroft’s inclusion wasn’t the most controversial, as he was coming off some big scores, and was therefore in form. However, some felt that it was ridiculous that Matt Renshaw could lose his spot after scoring 184 in his last Test in Australia. Needless to say, they believed he deserved to be retained at the top of the order.

    The Paine selection certainly raised some eyebrows, if not some angry fists.

    He wasn’t even keeping for his home state this summer, as ex-Text wicketkeeper Matt Wade had the gloves for Tasmania. Paine wasn’t quite tearing it up as a batsman either, with his last hundred coming in 2006, and his average below 20 last season.

    As such, he was one of the most shocking selections in recent memory, and countless people lost their minds. Ex-Australian leg spinner Stu Macgill – who believed Peter Nevill should have been recalled – was even moved to label the selectors as “morons masquerading as mentors”.

    Yet without a doubt, the name called out that caused the most negative reaction was Shaun Marsh.

    The West Australian was recalled for the eighth time in his career, despite averaging just 39 in Shield cricket this year, and still being associated with the word ‘potential’, even though he is now 34.

    Marsh is consistently a lightning rod for criticism, courtesy of his repeated failings with the bat, and to a lesser extent, his injuries. He’s been dubbed ‘extremely lucky’ by many in the cricketing fraternity, and, in what has become an annual tradition, his selection was met with plenty of bewilderment, not to mention vitriol.

    I may or may not have been the ringleader in that department.

    There were even calls for the selection panel to lose their jobs.

    The selectors can proudly look back at these three selections, and feel nothing but vindicated by their choices. For a few days, at least.

    Renshaw may have been the incumbent opener, but sadly, the Queenslander had a string of low scores in the Sheffield Shield, and didn’t set the world on fire in India and Bangladesh. This left him susceptible to being dropped, and the selectors decided to do just that, replacing him with Bancroft.

    Though the debutant fell for just five runs in the first innings, he compiled an excellent 82 not out in the second innings run chase, and looked composed and tough. He also displayed more shots that Renshaw appears to have in his arsenal.

    Cam Bancroft walks off the field

    While there were naturally question marks over his initial low score, it’s hard to give his debut Test anything but a big tick, and the selectors should be afforded the same assessment for picking him.

    Though Paine could only manage 14 runs with the bat, his keeping was exceptional. He was very tidy behind the stumps, highlighted by his impressive dismissal of Moeen Ali with a clever stumping, just when England were wrestling back some momentum on Day 4. His insistence of a review for a Stuart Broad caught-behind was another feather in his cap.

    He’ll need to score runs to keep the wolves at bay, but he was so good with the gloves that the selectors earned themselves another tick.

    Lastly, we come to Shaun Marsh, who only batted once in the game, but was part of the most crucial partnership – the one that helped set-up Australia’s first innings lead, and eventual win.

    The 99 runs he put on with captain Steve Smith steered Australia out from the precarious position of 4-76, and when he fell the score was a much healthier 175. Marsh was patient, measured and occupied the crease. As ever – when he actually sticks around – he also looked great. Few batsmen are easier on the eye when scoring runs.

    If you were being harsh – but not unfairly so – you would say that he still disappointed. His 51 runs before falling to a soft dismissal – caught meekly at mid-off from the bowling of Stuart Broad – remained the quintessential Shaun Marsh innings: he provided more than enough ammunition for both his fans and his critics.

    However, he was the team’s second-top scorer, and he made his runs at a pressure-filled time.

    Shaun Marsh

    That gives the Australian selectors a perfect three from three on their questionable choices. For that, they certainly deserve credit. In layman’s terms, they were right, and critics were wrong.

    Yet if they feel that buys them some breathing room, they’ll be sorely mistaken.

    With Glenn Maxwell banging on their door after scoring a scintillating 278 against NSW at North Sydney Oval, and the modern wicketkeeper needing to score runs, there will be no let-up in pressure from a public that enjoys questioning the selectors almost as much as it enjoys the actual cricket.

    It’s first blood to the Australian selectors, but it’s early days in the biggest battle this summer.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (146)

    • November 28th 2017 @ 7:15am
      Matth said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      This article praising the selectors is frankly Un-Australian. Shame on you.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 2:23pm
        Tony said | November 28th 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

        I know! Next he’ll be telling us how good the umpires went!

        • Columnist

          November 28th 2017 @ 6:19pm
          Ryan O'Connell said | November 28th 2017 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

          Now that you mention it . . .

          I didn’t notice them. Which generally means they did an outstanding job!

          • November 29th 2017 @ 8:21pm
            Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:21pm | ! Report

            The DRS showed the umpires got it wrong with the LBW appeal by Cummins that they turned down against Root in the first dig and the LBW appeal by Anderson against Handscomb in the Australian first innings. Paine also urged Smith and Starc to ask for a referral for the faint nick by Broad that the umpires didn’t see or hear. I think the DRS has caused a few blushes for the umpires but at least the right decisions are being made.

    • Roar Guru

      November 28th 2017 @ 7:16am
      Red Kev said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      I think the real battle Ryan is the selectors against themselves. These selectors love to change a winning team (Khawaja before India, Maxwell after Bangladesh) because they think they need to be doing something, they also always believe that the best player is the next one in.
      They’ve already flagged Sayers as likely for Adelaide but should they really be trying to change that attack?
      Despite only having one bat each so far, if Handscomb and Khawaja can’t get at least a 50 each in Adelaide they should be sleeping with one eye open.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 8:47am
        jameswm said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        I disagree. They’ll go unchanged to Adelaide, it’s a sign of strength. Unless of course a bowler has a niggle.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 9:20am
        Ben said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        Australia won the first test but we have got problems with our middle order batsmen going into the Adelaide.
        Khawaja has his problem against Spin, Handscomb isn’t performing well, Marsh had a good partnership with smith but the real test will be in Adelaide.
        For the next test only i would drop Paine and add Maxwell.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 5:18pm
          Gordon Smith said | November 29th 2017 @ 5:18pm | ! Report

          Marsh won the Adelaide day night test against NZ.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 10:30am
        bazza said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        They did choose 11 men for the last Ashes series may happen again.

    • November 28th 2017 @ 7:51am
      Christo the Daddyo said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      Shaun Marsh having a good innings is not unusual. Unfortunately what usually happens after that one good innings is he either injures himself or gets a string of low scores. Jury is still out for me on this selection…

      • November 28th 2017 @ 8:48am
        jameswm said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        True, but he did score it when we needed it.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 10:52am
          Ouch said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:52am | ! Report

          I think he did in Adelaide last time as well?

          • November 28th 2017 @ 12:53pm
            Worlds Biggest said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

            Yep he scored an important 50 against NZ which was under lights.

            • Roar Guru

              November 28th 2017 @ 1:05pm
              Red Kev said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

              49 in 2015 – I was at that game heckling him and he played well.

              • November 28th 2017 @ 1:57pm
                Christo the Daddyo said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

                And he did follow that up with a couple of big hundreds to be fair. But largely his career is a big score or two, followed by a whole lot of mediocrity.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 8:29pm
          Rob said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

          I’m not sure if he scores runs when the team needs it or when he needs it? In all honesty if his name wasn’t Marsh he wouldn’t even be considered at 34 for his 9 th recall? His Test average is 36 and when you consider A. Symonds averaged 40, fielded like a demon and bowled handy medium pace and off spinners when he was shown the door. His selection really is a joke.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 2:55pm
        Sam J said | November 28th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

        Yes and no. This outlines every time he’s been dropped and selected:
        https://thewest.com.au/sport/the-ashes/in-and-out-the-nine-test-lives-of-shaun-marsh-ng-b88663364z

        He hasn’t always been selected on merit, but he’s also been dropped a few times where he hasn’t deserved it, ie making way for a previously injured player, having one bad game etc.

    • November 28th 2017 @ 8:00am
      peter chrisp said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Could not agree more once we saw the players selected for the series i think most or all of us were scratching our heads thinking you’re kidding how can you select the players above and drop such and such a player. Do you select them on form during the Shield games, their personal average but in the end we are most likely disappointed oh that player is much better than the one in the side we all know that, but all in all whether we like it or not & most times we don’t and in the end what’s done is done and get on with it

      • November 28th 2017 @ 8:51am
        jameswm said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        I did say the selections aren’t that bad.

        Take Paine. Nevill hasn’t kept that well this season and hasn’t scored more than about 25. Carey is a good keeper, but green and not scoring that many runs. Wade had to go – couldn’t buy a run and a worse keeper than those two.

        Paine is known as a quality keeper and a quality bat, and had just scored two 50s.

        Marsh I wouldn’t have gone with but he did score runs against a good NSW attack and did about as well as Maxwell and Cartwright in the first 3 games.

        And Maxwell now waiting in the wings backing up the top 7. If you wanted to drop Paine, then you go Marsh to opener, Bancroft to 6 and Maxwell to 7. Or else Bancroft keeps and opens. It can be done. If we bat first, no issue of course. If we bowl first, then once they get to about 7 down, swap over to Handscomb keeping, so Bancroft’s body and mind get a bit of a break.

        And Maxwell would just go in at 7.

        Makes our batting stronger for sure, but also probably makes our keeping worse.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 9:35am
          Ben said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

          Bancroft isn’t a bad keeper.
          Bairnstow isn’t England’s best keeper but is in the team as he is a better batsmen.
          If our middle order scored runs we could risk going unchanged.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 10:46am
          Albo said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          At Test level I would always play the best keeper in the 11. I have no problem with Paine being that right now. His batting is no worse than other specialist keepers being mentioned , and his keeping is superior. Bancroft might be an OK keeper , but he has enough on his plate as a new young opener than to spend long days concentrating behind the stumps and then told to go out and score a ton ! I see no reason to change this team right now.

    • November 28th 2017 @ 8:16am
      DLKN said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Paine dropped a straightforward catch in the first innings. Other than that, he was ok, but let’s not pretend that he was exceptional. He also still has flawed footwork and needs to improve that. But at least he’s not Wade.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 8:53am
        jameswm said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        Absolute rubbish. Straightforward? He didn’t have time to react when the ball hit his gloves. Sometimes they slow down off the bat, but this flew.

        Very tough chance those, plus Lyon was bowling round the wicket which affects vision.

        Have you ever kept?

      • November 28th 2017 @ 9:04am
        nickbrisbane said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        Didn’t look straightforward to me. It deviated and flew as James stated.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 12:15pm
        qwetzen said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

        “…straightforward catch…”????

        Here you go; http://www.opsm.com.au

        It’s been refreshing to read the number of posters & journos who’ve commented on how good it was to see a Natural Born Keeper behind the sticks. It’s restored a bit of my faith in Oz cricket fans.

        • Columnist

          November 28th 2017 @ 6:23pm
          Ryan O'Connell said | November 28th 2017 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

          No way in hell that was a straightforward catch. Darren Berry – one of Australia’s best ever keepers – said it was a tough one.

          • November 28th 2017 @ 8:37pm
            Simoc said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

            It wasn’t a regulation catch. But you hope that the ball will fly up and give you a second chance. He missed a legside chance later which showed up on DRS. Would have been a ripper if he took it though. They’re reflex catches and probably after a year keeping to these guys he may take some of those catches. I thought he looked the goods behind the stumps and the selectors have been vindicated with the choices. The weak link may be Handscomb. Unless he turns out to be as good as Steve Smith I can’t see him surviving at test level. He is safe while we’re winning but at this point I think Maxwell is a far better choice. We do not have a relief bowler for a long hot day when the four strike bowlers are stuffed. That could be Maxwell.

    • November 28th 2017 @ 8:16am
      Alan said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      At least the Test selectors have shown up the Tasmanian ones for selecting Wade ahead of Paine with the gloves.

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 8:37am
        Ryan H said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        It’s weird though, because there was also so much talk about how CA pressured Tas into giving Wade the gloves, despite Paine being their first choice?

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 8:44am
          Edward L'Orange said | November 28th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

          That is strange, because I though that was indeed the case. Maybe they only went to Paine after Wade failed in the first two matches, but, again, why not push them to make Paine ‘keep.

          • November 28th 2017 @ 12:29pm
            Don Freo said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

            They will. Paine only reversed his retirement plans because Adam Griffiths became coach…with a commitment to Paine.

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 9:13am
        JamesH said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        Tassie had no option but to give Wade the gloves at the start of the Shield season. He was the incumbent test keeper.

        It’s pretty well accepted down here that Paine is technically the better gloveman. He still would have been keeping last season if not for a run of low scores and a desire to bring on some younger players.

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