Time to leave the novelty players at home

Disco Stu Roar Rookie

By Disco Stu, Disco Stu is a Roar Rookie

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    During the course of a five-Test series, like The Ashes just played, the focus is rightly always on the 11 players who take the field. However, once we get into the planning stages for the next tour, in this case South Africa, attention turns to the touring squad. This is where things often go off the rails.

    There’s really not much doubt about the playing XI for the South Africa tour, barring perhaps a change at opener, but the thinking of both pundits and selectors alike tends to get illogical when it comes to the reserve players. For some reason every time we travel overseas people suddenly feel the need to stack the squad with half-baked all-rounders and novelty players who would struggle to make the Test team in any given situation.

    Unless a reserve squad member could make the team as a genuine top-six batsman or top four bowler, why do we include them in the team? They can only realistically replace one person, and that’s Mitchell Marsh.

    No disrespect to Marcus Stoinis or Moises Henriques, but they are not viable replacements for Steve Smith nor Mitchell Starc, so what is their purpose? Similarly, Ashton Agar may well be the wave of the future, but at the moment he is not a Shaun Marsh or a Nathan Lyon. Who are they there to replace?

    Mitchell Marsh’s only real purpose at the moment as the nominated ‘all-rounder’ is to score big runs and bowl enough overs to give the strike bowlers a rest or carry the load in case of an injury once a match starts. Nobody is under any illusions that he’s going to get a five-wicket haul – or even a one wicket haul at the moment.

    (AAP Image/David Mariuz)

    If you must include cover for Mitch Marsh, surely someone like Glenn Maxwell fulfils the need to both prop up an end with mediocre bowling and be a good chance for a big score. Stoinis, Henriques or Agar can meet the need for mediocre bowling, but their chances of a big score are slim at best.

    The other seemingly obligatory left-field inclusion in a touring squad is the niche player or development player. These are players who it is deemed will benefit from ‘being around the team set-up’ but who will probably never get a game.

    A perfect recent example is Mitchell Swepson. While, granted, there is no such thing as too many Mitchells in an Australian cricket team, he is a player who will never be played in a live match, so why is he there?

    Swepson was in the touring squad in Bangladesh in 2017. When Australia decided they wanted another spinner for the second match they instead chose to fly an out-of-form Steve O’Keefe from Australia.

    If the selectors really believe Swepson is a potential future Test player, why not play a second spinner in the Sydney Test last week? Sure, they wanted to secure a 4-0 scoreline, but if you don’t trust him in home conditions in a dead rubber, why would you take him to foreign soil in a live series?

    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    If we assume that the most recent Test team will stay intact for the first Test in South Africa, let’s include replacement players who are fit for the job for which they are selected.

    On the batting front Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell will cover the top order and middle order, with Maxwell able to prop up an end with average bowling if the need presents itself.

    For bowlers let’s have one quick – be it Jackson Bird or whoever else is deemed suited to conditions – and a genuine spinner in case Lyon breaks down. Jon Holland has been on fire in the Sheffield Shield for two years now. It seems highly improbable that Australia would play two spinners in South Africa, but if they did, he spins it the other way to Lyon as well.

    And let’s not forget that we live in a world of business class travel and can fly in an emergency replacement if necessary. It’s not ideal, but they did it in both the India and Bangladesh series last year.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • January 11th 2018 @ 2:46am
      Jeff dustby said | January 11th 2018 @ 2:46am | ! Report

      But no one car s about bearing a gr at side like SA ok the road. We are just so happy with ourselves beating a third rate nation at home

      • January 11th 2018 @ 9:34am
        Aidan said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        If England are a third rate opposition it means nearly every other nation in the world is, try and find a team over the past 5 years who has consistently won matches over seas, not even series
        The game has changed that much during the professional era that you aren’t going to see a team like the Australians of the Ponting or Waugh eras. We can only face the opposition in front of us and I’m sorry, but with the performances of Smith, S.Marsh, and our bowling quartet, nearly any team in world cricket would’ve been trounced by the Australians

      • January 11th 2018 @ 10:11am
        John said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        I care a lot about beating South Africa, can’t wait for the series should be a cracker.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:24am
        Disco Stu said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        Given that the point of the article was that people are already discussing the touring squad for the SA series, I’d suggest people do care, quite a lot.

        Fans and commentators alike are already starting to list their preferred 11 or 15. That’s what prompted the article.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 9:11am
      Basil said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      Great article. I have nothing more to add.

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2018 @ 9:35am
      Wayne said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      There is something to be said about taking the players on the tour as reserves so they can adjust to the rigors of touring even though they don’t play (for young players).

      I imagine it would be pretty intimidating first time in India/Bangladesh/Non-English Speaking Countries if you have to deal with that adjustment and playing your first test.

      For experienced guys… Yeah. That seems a little pointless if they aren’t going to play.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 11th 2018 @ 10:21am
        Disco Stu said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        I agree that getting a chance to experience touring, particularly in a completely alien environment like the sub-continent, could be valuable.

        Living out of a suitcase. Moving between plane, hotel, bus, cricket ground while also watching what you eat/drink is a lot to take in without having to try and hit a century against a rampaging Indian attack as well.

        It must be a little demoralising though. After your excitement at being selected to tour with the Australian team, to be overlooked for a bloke they have to fly in after he was originally deemed not good enough to tour in the first place must be devastating.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 11th 2018 @ 1:48pm
          El Loco said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          There’s Australia A tours to give players a taste of the logistics of touring. In a small touring group we need players ready to take a legitimate part in test match play.

          • January 11th 2018 @ 8:54pm
            John Erichsen said | January 11th 2018 @ 8:54pm | ! Report

            Good point. In fact, that’s a very important aspect of Australia A tours. Bancroft’s career hit stall after the tour to Bangladesh was cancelled die to security concerns a couple of years ago. These tours are important to player development and exposure to foreign conditions.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 9:43am
      paul said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      Disco, real good article

      I’m only guessing obviously, but I think Smith in particular has shied away from the all-rounder at 6, type argument that has killed Australian cricket for the past 10 years. He wants a number 6 to play as MM did in the recent series; bat according to the conditions of the game and roll his arm over for a few overs. I’m sure he’d also want MM to be more ecconomical and/or get a wicket or two, but Smith wants his 6 batsmen, 4 bowlers and a keeper, and all Test quality players.

      If 4 more players are going to be chosen, I’d look at two more batsmen and two more quicks, assuming the pitches are similar to one dished up at Newlands. The obvious batting choices are Burns & Maxwell and the quicks wold be Tremain and Bird. As others have pointed out in different articles, we don’t have a lot of Test quality spinners, so we shouldn’t be selecting one to tour simply because Lyons might get injured.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 11th 2018 @ 10:30am
      slurpy said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      how dare you bring logic into this

    • January 11th 2018 @ 10:51am
      Ray said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

      I would rate Maxwell as a novelty player and not a genuine batsman replacement and he cannot even replace MM as his bowling isn’t up to it. So I don’t follow your logic.
      Bird only provides replacement cover for Hazelwood, not Stark or Cummins.
      Lyons needs a left arm quick to play every match to at least create footprints for him to bowl into, and therefore if there isn’t a lefty able then the right arm bowler must be comfortable around the wicket.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 11th 2018 @ 12:55pm
        Disco Stu said | January 11th 2018 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

        Hard to deny Maxwell has had his issues. However, in terms of calling him a specialist batter, his FC average is higher than both Marshes, Handscomb, Patterson, Bailey and Stoinis. Cartwright has a slightly higher average. Leamann is close in averages but his 17/18 FC results have not been that of a man in form.

        I know stats don’t mean everything. Maxwell is also coming off a very mature century in India and some very good Sheffield Shield scores this summer. I think he’s moved past the flighty stuff in red ball cricket.

        And I did point out that Maxwell’s bowling isn’t great, but M Marsh has not looked like taking a wicket this summer. His only bowling purpose has been to kill time while the fast bowlers have a breather. He will probably get better as his shoulder improves, but that will probably not be before the SA tour.

        To be fair I did leave the door open for other bowlers depending on what is needed.

        My point is they should be specialists. Pick who you want as a backup batter or bowler ahead of Maxwell or Bird. It doesn’t affect the point of the article as long as they are a proper first class red ball batter or bowler.

        Simple question – if Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Josh Hazelwood or Pat Cummins went down, would you happily pick Stoinis to replace them?

        • January 11th 2018 @ 9:20pm
          John Erichsen said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:20pm | ! Report

          To be completely honest, I would not have Stoinis on line to replace any of the Australian players, should they get injured. He simply has done nothing this season to even warrant consideration. Averaging 25 in his three shield games this season and only 17.90 for the 2016/17 shield season should be enough evidence to prove he isn’t close to be a test candidate. One impressive innings, in a white ball game, 12 months ago should mean stuff all, but with this lot of selectors, who would be surprised. It not like they haven’t done dumber things before.
          Put me down for a specialist too, please.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 9:10pm
        John Erichsen said | January 11th 2018 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

        Maxwell has done a great deal to show his new “improved and mature” approach to red ball batting. Some of his critics simply refuse to acknowledge it, due to his regular rash impulses in the past. This shield season, he is batting at three for Victoria and has scored 590 runs at 73.75, with a double century and 3 other scores over 50. Is that a novelty player or a genuine batsman? One more question for you… How many Australian batsmen, apart from Steve Smith, have scored a test century in India in the last five years? Two. Michael Clarke in 2013 and Maxwell last year. Maxwell joined Smith at the crease with the score 4/140 and scored 104 from 185 balls.
        As for Lyon, he also needs a team with plenty of left hand batsmen, to be dangerous. Even in career best form and against the underwhelming English side, his bowling to right hand batsmen wasn’t overly impressive.

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