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The burden of Australia’s fast bowling depth

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Roar Rookie
24th January, 2019
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One of the quandaries that has become most apparent this summer is the overabundance of fast bowlers at Australia’s disposal.

It is a problem that the selectors would kill for in most other positions.

There is a struggle to confidently fill most the batting positions especially in the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith, and Nathan Lyon doesn’t really have any competitors.

When looking for fast bowling selections however, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have for a while now been the chosen ones.

In many ways they are the perfect unit. Starc has been tasked with inducing fear in an effort to be a carbon copy of Mitchell Johnson, a job he has executed to various levels of success over the years.

Hazlewood is also in the team to emulate a past great. The spirit of Glenn McGrath rests upon him. This younger, lanky, country boy is metronomic in his line and length.

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Pat Cummins, well, there isn’t really anyone like him. A grinder who gets magic out of any wicket is also important.

So far, none of this sounds like a problem. The problem is in the long list of casualties, fill-ins and unlucky speedsters who will never get a look in.

Mostly only stepping for the odd Test match or two, some of these probable casualties include Chadd Sayers, Trent Copeland, Jackson Bird and Joe Mennie.

These men, along with so many more, are all taking wickets in Sheffield Shield yet most will be lucky to get into the teens for Test wickets.

The casualty list also includes Peter Siddle who has more Test wickets than any of the three Chosen Ones.

Siddle has also faithfully served drinks over the series against India and then was leapfrogged for a spot in the XI for the next series. He may never play another Test. Seems strange that selector Trevor Hohns thinks that Siddle is comfortable with his place in the squad.

Peter Siddle

Peter Siddle. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

The problem only gets worse when you look at the poor sods who fancy themselves as limited overs specialists. Nobody can expect an extended chance in those teams either.

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This isn’t simply the reality of professional sport. So much has been invested in Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins, and to be fair they have gotten the job done on many occasions.

So what can be done when they have a lean calendar year like 2018 for example? Only Cummins stacked up against the rest of the world’s fast bowlers.

There is still a great reluctance to drop one and try another worthy contender. All three would have been considered locks for the Sri Lanka series.

The exciting Jhye Richardson was only gifted the baggy green due to Hazlewood’s injury misfortune, rather than Hazlewood’s terrible strike rate of 73.2.

Rather than being rewarded, these poor forgotten men are sentenced to serving drinks, getting older and being tutted when they don’t perform immediately when they get to play one Test filling in for players who catch a stomach bug.

There is nothing but risk keeping them out of the Test arena. Players in career best form don’t get to spend that purple patch for Australia.

There is the risk of disenfranchisement for pointlessly toiling. The scariest one: players giving up on Test cricket to make a buck playing T20s.

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It really is a problem without a clear answer. Experience at the Test level is precious and my gut feeling is to pick those three guys again and again.

With the selectors tearing their hair out over the batting, it is very tempting to pick your XI starting at the bottom and working your way up.

Australia has found out that complacency and lean stretches that extend beyond one or two series can’t be rewarded any longer.

It is doubtful that the same troubles will be as evident in the Sri Lanka series, but watch out for Richardson and Cummins outperforming Starc.

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If that happens and Hazlewood is out for a little while, then why should either of them be in the selectors’ next squad?

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