England captain Joe Root was at the centre of much controversy late on Day 5 of the second Ashes Test.
With the end of the series against Sri Lanka, most of Australia’s Test players plan on re-joining their Big Bash franchises, but they would be better served returning to club cricket.
It may not make the TV executives too happy, but the reasons for keeping the Aussie Test stars out of the Big Bash bright lights are cricket-related.
Let’s look at Marcus Harris, for instance. If he lines up for the Renegades on Thursday night against the Hurricanes, batting beside limited-overs specialist Aaron Finch, how is that going to help him to open the batting in Test cricket?
Yes, he could bash 50 runs off 20 balls and feel a little confidence boost, but he will have to bat in a completely different style.
Instead, if he returned to his Victorian Premier club, St Kilda, he would play a two-day match, with the potential of batting up to 96 overs on either day. A long innings there could also boost his confidence, but more importantly, it will help him hone batting skills that are more important for Ashes success.
A similar case could be made for the rest of the top order. Usman Khawaja, Joe Burns and Travis Head did well at Manuka Oval but they will now be practising their range hitting to play for the Thunder, Heat and the Strikers respectively.
For Head especially, this seems silly. His lazy footwork from early in the summer seems to have gone and his discipline has been more noticeable as the Tests have worn on. Will all that good work now be undone?
I still have no idea why Marnus Labuschagne is being considered for the Test side, but if the powers that be really do believe he should be there, then let him bat it out for 90 overs on a suburban ground and deal with the barrage of sledging he will no doubt receive. Or is carrying the drinks for the Heat really a good use of his time?
Thankfully, the bowlers and the captain, Tim Paine, seem to have been cleverer regarding their upcoming BBL commitments.
Mitchell Starc never signed with a Big Bash franchise this summer, presumably in the knowledge that his body would appreciate the rest when it could get it. This means he won’t be messing around with 15 different slower balls, as he tries to re-build his mojo.
Jhye Richardson, apparently, will not be appearing for the Scorchers, because they are out of finals contention. That’s the smart option. Paine is also unlikely to turn out for Hobart and will opt to rest up with the family.
Pat Cummins, on the other hand, is the man of the hour and the Thunder are desperate to have him back. It’s understandable, but after a long summer with a heavy workload, he could do with the break before the Sheffield Shield re-starts on February 23. Let’s hope his body stays together.
Nathan Lyon wants to play all formats and practising against aggressive batsmen right now will not disrupt him too much, but that’s only because he knows his game so well. Still, he will likely bowl with an attacking mindset in the BBL, rather than dart the ball through, which would be fatal for his career as a Test spinner.
While it’s doubtful that Cricket Australia will forcibly stop important Test batsmen like Harris or Khawaja from playing Big Bash cricket entirely, there are other options available. In future seasons, CA could simply pay these players to forego their BBL opportunities – if you want to manage performance, let’s do it completely!
In addition, BBL organisers could create new rules and contracts, where players that surprisingly don’t make the Test cut – say Mitch Marsh, for instance – get a back door into BBL cricket mid-season with a short-term deal. To keep the punters happy let it happen in a ‘transfer window’ if you like.
If we are serious about doing well as a Test nation again, administrators have to offer encouragement and reward to players (especially batsmen) who want to pursue the unique skills necessary for Test cricket. Otherwise, the players won’t invest their time in it, and we are going to get even worse at cricket’s purest format.
The solutions mentioned above would mean players aren’t completely putting their livelihoods on the line when they opt to become better Test players.