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Stephen Vagg

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Joined February 2014

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A Queenslander never forgets a selection slight.

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My top ten Queensland spinners

The growing skill of Mitchell Swepson in recent years has come as a delight to many: those who instinctively just want a leg spinner in the side no matter what (hi, Warnie), those who predicted Swepson would come good years before he actually did (hi again, Warnie), and most of all… Queenslanders.

Wood was always an average-around-30 type opener – he tended to get centuries or nothing from memory. Good player but I got the sense they always wanted someone better. I don’t think Wood was injured, they just felt Phillips would do better… just like when Wessels came available for selection I don’t think they disliked Laird or whoever he replaced they just thought Wessels would do better.
Also for 83-84 Australian selectors were worried about Qadir and Phillips was a left hander and they thought left handers negated him so they stacked the team with left handers. Hookes was unlucky after a great 82-83 but Yallop was in the form of his life (Yallop was super unlucky to miss out in the 82-83 Ashes) – hard for Hookes to dislodge Yallop, Border, Hughes and Chappell. Hookes wondered if it was his criticism of Hughes’ captaincy in 83 World Cup which hurt him but I honestly think they picked the best batsmen.
I’d never thought of what would’ve happened had Chappell retired in 83 though… You’re right, Hookes would’ve had a home series to bed himself in. Mind you Hookes did get a few chances and he never seemed to be able to quite grab them. If he’d been in the side in 84/85 they would’ve picked him as captain over Border for sure.

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

He would’ve been terrific in the West Indies. Laird is an interesting case. Many players who went on the 77 and 81 Ashes tours say him not being picked was a key reason why we did badly on those tours.
I think the selectors were very much looking towards the future with Smith and Phillips as openers to partner Wessels but then Wessels was injured, Smith was mostly injured then lost form and Phillips became keeper, so I guess the moral of the story is: you just never know. If he’d stuck around another season he could have well gotten back in the side after the Sth African bannings happened.

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

I know Hogan was a better batter but think Holland simply had a stronger chance of dismissing teams. The only test Australia won in 1985 Ashes for instance, was when he took a five-for at Lords. For instance a more potent bowling attack and Australia’s first innings of 429 in the third test could’ve won them the game. But like I say, I would’ve picked Hogan in my squad over Matthews, not Hogan, and the tour games would’ve given some indication of Holland’s effectiveness.
Laird was a fantastic player but from memory he retired at end of the 83-84 season.

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

True. He may have done terribly. But Holland had a better record as a match winner. I also think his stats would’ve been better had he bowled to a specialist keeper who would’ve taken every knick and stumping chance and had a captain sympathetic to spin bowling.

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

I have read that was Jim Maxwell’s first tour for the ABC I think.

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

You’re right. You have to be careful picking a bowler or keeper because of the batting. It’s a consideration but it shouldn’t be the main thing. I wish there were stats for catches missed by keepers.

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

I’ve got a soft spot for Rodney Hogg. He was so entertaining. Good bowler too. He was always overshadowed by his achievements during that 1978-79 summer but he had some good series at home. Less effective overseas – in a lot of countries I feel Australia would be better off picking a medium pacer (eg Hogg was outbowled on the 79 India tour by Geoff Dymock and on the 84 tour by Maguire). He had health issues (asthma, a bad back) that one feels would’ve been far better handled today. Smarter than he was credited for (throwing punches at the captain isn’t great for the image, admittedly). He was vice captain of Australia after Kim Hughes resigned during 84-85. But no surprise he went to South Africa.

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

West Indies pitches are more conducive to spin than is normally credited. In the first class games over there it’s the spinners who get the bulk of (or at least a lot of) the wickets. In 77-78 tour Yardley and Higgs got 15 wickets each. In 1972 tour Australia used two spinners for most games, and spinners won one of the tests. Jenner took 13 wickets. But I think far too often in the 80s (and even now) Australia thinks of spinners as this thing where you have to have one to give the fast bowlers a break and maybe dismiss people on the 5th day.

Agree about consistency. In fairness there were a few injuries but they chopped and changed the team every game including the batting line up.

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

Thanks Jeff. I think AB always better down the order than at number 3. He was more suited to fighting rear guard actions than dominating a game.
Impressed that you followed this live. Was it broadcast on ABC?

Test XIs I wish we’d played: 1984 in the West Indies

Yes the South Africans loved that 1970 series. Can’t say I blame them. Their team of the 70s would’ve been amazing.

Test XIs we should have had: Pakistan 1982

That’s maybe a little rough. They’d certainly given their all over the years. And they started the same season in tests (70-71) it wasn’t that shocking they ended it at the same time.
I think it was the replacements. Lillee didn’t seem to leave as big a hole at first bc Australia had so many good fast bowlers but then a bunch of them went to South Africa and the cupboard suddenly became bare. That’s not his fault. For Marsh, he would’ve kept playing for a bit if he’d been captain, but the selectors made a big mistake not replacing him with Rixon, who would’ve been perfect. Instead they tried to convert Phillips into a keeper. Chappell I think was more affected by the events of 80-81 (eg underarm) than he let on. But Yallop and Hookes looked as though they’d step up to replace him but it didn’t work out that way.
South African defections did more damage to Oz cricket in the mid 80s that Lillee, Marsh, Chappell retirements, IMHO.

Test XIs we should have had: Pakistan 1982

Gilchrist learned how to keep at state level first though. Test cricket is not a good place to learn a whole new skill set.

Test XIs we should have had: Pakistan 1982

Wayne Phillips is a big “one that got away” for me. Exciting, aggressive opening batsman. Slater before Slater. Career wrecked by being a wicketkeeper.

Test XIs we should have had: Pakistan 1982

Australia have a bad track record of simply ignoring a dud overseas tour. Let’s see how often they bring up the recent t20 tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh!

Test XIs we should have had: Pakistan 1982

I do think they had more potential than they were allowed to realise. With more support I think they could’ve achieved more than they did, especially overseas.
Agree about Chapell. I actually don’t begrudge him for taking time out… being captain and the best batsman is super draining. But to give up the captaincy and then take it back (and stay on as selector) was a bit much. So much pain could’ve been avoided if they gave the captaincy to Marsh.

Test XIs we should have had: Pakistan 1982

Yeah I remember they picked the team deliberately with an idea to negate Qadir. Pakistan didn’t have Imran as a bowler that series. Still, they almost won in Adelaide. They weren’t walk overs. They did better over here than we did over there. Great side. Easily second best in the world at the time.

Test XIs we should have had: Pakistan 1982

Just off you tube… It’s utterly fascinating to watch. The commentators speak like they went to Cambridge or something.

Test XIs we should have had: Pakistan 1982

Inverarity being there might’ve really helped Border.

Test XIs we should have had: 1985 Ashes

I did try not to be wise in hindsight which is why I admitted I wouldn’t have taken Smith, which would’ve been wrong.
For David Hussey though I would’ve just taken the punt on him because of his overall career record.

Test XIs we should have had: India 2013

No I wouldn’t have dropped him 2009-11. He was great. But apart from that Katich period he only held his position over better batsmen because he could bowl. I didn’t hate Watson. I just think he unbalanced the team when not opening with Katich.
Clarke should’ve been dropped at the end of 2010-11 with Haddin made captain for the 5th test and then Katich to take over for Sri Lanka.
I do love the term “the one true guitar playing genius” though 🙂

Test XIs we should have had: India 2013

They seem to have this dream of an ordered transition which never, ever works because life always, always throws up curve balls – whether it’s loss of form, injury, people flaming out like sandpapergate or international things like COVID…

Test XIs we should have had: India 2013

Agree good to get in younger players esp fast bowlers (feel it’s more of a mistake with spinners). But think it can be overdone. And too often selectors ignore first class records in the process.

Test XIs we should have had: India 2013

My theory was John Inverarity (head of selectors at the time ) was influenced by the success he had at West Australia – where he had a lot of all round cricketers (Ian Brayshaw, Tony Mann, himself). I just don’t think it’s ever worked at test level. I think you’re better off with specialists, if only because you know when to drop them whereas with all rounders it’s tricky i.e. “well they got runs but took no wickets… well they got no runs but took some wickets…” Having said that I love a batsman who can bowl a few overs is always useful just as long as what they’re judged on is the batting.

Test XIs we should have had: India 2013

Thanks for the detailed reply. I actually don’t have any contemporary memories for 77-78, 78-79 or 81 it’s all off research!

In response – Katich retired from first class cricket in Oz in 2012, but kept playing first class cricket in England in 2012 and 2013, so was still active in addition to still playing short form in Oz. Even Clarke says in his book he pushed for Katich in the 2013 Ashes.
David Hussey was still playing first class cricket at the time – he retired April 2015. Hussey had a real knack for only not making runs when there were spots open.

I picked Khwaja bc I would’ve gone for him at the time over Smith. I’m trying to be honest, and say who I would’ve picked then and there. Smith hadn’t been great domestically but Khawaja and Hughes had been. I felt at the time Khawaja had more potential than Smith. I don’t think anyone except a few people could imagine Smith would turn into what he became. I don’t know of any other Oz player who improved so much after he got in the test team.

On Jacques, etc I agree… the selectors were hooked on a “youth first” policy at the time, what Jarrod Kimber called “the search for the ten year player”, ie. trying to find champions. It led to them discarding veterans: Hodge, Jacques, Katich, Andrew McDonald. They only picked Voges and Rogers reluctantly. Some players like Quiney and Doolan seem to have scored domestic runs at just the right time.

I understand the importance of bringing in new players but I think in the 2010s they did it to a degree that was just plain silly.

Test XIs we should have had: India 2013

I think in 2013 he’d been averaging 26 or something for two years. Post Katich his form really dropped away. He came back a little bit in 2013-14 but the one time he was really great was opening with Katich. I am hard on him but he never got dropped.

Test XIs we should have had: India 2013

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