Saturday, March 11, 2017

Cummins Selection Proves Selectors Don't Need the Sheffield Shield

So here we are again. Discussing the reasons - or lack thereof - behind the decisions of the Australian National Selection Panel (NSP). Not since the days of Andrew Hilditch's reign as Chairman of Selectors have we come across so many decisions that appear so baseless on form and so relying on other factors. We have reached a point where despite the overwhelming credentials of the four men who make up the NSP, the question has to be asked as to whether they are adequately performing their job to the standards that are expected of them.

The selection of Pat Cummins to replace Mitch Starc for the final two Tests in India goes against everything that should be a part of the natural selection process in regards to picking Test teams. And yes, I know I say this a lot, and I know I have absolutely nothing to back my claims that I know how the job should be done, and these four are obviously know their job. But this constant and consistent ignoring of any kind of form in first class cricket and the Sheffield Shield, which has been the proving ground for Australian cricket for 125 years, is just infuriating. If I was a first class cricketer at the moment, I would be furious, and I would be reconsidering what I was doing. It just doesn't seem to matter any more how many runs you make or wickets you take in our premier first class competition, because that is just being ignored. Completely. Because apart from Matt Renshaw and Pete Handscomb, every other player who seems to get a call up these days is getting judged on white ball form, and not red ball form. And it is a joke. I honestly don't care how much these four tell me "he's got talent" or "he's got that x factor" or "he can change a game in a session". Because that's all I'm hearing about why guys get selected. Whatever happened to "well, he's scored 2000 runs in the last two seasons at an average of 70. That's good form" or "He's taken 100 Shield wickets in the last three years at an average of 24 and a strike rate of 48. That's an impressive stat". Nope. It's got nothing to do with how many runs or wickets you have anymore, it's all about 'he can change the game in a session'. Of course, the fact that he's done that once or twice in fifty games doesn’t matter, just the fact that he CAN do it.

I sound cranky? You better damn well BELIEVE I'm cranky. Picking players in rep teams because they know your father or they saw you score 50 against their son's team or they bowled your son out happens in country cricket (the South Coast especially). It should NOT be the basis of selecting the national team, and this is getting really scary.

Mark Waugh has been especially cautious when speaking about Pat Cummins this summer. He has always spoken of the programme that has been set out for him, and each step has been carefully designed to ensure he doesn't break down again. All summer, as intimated by Waugh, it has happened as he said. There is no doubt he was being built up to play against England next summer. Now, out of the blue, that carefully prepared programme has been thrown out of the window.
Meanwhile, form bowlers around the country are left scratching their heads. I said this earlier, but it is worth mentioning again. This season, Chadd Sayers has taken 50 wickets at an average of 18.60. He is at the top of the wicket takers list this season in the Sheffield Shield. Last season, he took 32 wickets at an average of 27.78. That is a good form line. Also this season, Chris Tremain has taken 37 wickets at an average of 18.24. He is third on the wicket takers list this season in the Sheffield Shield. This week he also scored his maiden first class century. Last season, he took 36 wickets at an average of 21.05. That is a good form line. I watched Tremain bowl against NSW at the SCG in a Shield game in November on a surface not unlike what is being delivered in India. He was dangerous. Tall and quick. He wouldn't be out of place.
Neither has been chosen. How do they feel this afternoon? Disappointed? Gutted? Cheated? How about all three? Instead, a guy who is a very talented bowler but has played only one first class game in 6 years in suddenly on the plane to India, and given the record of this selection panel very likely to play his second Test match next week.

Like all Australians, I hope Cummins succeeds. If he plays I hope he gives the Indians curry. I'd be happy for the four members of the NSP to sledge me over social media if he does. Even though that will prove the NSP was right in many people's eyes, I still will not believe it justifies the complete ignorance of the form of the Sheffield Shield competition and its participants. Who is to say that Sayers or Tremain would not succeed in India? More importantly, would they play in front of Hazelwood and Bird anyway? Should Cummins?

Today the NSP with its four current members was reaffirmed for the forseeable future. Trevor Hohns becomes Chairman (again) and with Lehmann and Chappell will select the Test and ODI teams. Mark Waugh joins Lehmann as sole selectors for the T20 side. Why?! What reasons can there be that we have one member of the panel who ONLY selects the T20 team, a team that plays half a dozen games a year?! This is madness, completely and utterly.

Sadly, I don't think this is the end of my ranting over selections in the Australian Test team, rightly or wrongly. We have tough times ahead by the feel, and the only people who have the ability to change that, but will accept no responsibility for their actions, is the NSP.

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