It’s a job I’ve long coveted. What could be a cushier gig than being a national cricket selector?
If you’re lucky enough to be employed by the ECB, you spend the early part of the domestic season touring around county grounds gorging on cucumber sandwiches and warm beer, all the while your centrally-contracted mainstays are wrapped in cotton wool for the international rigours to come.
Once the touring teams arrive and the proper cricket starts, you find a nice seat amongst the members, sit behind dark glasses, and occasionally discuss who’s next in line for the coveted 13th man position behind Steve Finn/Tim Bresnan. Then there’s the exotic jet-setting during the winter months, with all the five star luxury sports administrators have come to expect.
For the four-man[i] panel that have the responsibility of finding eleven good men and true to don the baggy green, however, the job is not so enviable. In the space of two overseas trips to India and England (and Scotland, officially), they have taken a total of 22 different players on tour, all of whom will have played a Test by the end of this current trip (Matt Wade has not played in England, but got three games in India; James Faulkner will debut today at The Oval). That statistic alone is enough to highlight how onerous a job the Aussie selectors are faced with.
Here’s another: Mitchell Starc has played four of the eight Tests against India and England this year, none consecutively. How does that help either his rhythm or confidence?
So, while the selectors are not faced with an embarrassment of playing riches, they’ve hardly helped the team bed in and build a rapport while facing two of the three best Test playing nations.
But to really nut out farce that the selection panel’s work has become, consider the chopping and changing in the batting order in the past 16 Test innings:
|Position||Players selected against India and England in 2013 Tests, as at 20 August||Number of players selected in each position|
|Openers||EJM Cowan; DA Warner; SR Watson; GJ Maxwell (yes, really); CJL Rogers||5|
|No. 3||EJM Cowan; DA Warner; PJ Hughes; MJ Clarke; UT Khawaja||5|
|No. 4||PJ Hughes; SR Watson; MJ Clarke; SPD Smith||4|
|No. 5||SR Watson; MJ Clarke; SPD Smith; NM Lyon (nightwatchman)||4|
|No. 6||DA Warner; PJ Hughes; SR Watson; MJ Clarke; MS Wade; GJ Maxwell; BJ Haddin||7|
|No. 7||MS Wade; MC Henriques; GJ Maxwell; BJ Haddin||4|
|No. 8||MA Starc; PM Siddle; GJ Maxwell; AC Agar; MG Johnson||5|
|No. 9||MA Starc; PM Siddle; JL Pattinson; RJ Harris||4|
|No. 10||MA Starc; PM Siddle; JL Pattinson; NM Lyon; RJ Harris||5|
|No. 11||JL Pattinson; XJ Doherty; AC Agar; NM Lyon; RJ Harris; JM Bird||6|
New cap James Faulkner will play at seven today and Starc – the poor lad – will come back in again and play at either eight or nine. Shane Watson will move up to three, a position he has not played in since the Aussie summer, while Khawaja finds himself again cast into the wilderness alongside Phil Hughes and Eddie Cowan; a player who, in the mould of Chris Rogers, they could have persisted with after his horror show in the Trent Bridge Test, in which he was suffering from a virus.
Australia, we are told, need to win this dead rubber so they can build momentum for the return series in three months time. Even if they do so, who can say with any confidence what their XI will be in Brisbane? At this stage, the chances of them fielding the same team in that next Test seem as likely as the four-man selection panel remaining unchanged.
[i] John Inverarity (Chairman), Rod Marsh, Andy Bichel and Darren Lehmann (since June 2013)