AS Morrissey and The Smiths once said: “Panic on the streets of Brisbane, Panic on the streets of Dumbleyung”, or something like that. The Australian selectors have morphed into the English selectors of the 1990s and are dropping and picking random people from the world of domestic cricket on what appears to be a whim.
The latest player to be dragged out of the Aussie hat is that of Michael Beer, a 26-year-old who has an almighty five first-class games under his belt.
Australia’s chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, has been quoted as saying that Beer has been very impressive in domestic cricket this season.
When one analyses his bowling stats, they are reasonable, but he was playing club cricket 12 months ago having failed to impress the selectors in Victoria, hence his move to Western Australia.
He gets a wicket every 11 or so overs, which isn’t bad, but each wicket costs him approximately 40 runs, which is not great. He cannot bat, having scored 14 runs from 76 balls faced in eight innings. Australia’s tail was long in the first place, Beer’s selection would make it that much longer.
Into the squad comes Steve Smith for the hapless Marcus North. Smith is a hard-hitting batsman who bowls leg-spin. Clearly a devotee of Shane Warne in looks and body shape, he at least has international experience having been in the one-day squad for a while, and played a couple of Test matches already.
His bowling has a reputation for being a little wayward at times, but he does get wickets and he is certainly one for the future. I can’t believe Australia would pick him as the lone spinner due to lack of reliability.
Simon Katich sustained an Achilles injury in Adelaide, so Phil Hughes steps in. He is a man with an idiosyncratic technique (polite for “dodgy technique, relying heavily on being in form”) who is not in good form at all. He has scored big runs against South Africa in the past but was dropped when he played against England previously. He is the obvious choice, but no guarantee of runs.
Doug Bollinger has gone from the squad which leaves the door open for Ben Hilfenhaus or Mitchell Johnson to come back in. Johnson would be a gamble, but it’s a gamble that could pay off and win them the game, plus he can bat a bit.
Hilfenhaus would be the conservative choice, reliable with the ball but unable to bat, which just elongates the tail.
Australia’s team will be this, in my opinion: Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Brad Haddin, Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Michael Beer.
One man not in the squad is Shane Warne, despite the public’s attempts to raise enough money to tempt him out of retirement via a website.
Australia are only going through what England did in the 90s when trying to replace Ian Botham. These guys are unique and are impossible to replace. The trouble is that they leave a big hole in the team when they do pack it in.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for England and their selection issues either. The practice game in Melbourne saw Panesar and Collingwood prosper with the ball, rather than Shahzad, Tremlett or Bresnan. I reckon they’ll go for Bresnan, but Tremlett would be my choice as he will have more penetration with the ball.
Whatever happens, England occupy the box seat in this series and it’s up to the Australians as they have all the work to do to regain the urn. Australia will come out fighting, but their problems with the ball may hamper their progress.