05 May 2012

The missing class

Just a decade ago, many Australian fans and most importantly the selectors could name a handful of batting replacements to fill in or even take over the spots of the current batting lineup. How things have changed in the space of a decade with no player in their late 20′s knocking the door down for selection.

When talking about unlucky batsmen from the past decade in Australian cricket, names such as Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Phil Jaques, Michael Bevan, Chris Rogers, Martin Love and Michael Di Venuto were mentioned. A decade ago these were the players putting pressure on the incumbents with their First Class averages well above 45. The thing each of these guys have in common apart from missing the boat in regards to Test cricket is each of them were in their late 20s a decade ago.

Back then the selectors and fans were debating over whether to pick a young promising player such as Michael Clarke and Shane Watson or go with the guys mentioned above. Times have changed substantially since then with no such luxury for the current selectors. The batsmen in their late 20s have First Class averages between 35-40 and while there are some promising youngsters on the scene, they have not been able to established themselves at Test level yet.

If we go back to the 2005/06 season where the batsmen in their late 20s now would have been in their early 20s, Mark Cosgrove made 736 runs at 66.9, George Bailey 778 runs at 43.22, Shaun Marsh 676 runs at 37.55, Callum Ferguson 506 runs at  36.14 and Cameron White 482 runs at 30.12.

2006/07 was awful for the guys mentioned above with Cosgrove the best of the lot with 703 runs at 37. Andrew McDonald actually made a fair amount of runs this season which I did not pick up on previously with 750 runs at 57.69.

The 2007/08 season showed some promise with Luke Pomersbach putting his name on the radar with 743 runs at 61.91 and it was also Philip Hughes’ first season where he ended up with 559 runs at 62.11. Shaun Marsh and Cameron White also put in some solid numbers and interesting enough neither of them would play this amount of games again (7 and 9 respectively). McDonald backed up his previous season with a solid 545 at 49.54.

2008/09 saw the emergence of the other young leftie who is currently in the Australian setup in Usman Khawaja. Hughes had a massive second year to back up his first one while White had another solid season but like Khawaja and Hughes, he did not play enough games to push the 1000 run barrier. Pomersbach copped the second year syndrome, from which he would never recapture the heights of his 07/08 season. McDonald was not required as much this season but still produced 356 runs at 44.5. The thing to notice is his lack of 100s which was noticeable when he was picked for Australia.

The next season was our first sighting of Steven Smith who had a mammoth season with four hundreds for 772 runs at 77.2. Hughes also had a big year almost cracking the 1000 run barrier and Khawaja backed up his first season. This was also Peter Forrest’s first noticeable production.

The mark of the new decade also brought about a change in the run scorers. Gone were Martin Love and Brad Hodge and the veterans left struggled with age appearing to catch up with them. Two seasons have gone in this new decade with a lack of big runs and no batsmen has crossed the 1000 run barrier since the 2008/09 season. McDonald may well have cracked this mark if he did not get injured after he started the season with a bang with 458 runs from 8 innings including 3 hundreds at an average of 76.33.

Of the players I mentioned who are in their late 20s now, Mark Cosgrove is the only one that has a respectable First Class record. Shaun Marsh has been producing runs in the past few seasons but his lack of matches either through injury or national duty has meant he is still yet to play a full season and his First Class average is well below 40. Cameron White is in the same boat however his First Class average is acceptable at 40 but his recent demotion from the National setup coupled with a lackluster return in Shield cricket means White won’t be adding to his test tally anytime soon.

George Bailey has been consistent in producing season averages of 40 but this season is the first time he has cracked an average of 50 and this is reflected in his overall FC average which is almost dead on 40.

Callum Ferguson was one I thought could do a Michael Clarke and make up for his sub par First Class stats by stepping up at the next level. The signs were promising early with Ferguson averaging 41 in ODI cricket but the selectors never pulled the trigger in taking a punt on him in the Test arena and since then Ferguson has struggled to put any sort of numbers up. All things considered, his First Class stats are even poorer when you consider his home ground is the Adelaide Oval.

There are other names in their late 20s who have been producing recently such as Rob Quiney, Peter Forrest, Ed Cowan and Liam Davis but apart from Cowan none of them have a First Class average over 40. Andrew McDonald is another whose FC average has taken a battering due to his poor start to his career but from 06/07 onwards he has produced solid numbers in a strong Victorian batting lineup. It is a shame his 10/11 season got cut short else he might be in the frame right now.

It is clear players from the class of early 2000s have not lived up to the hype and failed to kick on like many would have hoped. George Bailey and Peter Forrest are next in line for the Australian batting lineup which shows how far the standards have dropped as apart from this season (2011/12) and 09/10 for Cowan neither has made an significant impression in the runs department during their First Class cricket span.

There is still hope that the current youngsters on the scene will bring Australia back to the glory days where batsmen like David Hussey, Martin Love and co could be left out and the side still remained strong.

In around 5 years Philip Hughes, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Joe Burns, Chris Lynn and Tom Cooper (Netherlands/ South Australia) will be in their late 20s and one can only hope they kick on and don’t follow their predecessors.

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1 comment:

Ian said...

It almost seemed as though all the emphasis on us finding bowlers post Warne-McGrath ended up handicapping our batting stocks. Too much vision placed on bowlers.

As you pointed out though, in 2008/09 it seemed as if we had all the stocks in place and then when Hughes got worked over by the short ball in England (nevermind all the expert opinions on how he should change his game) it almost ripped though our entire system for young players.

I felt Marcus North's loss of composure was detrimental as it left a huge void in the side.

At the same time I feel a bit for guys like Andrew McDonald who was so close to becoming a regular member although as Chris Rogers said, with his lack of pace and usage to control the game more so than take buckets of wickets, his batting needed greater emphasis.

Brad Hodge is still I guy I feel we could have used in the 2009 Ashes series and deserved far more opportunities. Rumour was that he didn't fit in well with "the team culture" or some crap like that.

All in all I hope things will come right because there is light at the end of the tunnel. You pointed out a few youngsters in that lot. Our bowlers are in place. It's about getting the batting on track and this coming season is going to be massively important!

The statistics you mentioned tell a story. Haha, I almost forgot about Luke Pomersbach.