16 July 2012

Limited overs squads announced for UAE Tour

Less than a week after posting an article looking at the dynamics of our limited overs squad, the National Selection Panel announced the ODI and T20 squads for the UAE tour in August. They've addressed serious matters of urgency following the horrid UK tour and I am pleased with the balance we have the in side which was evidently a concern.

Without further to do, here's the squads.

ODI squad:
David Warner, Matthew Wade (wk), Michael Clarke (captain), George Bailey, Callum Ferguson, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Daniel Christian, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson, Xavier Doherty, James Pattinson, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc.
T20 squad:
David Warner, Shane Watson, Matthew Wade (wk), David Hussey, Michael Hussey, George Bailey (captain), Cameron White, Daniel Christian, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Hogg, Xavier Doherty, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Ben Hilfenhaus.

The big news is the return of Callum Ferguson. The Baggy Green Blog has become a supportive domain for Fergal and it is with great relief that the selectors have recalled one of our best suited players who has experience at the elite level and has the ability to emulate Michael Hussey's middle order brilliance in limited overs cricket.

He rotates the strike well and gets on with the job, showing innovation within his approach during the death overs of an innings. After his Ryobi campaign last season for the Redbacks he deserves it. At long last.

It is great to see Michael Hussey's name back in the limited overs side as well. May limit Fergal's appearances but always good to see Huss' name in any side.

Daniel Christian has been called into the limited overs side again. A big reason behind this is because Shane Watson will be rested for the ODI matches - along with Ben Hilfenhaus - and Dan is one of our better all-rounders in the system.

Joining the all-rounders department is Glenn Maxwell. I am sure you caught a fair bit of him in the Big Bash League. He scored me some good points in the Fox Sports Fantasy League as well. He can certainly contribute where the side needs him and I am really pleased to see him get selected for our T20 side.

His ODI call-up? In all honesty I did not see him getting into the limited overs side but he is a damn good hitter of the ball and certainly struck me as a bloke who'd find his way into the international setup. If anything I thought maybe Cameron White would have been given an opportunity again in ODI cricket but the selectors have opted for Maxwell in both squads. All the best to the young man! May his role be clear from day 1, unlike poor young Steven Smith.

After the last article I posted, which was a look at the ODI team balance, I am really glad to know that David Warner and Matt Wade will be given another chance to open the batting. I strongly believe in their duo for the shorter format of the game and with Shane Watson being rested this is the ideal chance to give it another test.

The bowling units? With the retirement of Brett Lee (hard to believe it) the bowling unit will be as follows for the ODIs -
Mitchell Johnson, Xavier Doherty, James Pattinson, Clint McKay, Mitchell Starc. Dan Christian, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell and David Hussey can also contribute to the bowling. All in all the options are well stacked and it will simply be a case of having the right men for the job out on the park.

As mentioned, for the Twenty20 side both Shane Watson and Ben Hilfenhaus have been included but will not take part in the ODI series due to player rotation. Patty Cummins, Brad Hogg and Cameron White are the other three players who will only play in the T20 leg of the UAE Tour.

Brad Hogg! I am a big supporter of the man and his enthusiasm is contagious. Hope he stacks up some Paki wickets. Hoggy is also strongly in the mix for the ICC World T20.

Regarding Cameron White,  the Australian Cricketers Association made it clear in a Tweet:
's T20 form lead him to his Australian recall. Deccan: 479 runs @ 43.54, HS 78. Northants: 228 runs @ 57.00, HS 62*

No need to question Cameron's form and deserved recall. I hope he can regain a place in our limited overs squad down the road as well. He seems to have recaptured his natural game after seeming lost for quite some time as to how he should go about his game (attack or defend) and time will tell of the adjustment upon returning to International cricket.

It is a step in the right direction and this side immediately appears to be a more competitive team. There is a far better balance in terms of temperament, ability, form and experience with the batting, while the bowling offers good variety in offering.

A big aspect of this tour will be the batting department. The UAE tracks are often tough to graft on and definitely provoke a demand for concentration and focus in extreme conditions. For this reason I think the selection of Mike Hussey and Callum Ferguson is ideal. Concentration hasn't appeared to be our strong point in limited overs cricket.

If our batsmen can also perform collectively - usual story - and should the dynamics pay off with selection I really, really hope for our bowlers sake that they pile on the runs. Our bowlers can only defend so many below par totals before they lose their confidence and get the label of "average".

With the extreme heat in the UAE, the more runs on the board to defend, the better it will be for them and I am sure our batsmen would return the favour in hoping to chase down some low totals.

Your thoughts?

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13 July 2012

Brett Lee retires from Australian cricket

Usually I would find myself tied up in a whirl wind of words and emotion when writing about the retirement of one of our cricketers. In this case, I find myself humbled by the support the fanatics have shown Brett Lee upon the announcement of his retirement, ending a 13 year career at the elite level.

A competitive bloke, a ferocious bowler and one of the greatest bowlers from one of the greatest teams in the history of this great game.

With all the injuries, personal setbacks off the field and general difficulty being a fast bowler fighting for longevity, the fact Binga has stayed in the game this long was splendid. A testament to determination and self-belief.

Brydon Coverdale summed it up really well in his article recalling some of the greatest moments in Brett Lee's career. There's a few I could add to the list but I think Brydon got it right.

I know two of the followers of the Baggy Green Blog, Baiju and Kritika, will be upset with the news of Binga's retirement as they were massive supporters of his career.

Here's the brief write up I wrote at the Baggy Green Blog's Facebook page.


Thank you Brett Lee.

The time was right and all I can say is thank you for 13 years of blitz entertainment. One of the last blokes of the greatest cricket team of all time.

I remember seeing Binga bowling live for the first time in the
ODI side, which included a fresh faced Andrew Symonds, when I was just 14 years old. His raw pace freaked me out watching from the crowd position of third man and my word was it captivating!

Having met him twice as well all I can say is what a top bloke and I hope he gets all the time in the world now to catch up with his family and jam his bass guitar with his band.

Another legend of the Baggy Greens walks away into the sunset.


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10 July 2012

The balance of our limited overs squad

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about our limited overs squad. As far as Test cricket goes, if there was one area I would like to see improve, it is First-class cricket in Australia which is a direct link to Test cricket.

The players are lined up but what we need to see is the crops of emerging players grow into something spectacular come the end of next summer to further stack up our options for the future battles. For the actual players currently in rotation within the Test squad itself, I am content with where we're heading.

Limited overs cricket seems to be a slightly different setup. Now, our performances haven't been all that bad but they certainly haven't been great, nor consistent for that matter. Is that perhaps the major concern with our squad line up?

We have just seen the conclusion to the UK Tour which has was in all honesty an awful tour, a reflection of a shorter time line. I refuse to believe our team doesn't have the ability to win, but I believe this team never had the balance to win.

Sure, the tosses didn't go our way and that loss at Lord's was never recovered from but it was an embarrassing ordeal with regards to our batting.

We know that the National Selection Panel (NSP) is working on a long term plan for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Reality is we have some serious battles ahead and we need our players to start digging into the squad to make a position their own.

I'd like to see a player take to the field for Australia in ODI cricket with a goal in mind. Step one is that he has achieved his opportunity to play for Australia. A certain attribute and technique has given him this chance, backed by State performances or spotted potential.

Step two is to take that into the elite level and have a short term goal in using those skills and dynamics to cement his place. From this point that player should have a clear idea, as a professional, what his job is for the team and what his position is. He needs to take pride in that position and make it his own with total ownership and confidence.

The final step is to refine it, configure it and perform within that position with pride. It must become the players identity. When you think Matthew Hayden you immediately think, 'an attacking, dominant opening batsman'. When you think Justin Langer you remember a stubborn, hard grafting, patient opening batsman. Glenn McGrath? An opening bowler with incredible control. I could go building upon these players attributes and identities within their roles. 

That is what I would love to be able to discuss when our 2015 World Cup Squad is announced. A squad we can all hopefully identify with and a squad with individuals who know their identity within a position they can call their own and belong to a team where each and every player compliments one another.

Another key factor to this is that once the team recipe is in place, it is wise to start giving upcoming players an opportunity in the place that is currently occupied by the player they'd best suited to replace in the event of injury, retirement or a poor run of form. It is even more important to maintain faith in these players, otherwise you end up with a Hilditch scenario e.g. the ridiculous turn of spin bowlers and debutants.

Introduction into an established side is a major reason Michael Clarke has been able to find his feet so well since the greats of the team he was briefly apart of went their separate ways. He was given exposure around the side and knew exactly what was required on him to one day step in for Damien Martyn, who I saw as his ideal role to mirror. This is where the selectors went wrong with numerous positions in our side. Lack of long term vision, but in all honesty things looked good in general.

I have never liked comparisons but sometimes it shouldn't necessarily be seen as comparison. I prefer to call it building upon an historical benchmark! The Invincibles are regarded as the greatest bunch of cricketers of all time. As someone who didn't grow up in that era and have only read about this legendary Australian cricket teams achievements in a difficult world, but I regard our Test and ODI squads of the late-nineties to mid-2000s as the greatest.

Therefore, I have taken some time to reflect back upon our 2003 World Cup squad, 2007 World Cup squad and our current squad.

What I will do is briefly identify each players key attributes, key strengths and fundamental purpose in the side and try look at current players in the system best suited to the roles performed by players of the past.
If you witnessed any of these sides you should be able to call the history behind each player and squad.

This should then paint a good picture as to what this current side has and also lacks.
I will also mention players who could step into respective roles into the current squad. Most importantly I would really enjoy to read your views and see your opinion of Australian limited overs cricket moving forward.

As always, I never intend for my articles to appear negative. This is a constructive look at our limited overs squad and the excitement moving forward but obviously we want to see our squad move forward with definite purpose. It is not about only drawing comparisons to our brilliant ODI sides of the past but to hopefully learn from their successes and see our players build their own fort of dominance.

This squad I have picked is a basic idea to use younger or somewhat established players (matches and reputation) to match it to the greater teams. All in all I think our batting is really good but lacks balance. Our bowling is also impressive but there are too few bowlers leading from the front, which is a big reason Brett Lee continues to be a front line pick.

Read through these squads.

2003 World Cup squad:

Matthew Hayden: Attacking, aggressive, powerful, flexible in approach.
Adam Gilchrist: Attacking, aggressive, one dimensional in temperament.
Ricky Ponting: Attacking, conservative, risk taker, alert.
Damien Martyn: Attacking, conservative, elegant, alert, grafter.
Darren Lehman: Attacking, aggressive, flexible in approach.
Michael Bevan: Flexible in approach, patient, elegant, innovative, calm.
Andrew Symonds: Attacking, aggressive, powerful, one dimensional in temperament.
Brad Hogg: Attacking, risk taker, enthusiastic.
Andy Bichel: Bichel was a work horse who could menace batsmen. It's good to acknowledge the major role he played in 2003. James Hopes was a similar player in a few regards that of Bichel.  
Brett Lee: Fast, furious, enthusiastic and no shortage of attitude.
Glenn McGrath: Calm, controlled, able to adapt to conditions and circumstances.

2007 World Cup squad:

Matthew Hayden.
Adam Gilchrist.
Ricky Ponting.
Michael Clarke (like Martyn): Attacking, conservative, elegant, alert, grafter.
Michael Hussey (like Bevan): Flexible in approach, patient, elegant, innovative, calm.
Andrew Symonds.
Shane Watson (like Symonds/ Lehman): Attacking, aggressive, flexible in approach.
Brad Hogg.
Nathan Bracken: A tactical swing bowler. Medium paced with smart variation.
Shaun Tait: Filled the void for Brett Lee and did a brilliant job. All about raw, wild pace.
Glenn McGrath.

2012 ODI squad (UK & West Indies tour mixes):

Shane Watson, David Warner, Peter Forrest, Michael Clarke, George Bailey, David Hussey, Matthew Wade, Steven Smith, Brett Lee, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson.

Comparing the balance of this side to the other mentioned players above really shows that even as an emerging team the balance doesn't seem quite right. The players don't seem to be complimenting one another and despite the obvious motive to support each and everyone of them, the synergy doesn't seem to be there.

Even during the West Indies limited overs series it seemed to have the same problems. Thoughts?

The options to find a balance of historic reference:

David Warner:
Like Hayden, Warner is a dominating player. He doesn't have the imposing build like Haydos but he has the natural aggression and big hitting to back it. He can change the tempo of a match and is starting a revolution of his own, as Adam Gilchrist did. I see a blend in his natural game to that of both Haydos and Gilly. Has to open the batting but needs the correct partner to compliment him.

Matthew Wade:
The wicketkeeper/opening batsman who comes to mind should be Adam Gilchrist. He was attacking and had one mode in limited overs cricket. If Haydos was building an innings, Gilly had freedom to attack and open up his shots, open up the field and this allowed Haydos to then find his tempo. This is how they complimented each other.

I feel Wade could do this for Warner and both of them are young so they can build a partnership now while they are young and work towards the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Wade is wasted so far down the order. As good a cricketer as Shane Watson is, I feel his temperament is too similar to that of Warner's. Too infrequently will they ever come off on the same day, meaning their partnerships remain to be doubtful for longevity. Make the change, get Wade up there and use the left/left combination as it once was.

He struggled in the most recent ODI alongside Warner but it was a starting point and with confidence I am sure that Wade could establish a role for himself at the top of the order, as Brad Haddin did for a few seasons as well. It wasn't a toss Michael Clarke wanted to lose but he just had a bad tour this time around.

Good news is that both Tim Paine and Brad Haddin can open the batting if ever required.

Michael Clarke
Clarkey has been nestled at number four for a long time and since the 2007 World Cup he has made it his own. This is what I want to see from our team, making a spot your own! Clarkey has shown good form this series and the lack of support hasn't helped him.

As skipper, along with the determination to perform as a leader and one of our best limited overs batsmen, I reckon he is suited to the number three role. He is also far better when handling the new ball, especially if there is swing about. We urgently need someone to step in since Ricky Ponting was ruled out, so I say get Clarkey into the role while there is time.

Either way you look at it, we still have the number 3 role up for grabs since Ricky Ponting's departure.
George Bailey an option and then keep Michael Clarke at 3?

Aaron Finch:
It may seem odd I have picked Finch. Ideally I feel Shaun Marsh or Cameron White would have been my players of choice two or three seasons ago. They have scored plenty of runs for Australia and been members of winning sides but both have shown confidence problems which has affected their natural temperament. Both look lost and have fallen out of the system. I would like for the both of them to come back strongly due to their proven abilities but I have always had a gut feeling about Aaron Finch.

I reckon he'd be an extremely effective number four batsman, with the responsibility to read the game before him, adapt but have that raw power to play with aggression or fight through tough passages of play. This patient element would be his challenge but it's another case of a young man who could do with the opportunity. This was thinking out the box a little.

Callum Ferguson:
I still do not understand why Callum Ferguson was dropped from our limited overs side. He had a poor Big Bash series and was dropped from 50 over cricket. Never mind he was a member of the South Australian Redbacks team that won Ryobi Cup and Fergal ended with 364 runs at 52.00.

He is the most similar player in my mind to Michael Bevan or Michael Hussey, who is still in the mix but won't be around forever. While not as a big a hitter as Hussey, Fergal is a versatile player who has the ability to get on with the job, rotate the strike, use innovative shot selections but also control the game. He has proven this for Australia before and really needed a few more big stage gigs to make the general public see this.

He's had some bad luck but I maintain belief that if he puts in the work this season, this spot is still his when Michael Hussey walks away. Would be even better to have Huss and Fergal in the same side.

Shane Watson:
Shane Watson is a good opening batsman. He has proven a lot more in his time up top than that of David Warner but Watto is an easier option to use with versatility in the batting line up. It would be asset to our side to have him in a position similar to that of Andrew Symonds. A team was never out of jail until they dismissed Roy who was dauntingly settled in the middle order.

Watto is a monstrous batsman and although his technique is well suited to the new ball, he possesses raw power to club balls in a way most normal batsman just cannot. This would ease his body as well and give us that explosive lower order hitting, which we do lack!

Mitchell Johnson:
Mitch is in a tough position with his cricket right now. He's low in match time and confidence. Having said this, I still look back at last season and strongly recall what a great season he had in limited overs. His bowling comes first, but his batting isn't shabby.

Like Shane Watson in our 2007 World Cup squad or Andy Bichel in 2003, Mitch has one area of his game as his core strength, the other being of useful contribution. Limited overs cricket allows Mitch the unpredictability of his bowling, unlike the harsh nature of Test cricket and very often it can indeed work. He just needs more matches behind his name and some confidence because he such an emotionally fueled player.

Mitchell Starc:
I think Mitch is a very good limited overs bowler. He took the second most wickets for the 2011/12 Ryobi Cup series and if he can learn to control his natural swing and hit his line correctly, wow, this bloke is going to be a handful in two to three years time!

I feel he can play that role similar to Nathan Bracken. While economically he will most likely never match up to Bracks, but he offers that fast left-arm swing bowling option. He can also hold his own with the bat.

Patrick Cummins:
Patty has something about him. There is a X factor and we all know it. Unfortunately when he is given opportunity he keeps getting injured. Limited overs cricket requires a number of performances in order for a player to find a balance between a good day and a bad day. This then leads to consistency. Patty has yet to have this honour.

I see him as a blend of McGrath and Lee, plain and simple. He is fast, he is ambitious and he is mature beyond his years. Injury management and the right nurturing will be of utmost importance.

James Pattinson:
James is a confident young man who has a serious attitude. This attitude along with a keen instinct for ferocious intensity in the middle. Experience is vital to his development. In Test cricket he has come a long way in a short space of time. Limited overs cricket has been tougher for him but I still believe he has a good future with Australian cricket.

Peter Siddle has not been considered much of a limited overs specialist but he has that same fight as Pattinson.

Ben Hilfenhaus:
A player of experience is needed. Ryan Harris would be my first choice but sadly I don't think he will ever make a full time return to the squad to due his history of injuries. It's such a pity as he was the real deal for us.

Hilfy isn't exactly the most threatening of limited overs cricketers but since making his comeback he has most definitely shown improvement in limited overs. We will need a bowler with some experience but also someone who is looking for some extended time in his career.

Like McGrath, Hilfy swings the ball, is a fast to medium paced bowler but doesn't have the versatility in his offerings to that of McGrath. A slower ball has started to prove to be effective but he'll need to show off a few more dimensions in his bowling. I'd still consider him a while longer.

Clint McKay:
While he isn't all that hyped up, I think Clint has shown a lot of character throughout the limited overs tour and has given his best. If he can tighten up his death bowling that would be a major boost to his credibility.

I see a lot of Stuart Clark in Clint McKay's approach to bowling and it's good to note Stuart was a member of our 2007 World Cup Squad.

Jason Krejza/ Xavier Doherty:
I really think Jason was tossed aside to soon. He didn't have a great time in the 2011 World Cup but I don't think he ever expected the call up with the injuries going about. If he can get his pitching of the ball fine tuned he will start to see reward. His line was generally okay if memory serves but he strayed far too much with his length, often bowling way too short.

He has been performing strongly for Tasmania in List A and Twenty20 cricket. Xavier, another Tasmanian, has struggled in England and looked very, very ordinary. Having said that he had a great summer and was valuable. I think he is a very switched on bowler and reads into the game quite well but I find Krejza has a bit more of a daring element to him.

Players like Alister McDermott, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jackson Bird have given us hope for the future of our bowling stocks but the batting is a major cause for concern. Our bowlers can only keep getting us out of trouble for so long. That line has now been crossed.

This State season is going to be more important than ever for batsmen to start stepping up!

What is your general opinion of our ODI side?
What would your ideal squad be, keeping it realistic to players that are still considered to be "in the system"?

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
To comment on this article, click on the 'Comments' tag at the end of the article.