08 November 2012

The battle is hours away

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The first Test is not long away now, single digit hours now with the countdown for a Test series which will determine which team walks away as the number one ranked team as it was in 2008 but much has changed since then.

However, this is not the primary focus as history will remind us that each and every session between these two teams is a battle in itself which is as mentally draining for the players as it is for the supporters - especially when waking up at 1 or 2 am in the morning!

The fact remains that the objective since Michael Clarke took over the captaincy, with a more established side and support staff, was that the team wanted to regain the spot as the number 1 ranked Test side having fallen from such great heights. The fact the boys are so close to this is admirable and a series win will snatch the title away from the Proteas, a very well established side with comfortable balance. Maintaining that rank is another ball game.

The weather doesn't look great for the Test but it looks likely that we'll see four fast bowlers take to the field with the batsmen geared up and ready to go. I am content with this mix and I do think it will be a good move. We may say that it is always good to have a spinner in the side but we shouldn't kid ourselves. The role is nowhere near as vital as it once was and at the Gabba I wouldn't be losing sleep over it. The decision is a good one.

I also know Dr. Sherylle Calder has been with the side to assist with her experience and skills as a eye-hand specialist and world renowned Sports Scientist. I had the honor of meeting and interviewing her for educational purposes with her earlier this year and was able to recommend.

It's good that since the Argus Review new and bold steps have been taken to try and strengthen the transition period.
With Justin Langer looking like a the possible new coach for Western Australia there is no doubt in my mind that he will be giving it 100% in his final summer with the side and I hope all the different attitudes, ideas and experience will mold strongly.

There is some exciting news tomorrow.

Rob "Bobby" Quiney will be making his debut as Baggy Green #429.

It is an occasion that always gives me goosebumps when a player joins the great legacy of Australian cricket and is given a chance to create their own chapter in such a great book of legendary players and sides.

Rob has no record like that of many players who broke into the Australian team at his age during the teams peak, nor does he have the perceived experience as many players had then debuting at his age. The fact is the State landscape has changed for batting.

As it was with our bowling four years ago when taking on the Proteas, this time around we see it with our batting stocks. Fortunately though Bobby had an immaculate run last season and his call up is as a result of recognition for his input during that season which was one of consistency. He performances against The Proteas for Australia A justified his position having had an average start to the season, as it's been with the majority of the batsmen.

Only one batsman since the 2008 Allan Border Medal awards who won the State Cricketer of the Year award has represented Australia in Test cricket, and that is Usman Khawaja. It is a good call that the selectors have acknowledged this award the Bobby achieved last season.

With Shane Watson out of the side this is maybe the opening that was needed for a fresh guy to come in and try claim the number three role in an environment which will be as hostile as it can be. A true test.

My concern for many batsmen is that they don't have the temperament to maintain their game at the elite level and the averages and general team totals in the Sheffield Shield reflect this.
The unquestionable element is that the conditions have begun to favour bowlers along with "result tailored" wickets.

If anything it provides a more challenging environment for batsmen where they need to develop and enhance the true skill required to succeed in Test cricket. The conditions are not ideal but it has the chance to make our emerging batsmen tougher and batsmen like Alex Doolan, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Phil Hughes and Callum Ferguson have shown glimpses of this season but still require consistency.

Bobby has the chance to take on a role that is still covered by the shadow of Ricky Ponting who is now finding himself as a middle order batsman in his final years of playing alongside Michael Hussey.

David Warner and Ed Cowan have come out backing themselves to play their "natural games" and "attack" but bottom line is they also need to find compatibility in their partnership which will benefit Bobby should he find himself in a positive position come the end of this series.

With a total of 724 runs at 42.58 in 2010/11 and 938 runs at 49.36 last season he should have no reason to doubt himself and as supporters we should not be doubting him either. He deserves his call up and averaging close to 50 is what we need from State batsmen. I don't think he can afford to have doubt as a player about to debut against South Africa. Not exactly a mini challenge!

In 90 First-Class innings he has only scored 7 centuries and 16 half centuries but his recent form and self discovery as a cricketer is what counts and I will be rooting for him loudly and proudly.

I am wishing Baggy Green #429 the very best with his opportunity.

Overall a lot is at stake this series which includes pride!
The series loss in 2008/09 hurt and we will not want to see the boys drop their guard and let the Proteas into the fort too easily. The lack of match preparations as a side would be my number one concern but if all aspects of our game come together and the synergy ignites then I have little doubt in our side. If anything I don't there is too much separating the sides on their day.

Bottom line is our batsmen need to step up and this will be tough against a bowling unit that gets open eyes upon their performances. Yet our bowling unit is capable of serious destruction as well and with runs on the board it will give them more to work with (too often getting us out jail) but they still have stiff competition against The Proteas, far more than that of India last summer.

With hours to go all I can say is bring it on and may the battle be bloody intense!

My prediction? What do you expect me to say? Victory to the Baggy Greens. Come on boys!

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Pat said...

Gee Ian, interesting comments but a pity that you think there has been new and bold steps since the Argus report. From where I sit its pretty much the same old M O - Firstly its either strength and conditioning and nothing else, except Arthur's South African friend Calder. CA HAVE been offered and unfortunately only ever toyed with eye-hand specialists for years. (Did you know that before the last Ashes, 5 players in the Aussie squad failed a vision screening? - CA chose to do nothing.) Now they introduce someone from SA. Well so far, 3 dropped catches on DAY 1, how do you think she's working? As for other bold moves, keeping elderly players? That's bold? Not altering bowling training so no-balls continue to be bowled in tests? Is that bold? Maybe you're too close, or do you think the S & C are getting it perfectly correct with Watson as well? Give us a break....

Ian said...

Hi Pat,

Cheers for the comment/

We all know these changes take time. The state of our cricket landscape was a mess post the Warne-McGrath era and this will take time.

The usage of Dr. Calder, to my understanding, is more based on the batting dynamics and not at all related for fielding. Not being internal within the team I cannot comment on other applications.

The work she has done in many sports is admirable and results have shown. Three winning World Cup Rugby Union sides and worked with our highly successful limited overs side a decade or so ago.

I look back to last summer and the performances were outstanding from the side.

A bit of what you're stating is valid but is also based on one day of cricket and this article was written prior to play on day 1.

People were talking highly of Clarke's captaincy after last summer and the Windies series. Now they question it after 1 day of cricket. Seriously?

It's odd to me how people are so full of shit and just expect things to suddenly turn around and when it's good its kind of accepted but when it goes wrong it's all negative and critical from fans and media.

By the same token Cricket Australia still operates too much like a marketing machine as opposed to a cricket facilitating organisation which really bugs me!

Our bowling unit is the one that is perceived to be the best to play which I support but didn't execute properly and we have seen what they can do when they do.

Drop catches happen as well and while we get frustrated and disheartened when it happens, seeing as it directly reflects on standards, but it happens.

Bear in mind Hashim Amla has had an immense amount of fortune as well over the last few months and he's not exactly invincible. Just a quality player who makes you pay when you give him a life line or two. Same for Clarkey, Punter and Huss.

Amla is riding his luck and backed on good form it is going for him. Won't last forever and Kallis was just damn lucky the no ball happened although the incident in not the first time.

Had those been taken we may have been singing to a different tune.

I also try to find positives in everything. I have seen drastic improvements in certain aspects of our cricket since 2008 but can't shy away that we've seen many areas also either stagnate or drop.

At least certain measures get taken and I still believe things will turn around but this was 1 day in a long series.