The Australian tour squad for the upcoming tours to the West Indies and England was named today.
Australia’s Frank Worrell Trophy/Ashes squad
Michael Clarke (c), Steve Smith (vc), Fawad Ahmed, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris (Ashes only), Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, David Warner, Shane Watson
In doing so, the selectors changed philosophies and have acknowledged that the Sheffield Shield is still a thing.
Previous touring squads, including those going to India and England in 2013, as well as South Africa and Pakistan in 2014 had essentially written of the Shield as anything more than an annoyance.
Rather than rely on First Class performances, the selectors for these tours had chosen ‘their gut’ as a credible alternative. They had discarded Western science for alternative therapies.
It began with Maxwell and Henriques in India, when Australia decided that playing three all rounders (add Watson) in a Test match was the new black. It continued into the Ashes with Ashton Agar being picked to combat Kevin Pietersen. He had a left arm and that’s all that mattered. South Africa saw Phil Hughes’ record Shield season demoted for Shaun Marsh’s mediocrity. Pakistan witnessed O’Keefe. It also starred Maxwell v2.0, which like New Coke, wasn’t any better than the original.
All that changed today, with Rod Marsh’s selection committee choosing to use statistical measures and actual performances as a way to reward. A novel approach. Back to the future perhaps?
Some would go as far to say it is common sense.
The 14/15 Shield leading wicket taker is a guy named Fawad Ahmed.
48 wickets at 24.85, including 8/89 in the first innings of the Shield final prove that he can bowl. The fact he is a leg spinner adds extra weight. He delivers more wicket taking deliveries than any other spinner in the country. His wrong’un is as beautiful as it is deadly. Detractors will point at his age. Those that understand cricket will point at his results.
A spot well earned.
As an aside, 2nd on the wicket taking table was 27 year old Nathan Lyon with 46 wickets. Great signs.
Peter Siddle is only 30 years old. He previously lost his spot to Josh Hazelwood due to trying to bowl in a Test match while injured. However, he too proved in the Shield this year that he is far from finished as a Test workhorse. 30 wickets at 22.53. He took an 8’fer as well.
Adam Voges has been making First Class runs since when Shahid Afridi was born. He’s like a poor man’s Chris Rogers. This year he piled on 1358 of them at an average over 100. Only 3 players have ever made more in a season.
Starc has forced his way into the squad with a succession of amazing 10 over spells in the World Cup.
Only Matthew Wade has a legitimate reason to feel cheated, but he will be on the Australian A tour. He has gone from being the wicket-keeper in the Australian ODI series against South Africa to persona non grata, despite still performing adequately.
With this re-found respect for all things truth, the Australian selectors have avoided falling into the Maxwell / Agar sucker punch that threatened to derail the coming tours. It would have also derailed the spirit of those who had legitimate claims on a tour spot.
First Class performances count for something again. This is a good thing. In fact, it’s great.
Making runs and taking wickets is how to build a strong Test side. It is how you keep the challengers motivated. They are the rules that Phil Hughes wishes were at play a few years back.
Sorry James Faulkner. Go and play some red ball cricket. Sorry James Pattinson and Pat Cummins. You need to do the same. Ashton Agar, although he took some wickets, is competing for the all rounder spot with Watson, Faulkner, Mitch Marsh and Moises. He is ahead of none of them, but will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth.
The best team from the squad now looks formidable. In my eyes, it is:
Steve Smith at 3 and Michael Clarke at 4 makes the middle order impenetrable. Shaun Marsh bats at 5. He made 960 Shield runs at over 50 this season. Watson’s batting and bowling at 6 is ahead of Mitch Marsh. Starc is a wicket taker and nudges out Hazelwood. Same with Ahmed over Lyon.
I had thought the days of Shield performances meaning anything were over. I was wrong.