Sport Cricket South Africa tour: Method in the madness?

South Africa tour: Method in the madness?

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If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, the selection of the Australian squad to tour South Africa was an act of madness.

What looked like an experiment with George Bailey, and a failed one at that, has now become de facto policy.

Once, batsmen were promoted on the weight of runs they made in first-class cricket. The rationale is perfectly reasonable: first-class cricket most closely resembles the technical examination a batsman can expect in Test cricket.

The new model is to pick batsmen who show promise or have excelled at other forms of the game in the hope they have the nous and technique to prosper at Test level.

Bailey will be replaced in the Test team by either Shaun Marsh or Alex Doolan. Bailey was selected on one-day form, and those who cautioned that his technique outside off-stump was inadequate were vindicated.

He may never play Test cricket again, which would leave him with an extraordinary record: a 5-0 record in a signature Ashes series, a world-record equalling 28 runs in a James Anderson over, some fine catches at short leg and a bit part in the “get ready for a broken f—ing arm” affair.

Australia can thank Brad Haddin for providing cover for Bailey’s poor series with the bat, although with Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander waiting in Africa, Clarke’s men will not be able to afford another passenger in the top six.

Of the possible replacements, Marsh has an inferior first-class record to Bailey and is in poor first-class form. He has made 248 Sheffield Shield runs this summer at the underwhelming average of 31.

Like Bailey, he has excelled in short form cricket, is seeing the white ball well and has questions marks over his technique. Unlike Bailey, he has shown that he can perform at Test level, having made a century on debut against Sri Lanka – although it was all downhill from there.

Doolan has the best first-class record of the three, but even he is averaging under 38, which is not exactly crashing down the door.

Superannuated run machines like Stuart Law and Jamie Siddons – who managed just one Test between them – must weep into their Horlicks at the modest records of these relative imposters.

Similarly, Phillip Hughes, who has a vastly superior first-class record to any of the above three, must wonder what he has to do. Click on the owl to compare their respective records. 

Hughes has made serious Test runs, including in South Africa, and is the third highest run scorer in Sheffield Shield cricket this summer (549 at 61) since he was unlucky to be dropped midway through the winter Ashes series. He would be in my squad.

Chairman of selectors John Inverarity spoke glowingly about Doolan’s technique, which is slightly reassuring. If selectors picked players purely on numbers, anyone could do the job. They are supposedly the men with the credentials to identify talent and see what we cannot.

Intelligent, high-risk selections can bring high rewards: One SK Warne springs to mind.

Hopefully, they have got this one right and there is method to the apparent madness.

Squad to tour South Africa: Michael Clarke (c), Brad Haddin (vc), Jackson Bird, Alex Doolan, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Chris Rogers, Siddle, Steve Smith, Dave Warner, Shane Watson.

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