Sport Cricket Hogg: batting dearth explains Clarke desperation
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Hogg: batting dearth explains Clarke desperation

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Australian cricket is looking increasingly desperate in its indecent haste to get Michael Clarke to the starting line for the first Test in Brisbane.

It is doubtful if so much effort was ever made to get Don Bradman or a Melbourne Cup favourite up for a sporting event.

Why?

The answer lies in the dreadful state of long-form batting in Australian cricket.

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Ideally, there would be someone knocking down the door to replace Clarke in the middle order against an under-prepared Indian attack while the Australian skipper proves his fitness – as he properly should – in a first-class match.

In short, there is no such logical replacement.

Phil Hughes is the most deserving batsman, but there is no natural spot for him. Photo: Getty
Phil Hughes is the most deserving batsman, but there is no natural spot for him. Photo: Getty

The most deserving candidate is Phil Hughes, who has been racking up the frequent flyer points with the Australian team but has spent more time running drinks for his teammates than facing up to a red ball.

At 25, Hughes has made 26 first-class centuries and averages 46. It is an imposing record.

Yet Hughes’ promotion would present a massive quandary.

He is a specialist against the fast bowlers, and needs to play in the top three.

The same applies to Shane Watson.

Watson averages just over 40 in Test cricket as an opener or No. 3. But those numbers plummet when he moves down the order: 26 at No. 4; 28 at No. 6; 15 at No. 7.

Obviously, Dave Warner, Phil Rogers, Watson and Hughes cannot all squeeze into the top three.

I have a rule of thumb that any player over 30 who does not average 40 in first-class cricket is not worthy of a Test berth.

We tried it with George Bailey last summer and he is back where he belongs – playing for Tasmania.

Likely lad: Queensland's Joe Burns. Photo: Getty
Likely lad: Queensland’s Joe Burns. Photo: Getty

How on earth is anyone who can’t average 40 in first-class cricket going to be able to average 40 in Test cricket?

And if you’re happy with blokes averaging less than 40 in Test cricket, go and barrack for New Zealand.

Look around the country at some of the names that have been mentioned.

In South Australia, Callum Ferguson is 30 and bats on the best wicket in the country in Adelaide, but averages 39.

In Western Australia, Shaun Marsh, who has had multiple chances, is 31 and averages 36.

Neither deserves a Test spot.

There are some promising younger candidates elsewhere, notably Tasmania’s Jordan Silk (age: 22; first-class ave: 38), Victoria’s Peter Handscomb (age: 23; first-class ave: 36) and Queensland’s Joe Burns (age: 25; first-class ave: 42).

Of these, Burns is probably the most deserving.

But we already have one batsman selected on potential: Mitchell Marsh (age: 23; first-class ave: 29). Mind you, we like what we have seen so far.

All this perhaps explains the ridiculous lengths to try to get Clarke up for the first Test.

Hopefully it is not also linked to marketing, or the influence of Channel Nine.

Remember, Clarke did his hamstring for the third time in six weeks strolling between wickets in a one-day match.

If Clarke breaks down in the Test, there is a grave danger that the selectors will end up with a lot of desperate egg all over their face.

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