Taking the Mickey

Cricket very rarely makes me angry. Horrible losses, shocking umpiring, bad sportsmanship, sure it might get me momentarily fired up, but it doesn’t make me truly angry. Australia’s defeat in the first test didn’t make me angry, simply because as has been the case in India for decades a win in India is the exception not the rule, regardless of how good or bad the Australian touring side is.

The dropping of first-choice spinner Lyon in favour of limited-over specialist Doherty and debutant all-rounder Maxwell for the second test didn’t make me angry, it just left me very confused. Phil Hughes’ minimal contribution with the bat thus far this series likewise doesn’t make me angry, it makes me frustrated because I know he’s much, much better than that.

But this evening, cricket – or more specifically, bullshit cricket politics – has me angry. After two beltings at the hands of Dhoni’s men, there was a strong feeling that more “radical” team changes would be seen for the third test, and we now know that this will certainly be the case – just not for the reasons everyone was expecting.

Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson have all be axed from the squad because they failed to provide coach Mickey Arthur with a list of three ways that they, and the team, could improve its performance after the first two tests. All touring players were given almost six days to complete the seemingly simple task, and all players completed the task, except these four. For that, they copped the chop. Ridiculous.

Now, lets be clear, I understand that these were ‘team orders’, and ‘team orders’ are there to be followed. I also understand that if everyone else managed to complete it then there is no real reason why these four weren’t able to – especially when the vice-captain is one of them – but axing them because of it? Come on, seriously? There are bigger issues. Issues like having enough – suitable – players to be able to select a competitive, balanced side that might be strong enough to at least scrape through for a draw in the third test.

As I write this Brad Haddin is on his way to India (lucky him…) as cover for mishap-prone Matthew Wade who has sprained his ankle playing basketball. Even if Wade is declared fit that only leaves the Aussie with a total of 13 players to pick from. If Wade does pull up for the third test, I’d still be picking Haddin in the side – they can fight it out between them as to who takes the gloves – with the extra man playing as a specialist batsman … or additional spin option, because apparently anyone can have a crack at that.

I totally get that they want to “draw a line in the sand”, this is after all the pinnacle of cricket, but perhaps that line should be drawn at “you’re not scoring any runs” or “you’re a front line bowler and you’re not taking any wickets”, or “you’ve spent more time playing golf than practicing in the nets”. Those ‘lines’ I could understand, but failing to SMS or slide a post-it note under the door of the coach, that’s just silly.

Some of the quotes from Mickey – who, in general, I have no problems with (a view not shared by more than a few ex-international cricketers) – are borderline hilarious. Questioning Khawaja’s attitude and implying that he doesn’t get how ‘serious’ the Aussie team is. Ok, I wonder what would lead to that? Surely it’s got *nothing* to do with him being picked in squads all summer as the cover batsmen, and then as soon as a permanent batting spot opens up they give it to… someone else. Stating that Watson is “usually extremely professional”, which apparently counts for nothing if you don’t write little notes. What Watto was doing instead of writing notes? I wonder if he was working in the nets or something? And apparently Johnson and Khawaja just “forgot” about it, so it’s not only the selectors who have memory issues?

Nonsense aside, the plus side for guys like Cowan, Hughes, Doherty, Maxwell – heck, anyone whose name isn’t Michael Clarke – the drastically depleted player pool means they hold off rotation/axing/non-selection (justified or otherwise) for at least little while longer.

The big question is what happens for the fourth test. Lets say by some sheer fluke, that Australia’s bits-n-pieces side manages to not get flogged in the third test. What to the selectors do then? Do they run with the same side for the final test, or do the naughty boys come back into the side? At this point it’s anyone’s guess, always a chance they fly half a dozen other random players in to have a hit… In any case it looks like Watto won’t be back, he’s flying home to be with his wife who is expecting their first child at the end of the month.

I live in hope that those that are picked for the third test put their best on show, score solid runs, take vital wickets and show everyone that they belong in the team. Any result that isn’t a loss is a victory. Remember we thrashed the Indians 4 blot out here a little over a year ago, we might currently be down 2-0, but just one draw in the next two tests and we’ve done better over there than they did out here. And as you know, just ask the Indians, home series are much more important anyway.

Let’s face it the selectors have a crap job. If the Australian Test captaincy is the most important job in Australia other than being PM, then being an Australian selector must be a close second. The odd questionable selection aside, those making the choices can be forgiven most of the time – after all they aren’t the ones not making runs and not asking wickets. But axing players because they didn’t do their homework – if the homework were additional nets session it would be a different matter – is just mental – sometimes a little common sense needs take over.

Consider the plot officially lost.

Actually, while I’m writing, may as well throw together three things the “naughty four” could have sent to Mickey. Turns out it isn’t that hard…

Usman Khawaja

  1. Remember me?
  2. I can bat at 3.
  3. Please pick me.

Shane Watson

  1. I want to open.
  2. I want to bowl.
  3. Don’t say I’m not contributing if you won’t let me.

James Pattinson

  1. Batsmen needed more runs for me to bowl at.
  2. I needed to take more wickets.
  3. I can have a rack at bowling left-arm slight turners.

Mitchell Johnson

  1. Wasn’t my fault.
  2. I was sitting next to Lyon on the bench, wasn’t even 12th man.
  3. Maybe you should pick me?