Matthew Wood, who also writes at Balanced Sports, reflects on selections from The Gabba and selections for Adelaide.
With the two additions to Australia’s squad for the second Test being fast bowlers, questions now hang over the future of Mitchell Johnson and to a lesser extent, Ben Hilfenhaus. Both pacemen were unable to perform at the ‘Gabba and by selecting Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger the selectors have stated flatly that only by achievement does one maintain their position in the Test team.
This is a long overdue standard for Australia to discover: for too long players have kept their spots because “They have class” or “They need experience” or “They have potential” amongst any other number of reasons. No matter what the sport, the best teams in the world place selection pressure on the incumbents from outside the “first team” – players on the fringe trying to force their way into the team. The simple result of this is those who stay in the team do so by way of their performance. Perhaps the best example is of Collingwood Football Club in Australia where coach Mick Malthouse has inspired incredible performances consistently over recent years from youthful ranks simply by rewarding good form. A player stays in the team only if he is able to do the job assigned to him and the Magpies youngsters have responded in spades. Say what you like about Collingwood’s outward attitudes but their youth development has been amongst the best in the AFL for a decade now.
Whether Australia deigns to make changes still remains to be seen as the selectors have played this gambit before only for no changes to be made. With a change in selection panel and with an increased role for Greg Chappell maybe this week is the time it changes and Doug Bollinger replaces fellow left-armer Johnson as Australia’s strike bowler. Unquestionably unfortunate to not play in Brisbane, Bollinger adds more grit to the lineup at the expense of pace and unpredictability. Harris, Clint McKay (VIC), Peter George (SA), Luke Butterworth (TAS) and New South Welsh pair Mark Cameron & Trent Copeland have all got legitimate claims both to good form and the potential to succeed for Australia so the fast-bowling stocks aren’t thin at all.
The strongest message of accountability would be to simply drop “Zoolander” as he hasn’t performed for Australia since the 2009 tour to South Africa. Like any other successful sports team, their motto has to be “Play well or we’ll find someone who will”. With the Australian team so long regarded “Harder to get out of than into” – except for Brad Hodge in both cases – it’s long past time Australia stopped suffering sub-par performances in the name of style, elegance or explosiveness.
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