Daniel Gray reckons it’s time to slice and dice in India and cull some of the passengers in the Australian lineup.
In 1995, U2 and their producer Brian Eno formed a group called Passengers as a side project outlet for their more ambient music leanings. Their best-known song, ‘Miss Sarajevo’, featured an unlikely collaboration with the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti. You may be wondering why I am writing about a U2 side project on a cricket website, and this is a valid question. The reason is this – I was reminded of this group while thinking about the current XI representing Australia in Test cricket.
The ever-reliable Wikipedia defines a passenger as ‘any person who travels in a vehicle, but bears little or no responsibility for the tasks required for that vehicle to arrive at its destination’. Let me paint a little picture. Let’s say the Australian cricket team is a vehicle, and its destination is victory. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. On the basis of our earlier definition, I would say this week’s Test loss to India revealed the following passengers: Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Marcus North, Nathan Hauritz, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus (1st innings only), and Mitchell Johnson (2nd innings only).
If you count it out, my list comes to 8 out of 11 players, or 73% of the team. Some may say I am being hard on young Mitchell Johnson, the ‘leader’ of our attack (I winced when I typed that sentence). After all, isn’t a 5-for in a Test match a solid feat? Well, yes and no. I am a little old school, in that I value a contribution when the game is really on the line more than an earlier performance. If a bowler can stand up, take 4 wickets when the opposition is chasing a low target, and nearly get his team across the line, I consider that to be pretty important. So Hilfy gets a pass this time from the list of passengers on that basis.
On form in the last 12 months, I think I can cut Katich and Clarke some slack. Ditto Bollinger, for now. I think the Rug will, however, be very nervous when Harris and Siddle return from injury in the coming months. As the selectors will clearly not shift from their belief that Mitchell Johnson is the ‘leader’ of our attack (yuck), that leaves us with a list of three players whose positions Greg Chappell should be reviewing as I type. Michael Hussey has a lot of goodwill among the team, selectors and fans in general. However, I am starting to think he is a spent force in Test cricket. It may well be time for Watson to move down the order and allow Phil Hughes to re-enter the fray. An injection of youth can do wonders for a side, as shown by the Collingwood FC premiership side of 2010.
Much less love is held for one Marcus North. Surely Chappell and co realise a batsman cannot hold down the number 6 position on the basis of his occasional wicket taking ability? I would be very surprised if Callum Ferguson is not already in India, perhaps helping Mr. North pack his bags and offering to drive him to the airport. He’s a very polite sort, our Callum.
The final player who must be on his last legs is one Nathan Hauritz. I find it astonishing that a player whose bowling is as terrifying as a Labrador puppy can be considered a front line spinner for Australia. While the spin cupboard is awkwardly bare, perhaps the selectors need to go on form and give Bryce McGain another go. He has been the form spinner at state level for the last year, and until a younger candidate puts his hand up I would say our options are very limited.
One final point before I list my team for the second Test – can someone please organise for Brad Haddin to be injured for the next two to three years? Surely it’s the only way our selectors will continue to pick Tim Paine, which is a necessity in my eyes.
Ok, here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. My team for the second Test against India is:
12th man: Steven Smith
And as an added treat, here is one of the greatest songs of all time related to passengers:
Would You Change the Australian Starting Lineup?
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