In all due respect to Michael Beer, 16 First Class wickets at an average of 39.93 is simply not the answer to Australia’s spin-bowling woes. Beer, 26, was today selected in the 12-man Australian squad for the 3rd Ashes Test, starting in Perth next week, with Chairman of Selectors, Andrew Hilditch quoted saying;
“We expect he will bowl very well against the English on his home ground.”
Firstly, the WACA is not Beer’s home ground, he has only played 3 matches there, ever. Beer relocated to Perth from Melbourne at the conclusion of the 2009/10 season, in order to gain some more opportunities, which he has done at domestic level. However he simply isn’t ready, or deserving of a Baggy Green.
The selection of Beer adds to the ridiculous list of spin bowling options that Australia have tried since Shane Warne’s retirement in January 2007. The list includes;
Nathan Hauritz, 17 Tests, 63 Wickets @ 34.98
Dan Cullen, 1 Test, 1 Wicket @ 54.00
Beau Casson, 1 Tests, 3 Wickets @ 43.00
Cameron White, 4 Tests, 5 Wickets @ 68.40
Jason Krejza, 2 Tests, 13 Wickets @ 43.23
Bryce McGain, 1 Test, 0 Wickets @ N/A (149 runs conceded)
Steve Smith, 2 Tests, 3 Wickets @ 27.33
Xavier Doherty, 2 Tests, 3 Wickets @ 102.00
With these figures in mind, it’s worth noting that after 8 Tests, Shane Warne had just 14 wickets at 49.93. However, the selectors at the time showed faith in the young Victorian spinner and most importantly patience. Selecting a young spinner for just a handful of matches (if that), as in the case of Cullen, Casson, White, Krejza and McGain, is simply not showing enough faith in their ability. The pressure to perform immediately is far too high and the expectations are all but impossible to live up too.
Jason Krejza is arguably the unluckiest spinner of the eight mentioned, having picked up 12 wickets in his debut match before being dropped just one match later. Krejza however played against a strong Indian outfit, the best players of spin in the world, and never received another chance.
Nathan Hauritz, the best performing and most consistent spinner since Warne’s retirement, was dumped from the Australian side at the start of the series and was requested to go back and perform at domestic level. In his last two matches for New South Wales, he has taken 10 wickets at 21.00 (including 5/39 at Perth) and scored 166 runs at 55.33. If anyone should be replacing Doherty in the Australian side it should be Hauritz.
The other thing that must be highlighted is that since being dropped from the Australian side, Cullen, Casson and Krejza have all suffered from such extreme drops in confidence, that at times they’ve even found themselves dropped from their respective state teams. Do the selectors fully understand the mental scarring that these young spinners are being subjected to?
Andrew Hilditch has been heavily criticised in recent years over a number of controversial decisions. In particular the way in which he never showed enough faith in Brad Hodge and more recently the way in which he persisted with Marcus North for far too long. Both of these decisions however pale into significance with this latest howler and before anyone else can be blamed for ruining Australian cricket, Hilditch needs to held accountable. Afterall, it was Hilditch himself who has previously said;
“The panel believes the left-arm orthodox variety Xavier Doherty provides against a predominantly right-handed English middle order is the better option in this Test” – November 2010
“Bryce is the premier legspin bowler in Australia, there’s absolutely no question about that. He’s 36 years of age and the reality is he’s still fairly young in cricketing terms and we think he’ll do a really good job” – February 2009
“Casson is by far the best-performed of the young spinners on the domestic circuit” – April 2008
The English will be licking their lips in the dressing rooms with the thought of facing Beer at Perth next week, and if selections like this continue, a 4-0 whitewash can’t be ruled out.