Following news that Nathan Coulter-Nile has been called into the Australian Cricket squad to face the Windies in the next Test, I’ve officially cracked.
Instead of enjoying the Australian team’s performance in the upcoming Tests against the West Indies I’ll be sitting on the couch death-riding new members of the Australian side, hoping that they perform poorly.
I won’t be doing this out of any need to justify a strange egotistical sense that my judgement is better than Cricket Australia selectors. No, I’ll be doing this to ensure that in the future, cricketers around Australia, our sons and our daughters, are given a fair go.
Things had started out so well this spring when Joe Burns was picked and Usman Khawaja came back in the team. There was no longer any wicketkeeping controversy because Peter Nevill was clearly the best man for the job.
The bowling was locked in around players with rock solid form and a proven track record. All of this meant that I was able to abide the inclusion of Mitch Marsh with a shrug of the shoulders. After all, he was in the side to replace Shane Watson so it was difficult to feel too strongly about how poorly things might go.
Then disaster struck. Khawaja’s hamstring snapped like a guitar string that had been wound too tight. Mitchell Johnson realised his life calling was as a spruiker of protein shakes and put the baggy green on the hat rack. Mitchell Starc succumbed to a lingering hoof injury and retired to the comfort of a moon boot for the remainder of the summer.
Relax, I told myself, these things happen. Injuries are a part of the game, players can’t play forever and after those good decisions at the start of the summer I was confident that Cricket Australia could manage these unforeseen omissions.
The brains trust at Cricket Australia headquarters, locked in their bunker surrounded by framed Channel Nine memorabilia, would have succession plans in place. They’d have a list of meticulously researched backup players earmarked for a call-up.
How wrong I was.
First they brought back Shaun Marsh, aka the human yo-yo. But who doesn’t deserve a seventh chance?
Then they recalled Siddle to replace Johnson. All clear here, Siddle’s inclusion was a ripping decision and no one with any interest in the sport could have argued about the fiery Victorian re-joining the XI. Some say it should have been sooner.
Now, Rod Marsh and panel have selected Nathan Coulter-Nile to join the squad? Ahead of Jackson Bird, ahead of James Hopes, ahead of Scott Boland? That’ll do me.
To be clear, the source of my outrage isn’t about the abilities of the cricketers recently selected into the team. It’s that a sense of fairness, interest in current performance and rational thought doesn’t exist within the decision-making process.
Clearly, efforts on the cricket pitch are meaningless and players aren’t being judged on what really counts: current performance. Shaun Marsh might be able to play every cricket stroke in the book with immaculate technique but I want Michael Klinger in the side because he’s scored more runs in domestic cricket and hasn’t had six prior opportunities to prove his ability in the international arena.
Whatever process the Cricket Australia selection panel is using to choose replacement players for the national team – and I suspect it involves Rod Marsh attempting to beat David Boon’s in-flight record while sitting in the corner of his local pub – needs to be torn up, set on fire and thrown into the sea.
I want my national side to be made up of players like Klinger, Bird and Hopes: the blokes who have grafted and fought their way to get there, the blokes who have earned the right to play. It’s become a foreign concept to have to earn a baggy green these days when instead of runs on the board or wickets taken the selection policy comes down to ‘gut feeling’.
It makes me sick.
What kind of message does this send to players about their performances in the Sheffield Shield? More broadly, what kind of message does this send to cricket fans?
The domestic competition is already flailing. Decisions like the Coulter-Nile promotion just reinforce its place as the unwanted step-child, inherited by the current Cricket Australia hierarchy who are happy enough ignoring it and pushing it to the side ahead of the golden child: Twenty20.
The memo from Cricket Australia to young cricketers is clear: ‘The Interstate Shield competition? Nah, don’t worry about it. Just perfect your slogging for T20 and you’ll be right. Refining technique in the long form of the game? Don’t bother, that’ll come later. We’ve got a gut feeling about it. Trust us.’
Coulter-Nile might be the second coming of Andy Bichel but the selectors’ brazen ignorance of anything remotely resembling form annoys the hell out of me.
And if there’s anyone who should know something about the importance of form it’s Bichel, who is one of Cricket Australia’s national selectors. Bichel holds the record for most appearances as 12th man for Australia, 19 times he’s carried the drinks, during which time he missed out on plenty of important match practice that frequently left him short of the mark when he was called up into the XI.
Rod Marsh has forced me into a corner with the Coulter-Nile decision. If Cleopatra plays I’ll be cheering for him to get smacked around the ground and hoping he brings up his bowler’s century at nunfa. I’ll be hoping Shaun Marsh equally comes up with an act of ineptitude akin to his first innings at Adelaide.
Passively supporting the opposition team may be a bridge too far for some but I’m willing to sit on my couch to take a stand against these horrific selection decisions.
So that’s it for me. I’ve cracked. On Thursday December 10, when the first game against the Windies gets underway, I’ll be whispering Voodoo curses under my breath, wishing poor performances upon the replacement Aussie players and cheering for the men from the Caribbean.
When’s the next Australia A game?
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