Writing a review of individual Australian performances during The Ashes is a duty I’ve procrastinated and ruminated on all weekend. Hopefully, it will be a cathartic experience but I expect it to be as wretched as the cricket the BaggyGreen produced.
England played very well but three innings defeats is indicative of a deeper malaise and if those results weren’t depressing enough on the final day of the series I was forced by circumstance, integrity and responsibility to decline an enticing offer to travel to the sub-continent for the World Cup.
So dark is the shadow clouding my mind that I’m beginning to understand what the crudely armoured Victorian mascot was feeling when he muttered, “Such is Life” before being slung from the gallows the dawn before the State’s inaugural First Class match against South Australia way back in the abrupt and controversial season of 1881/82.
They say misery loves company, so in order of appearance a critique on every Australian who had the misfortune to play in the 66th battle for Flo and Ivo’s romantic little urn.
Ben Hilfenhaus 4 Tests 7 wkts @ 59
Hopefully Hilfy hasn’t forgotten the recipe for mixing cement because he’ll be back laying bricks in Ulverstone if he bowls as one-dimensionally in future. Before the BaggyGreen swelled his head and led him away from Bellerive he was the finest bowler in the country. A couple of years with Nielsen and Cooley have led to an alarming regression in his abilities and the sooner he returns home to the disciplined, inculcative culture created in Tasmania by Tim Coyle and Ali de Winter the better.
Peter Siddle 5 Tests 14 wkts @ 34
He may have scored more runs than several batsmen but his job is to do the hard yards with the ball. An Ashes hat-trick will be forever remembered but apart from an excellent performance on his home track he failed to do much more than run in hard huffing and puffing. The insipid performances by most of his colleagues masked his limitations and while he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed his attitude and heart should see him selected for the tough tour of Sri Lanka in August.
Mitchell Johnson 4 Tests 15 wkts @ 37, 122 runs @ 17
Dropped after Brisbane he returned for Perth and with the aid of a favourable breeze began to swing the ball away from the left-handers and more crucially, into the right handers. It was his annual fluke and his fickle performances with both bat and ball, while entertaining, make strategy and tactical planning impossible and do morale more harm than good.
Shane Watson 5 Tests 435 runs @ 48, 3 wkts @ 74
His abysmal running between wickets started the rot in Adelaide and to the detriment of his team he never learned from that mistake. Despite a solid technique he hasn’t the required level of concentration to be an opener. His part-time bowling was serviceable but he rarely asked any questions of the batsmen because of his inability to consistently move the ball through the air or off the pitch.
Xavier Doherty 2 Tests 3 wkts @ 102
It is puzzling that Xavier was considered the best spinner in the country when he isn’t the usual first choice red ball spinner for his State. He was thrown into the deep end by a selection panel that appear as barmy as England’s wandering and boisterous supporters.
Marcus North 2 Tests 49 runs @ 16, 1 wkt @ 110
His brief international career appears to be over. Batting or bowling it has always been feast or famine with Marcus and he has been looking emaciated of late. It would be remiss not to add that those replacing him did little better.
Simon Katich 2 Tests 97 runs @ 24
His leadership and mongrel was sorely missed but he should never have been selected after Brisbane due to injury. Some reckon that his career is finished but I beg to differ, a man of Simon’s character will be needed during the hard road that the Australian team will need to navigate during the next 12 months.
Ricky Ponting 4 Tests 113 runs @ 16
Unfortunately, this series was his worst ever by a distance. If Australian cricket was in better health he would be moved on but with confusion and denial prevalent, sensible decisions are as hard to find as dry socks in Rockhampton.
Michael Clarke 5 Tests 193 runs @ 21
Started the Test summer as heir to the captaincy and ends it with a severely diminished reputation and average. Will need to mend more than a few important relationships and score plenty of runs if he is to get a ticket to Sri Lanka later this year.
Mike Hussey 5 Tests 570 runs @ 63
The same idiots in the mainstream media who were highlighting England’s apparent weaknesses were also calling for Mike Hussey’s head. In his distinct humble professional style Mr Cricket answered the critics in the best way possible.
Brad Haddin 5 Tests 360 runs @ 45
Returning from injury the NSW ‘keeper batted and kept reasonably well throughout. Pressure from Paine has forced him to treat each game as his last, a motivation that very few of his underperforming team-mates experience.
Ryan Harris 3 Tests 11 wkts @ 25
Too old to have a lasting impact on Australian cricket but deserved his place regardless. His Shield form was very good and he carried it over to the Test arena rather well as his average testifies. An injury was always around the corner and even if full fitness is regained there is no guarantee he will get a recall.
Doug Bollinger 1 Test 1 wkt @ 130
Played in Adelaide and was arguably the worst player in the XI. He was unfit, physically and mentally for the hard yakka of an Ashes Test and he did himself no favours by putting his hand up and pretending he was good to go. He’ll playagain but more graft and less narcissism is needed.
Phillip Hughes 3 Tests 97 runs @ 16
He could hardly get a run in First Class cricket but the selectors chose him above several form players anyway. The confusing aspect of his selection was that they kept picking him. He obviously worked on his technique between Perth and Sydney but the Test team shouldn’t be a finishing school. That’s why the pompously named Centre of Excellence is given taxpayers money.
Steve Smith 3 Tests 159 runs @ 34, 0 wkts @ 138
Neither Test batsman nor Test bowler another selection based more on fantasy than reality. To put it into perspective, Nathan Hauritz has two Shield centuries this domestic season while Smith is yet to break 50. I won’t compare their bowling figures because I’m afraid my tears may short circuit the keyboard.
Usaman Khawaja 1 Test 58 runs @ 29
He showed some poise and a touch of class in Sydney but the hysterical reaction of many was over the top. Twice he got starts and twice he failed to convert which is precisely what you don’t want from a top order batsman. He is an intelligent lad and will learn from his mistakes which should see him become a fixture in the batting order for the foreseeable future.
Michael Beer 1 wkt @ 112
He seems a good bloke and a very fortunate one at that. He bowled bravely but hardly produced a maiden which made it even more difficult for the more experienced bowlers at the other end to penetrate. If he is an international cricketer then I’m an international bikini model.