Posted by: nestaquin | January 10, 2011

Ashes 2010/11 Australian Player Review

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 play Test cricket again 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.

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  1. Hard to argue with much there Nesta, despite its harshness. Watson is a strange case – he gets the hard yards done, then finds a way to get out.

    • That Shane Watson has played for over a year without an injury, and was fit even at the fag end of a grueling 5 test series, says a lot about his improved fitness levels, and he did give Australia some solidity at the top of the order. I agree about not having the stomach for a big score, but then he is a make shift opener and should ideally be a No.6.

      Ponting and Clarke’s failures with the bat are the prime reason for 3 innings losses, I reckon. Eng may still have won, but not so easily.And the rest of the team would have been inspired if Punter and Pup led from the front.

      I am amazed Punter will be continued as captain.

  2. Well said.

    Hopefully the players get a thorough, warts and all review like this one and hopefully it resonates with those that get another chance.

    • Won’t happen mate even though I know Cricket Australia subscribe to the blog.

      There will be a review but first the Board has to set the parameters of the review but before that the Board is reviewing itself and that won’t be finished till October.

      Sutherland who gave Nielsen an extension and a pay rise just 8 weeks ago reckons the coach is doing a good job. Can’t imagine the state the BaggyGreen would be in if he was doing a bad one.

      Hilditch reckons he’s doing a great job and that England were just too good. They were, but three innings defeats is the worst result against anyone in history. Truth is, they rolled over and gave up. Unacceptable.

      Nielsen in his own words is, “doing a very good job”. He is either delusional or now he has his fat contract he’s just mocking everyone who cares about the game.

      Punter reckons it’s domestic cricket’s fault but I watched him play for Tasmania twice this year and he was never at the crease for more than 20 minutes.

      Clarke reckons that the team is really talented and there is no need for any changes mainly because he’ll be one of the first to be shown the exit.

      There’s a theme there mate. Each and every of one them has their head stuck firmly up their arse and the spirit of Sir Humphrey Appleby rules.

      Perhaps it’s time for a new obituary to be published.

      • Don’t know what your problem is, nesta, all that lack of positivity and glass half empty stuff. They are ALL doing a good job. They told us so.

        • The glass isn’t half empty Lou it’s as dry as your wit!

          • I really like your list by the way, it’s so thorough. Has anybody not announced to the press their conviction that ‘we’ve all done very well’.

            Maybe the cleaner from CA headquarters can have a shout about how fabulous the office toilets are.

      • That crap about the team being really talented got right up my nose.

  3. A good read, nicely written.

    A touch harsh on Watto perhaps – as a makeshift opener his job is largely to see off the new ball, to try and sheild a shaky middle order from it – a job he did almost constantly. So he’s one of few that doesn’t really hold much blame. Of course, throwing his wicket away (and just being Shane Watson!) is reason enough to dislike him.

    Agreed on Beer, he seems like a decent cricketer but there’s no way he ever should have been selected.

  4. I still maintain that if we had picked 11 guys with birthdays between December 26 and December 30, we might have pulled off a drawn series.

    Hard to know who was the biggest disappointment of the summer, but I have to go with Hilfenhaus just because he was one of the few I had any expectations for. But maybe I was too hasty in my expectations as the rehab from his injury last summer really seems to have robbed him of any variation. As we keep hearing about Cook and Anderson, hope Ben goes back to doing what it was that got him into the test team in the first place.

    As a left field selection going forward. Forget Steve Waugh, I think Stephen Fleming would be a much better choice of coach and perfect for the situation Australia currently find themselves in as he’s had a lifetimes experience of getting more out of players than they thought they could give.

    • It truly makes me blue but we’ll have to wait till after 2013 before we can even consider a replacement for Nielsen. His contract is recent and airtight and he doesn’t have the integrity or honesty to walk.

      Pretending otherwise, Stephen Fleming would be an excellent candidate.

      • Call a hitman! Perhaps adding the names of Sutherland, Hilditch et al will even fetch a group discount.
        Seriously though, is there no way to ensure accountability from CA and it’s minions?

      • Hence all the back-slapping that is going on. Hildy isn’t going anywhere either unless he gets dumped after the World Cup.

  5. Yep agree with that Nesta, including the more risque Watson and Siddle comments in particular. Very disappointed in Hilf, seems to have lost all edge. Agree on Katich too, good to have around for another troubled year.

    l saw Gideon Haigh sum up Clarke and Ponting perfectly. They “ringbarked” us. Bastards.

    • Ha, ha. Did Gideon say that? What a ripper of a description.

  6. No one seems to want to take or apportion any blame in Australian cricket. Or if there is blame it’s too diffuse to actually pinpoint individuals, aside from the odd player.

    • I’ll put my hand up Pete!

      It’s only a matter of time before someone in power blames the supporters for having ‘unrealistic expectations’.

  7. A question. What exactly is Greg Chappell’s role?

    For all his unquestionable skills as a player and keen astute cricketing mind, he does come across as a divisive influence.

    • Don’t know exactly Dement, but he is now on the selection panel instead of Merv Hughes.

  8. I tell you who does look like a test cricketer with an all-round game (not an all-rounder, just a bowler who can bat well) and that’s Steve O’Keefe. The ball that got Pietersen at Hobart was brilliant from a SLA bowler on as green a deck as they were playing on.

    Spot on in your analysis. Worryingly the Australian fast bowler has started to become afflicted with injuries at a rate that English bowlers used to rack up. Why wasn’t Bollinger fit FFS? he was told not to play in the round of shield matches immediately prior to the first test and was not picked, then plays half a game at the Waca in the next round of matches before being hauled back to Adelaide for Ashes duty. The whole episode signifies the confusion prevalent in Cricket Australia.

  9. Nesta, well done for completing that.
    The last piss poor aussie team was dragged out of the doldrums by Border and Simpson. No idea who could replicate that duo but pretty sure it ain’t pup and leslie nielson. I think bringing Paine in as a batsmen would be a good idea. For the bowlers you need to ditch Johnson. England started improving once they got rid of their mercurial strike bowler, Harmison. Sri Lanka, SA and India will all fancy their chances of beating Oz in the next 12 months. If they do, it will be back to back Ashes series before you know it and England will be better than they are today.

    • G’day Bush,

      They won’t beat Sri Lanka at home even our best teams struggled there. Even though they usually freeze when they see the BaggyGreen up close, if SAF play as they did against IND they’ll win and alas, Johnson will be picked because he did well there last time. Next summer against India won’t be pretty either they’re desperate to win a series in Australia.

      We’ll probably lose all of those series so the best way to go would be to invest in some of the talented young blokes and allow them time to adjust to international cricket. Will it happen? Probably not. Too many protecting their fat contracts. Maybe, just maybe Greg Chappell will wield the axe but considering he picked Beer and Doherty, Smith and Hughes, even if he does he’ll probably pick the wrong blokes.

      There are some fine prospects 26 and under in the country. That’s where the future lies and one can only hope that sanity prevails.

      Although getting long in the tooth there is really only one player with the integrity, character, experience and talent to lead a young team on the hard road ahead, and like Border before him he is a reluctant hero and doesn’t crave the limelight, Mike Hussey.

      • I’m not convinced Hussey is the answer.
        Interesting series for Mr Cricket. For me the only way someone goes from super stressed (Hussey for all 2010) on the field to ultra calm, as he was in Brisbane is to decide that if this was his last series, he was going to go on his terms. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had decided in Melbourne after the first innings in that Shield match to retire from test cricket at the end of the Ashes summer. Sri Lanka is well over 6 months away so would be a good time to pull up stumps.

        He may have, but I don’t recall his Brisbane epic starting scratchy and then building as most who are out of nic tend to do, he just came out under pressure with a clear head.

        It may have just been fatigue, but I now wouldn’t be surprise if it later comes out that he changed his mind regarding retirement when he had made it back to Melbourne at Christmas after making all those runs.

        BTW – Interesting stat on South African home series wins of late… and we do love playing there.

        • I admit a bit of straw clutching there Jim, but if we go with youth his professionalism and attitude would set a fine example.

          If we don’t go Hussey then George Bailey is a better captain and this past year a better bat than Clarke and Ponting. He’s only 27 and a class act who always plays with a positive mindset and a smile on his face.

          • True a fair amount of guess work, but my point is, I don’t think he’ll be around long enough, and if he is, I fear any extra pressure will see his batting regress back to what is had become pre Ashes.

  10. I thought that was a bit harsh on Watto’s bowling, before this tour I thought he was a total joke as a bowler, but he has got a lot better, although there is an argument that he could have been made to look better by the rest of the bowlers.

    He hasn’t the temperament to open either, and his running between the wickets just compounded that view.

    I can’t help thinking though that he would make a far better No.6, he looks the ideal replacement for Andrew Symonds to me. He could play more shots down there and really take the game to the opposition without the pressure of opening.

    • I think the reason that he has performed better as opener than his stint down the order is that 1) he had to bowl more when down the order and 2) he don’t like the spin bowlers up ‘im.

  11. I’ll be a bit contrary here and big up Watson. Though not looking particularly flexible, he bowled some disciplined stuff and will bowl better on the greener tops of England or the low-slow sub-continental wickets. He has a good record in England and India. His batting may be a bit like Chanderpaul’s when he started in that it can look a bit one-paced and has a problem converting fifties to tons. Chanderpaul waited 8 years before scoring his third ton and had 23 fifties by then. Hasn’t done too badly since though!

    Needs to sort that running out though.

    • How many matches did the Windies win while Chanderpaul scratched around for 8 years? Did he open the innings? How many of his partners did he run out before the maker’s name was worn off the new nut?

      I wasn’t too harsh on Watson. I wrote he struggles to judge a run, struggles to concentrate and that his bowling is part-time. That seems fair. I’d still have him in the team and five or six looks a good fit.

  12. Andrew Hilditch you are not required. There someone else has said it, now go.

  13. There are a few others that should join the solicitor, Jim. Nielsen for example. I did a search of the blog and his nuttiness has been a constant ever since he took over from Buchanan.

    There are plenty of examples but my favourite has to be a Test in Mohali in October 2008 where he thought chasing 516 in the last four sessions was feasible. My clearest thought of that chase was Hayden slogging very early and Clarke falling to a Mishra wrong’un on the last ball of day 4.

    Hilditch should go but unless he takes the coach with him nothing will change!

    • Not sure you can blame the coach for Clarke falling to the last ball of the day. It’s just one of those things Clarke has done his whole career. He was even out foxed by a Steve Harmison slower ball at the end of day 3 in that test in 2005.

      • Not blaming coach for that it’s just my strongest memory of the match.

        The link contains this paragraph plus a few others,

        In times of stress madness can be a tonic and it appears Tim Nielsen is rather invigorated by his complete lack of cricketing sanity. To succeed men must know their limits and by encouraging the Australian team to aggressively chase 516 yesterday afternoon, Nielsen has shown that he is no longer cognisant of his or the team’s abilities.

        • All 100% with you on the removal of Neilsen being a necessity rather than a luxury.

          As for Clarke, it’s a side issue here, but his failure to see out the end of a days play is, and probably always will be, the first thing that comes to mind when his name is mentioned.

        • Problem is… everybody connected to the team sounds loopy at present. Quite barking.

  14. How about a post on the coaching, selection and admin problems, Nesta?

    Why was Nielson’s contract renewed before rather than after a big series? Only one plausible answer – they had vested interests in keeping him on and didn’t want to be justifying it after the result they obviously knew was coming.

    A self-interested hierarchy, detached from reality, seems to have evolved during the decade and a half of on-field success, and they aren’t going to go quietly. From Hilditch’s and Nielson’s comments, it’s clear they don’t feel any obligation to subject themselves to any standards whatsoever.

    I can’t help but wonder if comparisons with the plight of the WIndies wouldn’t be more appropriate than comparisons with the Packer days.

    • They are in the pipeline GM but first, closer to home and heart, I’m using much of my writing time protesting Cricket Australia forcing Tasmanians to change their identity and become the Hobart Hurricanes or something worse.

      Their trashing 150 years of tradition and a lot of goodwill because of a marketer’s wet dream and I ain’t standing for it.

      Windies administration is in a healthy state compared to Cricket Australia. Pakistan’s would be closer to the mark.

      • Nesta, I assume you are talking about this survey?

        I fully endorse more sides, in the Shield as well, for reasons I noted here but trashing functional sides for a so-called city-franchise competition when every major team is already based in a major city is completely insane. CA have lost their collective plot.

        • I hate calling the Warriors… the Warriors as they are no such thing.

          But it will be something equally vulgar that they call them I’m sure.

  15. Very similar to that just in a Tasmanian context and just as cringeworthy, if not more.

    I’ll reproduce the pap here but since Toots has just posted I’ll probably wait until tomorrow.

    Cricket Tasmania isn’t at all pleased with being forced to alienate half the State – there is a distinctive North/South divide on the island – but they have no choice.

    The marketers and the PR department seem to running cricket at the top level and the entire structure is suffering.

    It’s very sad and I think it’s time that people who care should make their voices heard. I only received the email and survey this morning and I’m just waiting on the documents from CA about the 2012 franchise based Big Bash from a source at Bellerive.

  16. Well, Ricky doesnt deserve much of the blame, just as the credit for his victories is apportioned to Warne and McG.
    Maybe, he is clinging on to his captaincy in a deluded way – but that is curable if he is assured of a senior batsman-mentor role by the powers-that-be.
    Clarke’s “I will not captain Ponting”, I see that as a clever way of saying “Ponting should not be in the team”. That is ridiculous – for Ponting the batsman is much more value to Australia than Clarke, the batsman-captain. I think if Clarke feels that way, CA should politely tell him “Thank You, Mr Clarke, you may now go and represent NSW for the rest of your life”, get in Katich/Hussey as temporary captain(a la Kumble), find and groom a youngster to take over 2 years down the line. Ponting should play the role sachin is playing in the Indian team.

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