has tightened their foothold rather than taken a step up the ladder in the world Test rankings. Beating England at home is a significant achievement in terms of historical relevance and empirical bragging rights but not so much when the stage is global. The Test series contested 3rd versus 5th, England now being the latter. The ODI series will be 3rd, , vs 4th, England, in the ICC rankings, which have the two equal in ranking points, ergo we should be expecting a close and hopefully exhilarating five games – South Africa and India are only a few ranking points above these two.
‘s very recent record of eight games without a win belies the World Cup champions’ outstanding record in the 50-over format. A year ago the n selectors “looked ahead” (presumably to the 2019 World Cup) when they selected Billy Stanlake and Sam Heazlet for full international honours based on a few overs in the BBL, a half century in a winter development series and a whim. Cameron White was overlooked at that time despite being in swashbuckling form and he quite rightly took umbrage at the selectors’ foggy view of the national cricket team, notionally and nominally the summit of the pyramid. He pointed to the national XI as not being a development team, there being other paths to tread for ‘development’. The response from the chairman of selectors was personal and inaccurate – how times change. White said that he “was a better player now than when I played last time [January 2015]” and really that is what every player should be aiming for every time they walk out on to the park.
White has been in outstanding nick for Victoria in the 50-over game and the Sheffield Shield and for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash. His fielding is very good, one of the best slip catchers in the land, and recently he has been spied more often back at the bowling crease purveying his skidding leggies.
Those who watch and misinterpret the game sprout that T20 is a young man’s game, perhaps because it is in itself a fledgling format. The current headliners in the format are nearly all old hard heads. They have what is termed “experience” – a single word for “learning from your mistakes”. The fallacy was the father of the wish. As the best performers in 20-over cricket are more and more the older, wiser, well-schooled men so too the realisation has dawned that if you want to win consistently at any international sport then the selectors need to pick those in form rather than those that are promising. Apparently, the thought at this moment is to pick a team to win right now – how revolutionary.
Nothing builds a winning culture like winning, so the selectors have resisted the “development” player option. Given the closeness in ODI rankings and England refreshing their touring squad with a number of short form specialists, need to play somewhere towards their best if they want the feeling from the Ashes to linger. White will add much to the squad that already has a bulk of experience. The Test fast bowling attack rolls straight into the pyjamas – Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, three names burnt into the retinas of England’s batsmen, will play a similar upfront wicket-taking role in white ball games as they did in the Tests. The only man missing is Nathan Lyon who, like Cameron White has been in bewitching form in domestic white ball competitions – the selectors have missed a trick by leaving the GOAT grazing in the Big Bash paddock. Jhye Richardson, the right-armer from Western is the sole bowler getting some “development” time (I would not put Andrew Tye in that bucket as he is 31). Richardson will learn much from the young grey beards.
It will be interesting to note the manner in which the fast bowlers are rested or rotated during these five matches considering the high work rates of the big three during the Ashes. There was much discussion pre-Tests about the long injury history of Cummins and the fragile metatarsals of Starc. Cummins has proven resilient, doing much of the stock bowling on some flat batting pitches. Starc had only the Boxing Day Test as a rostered match off to rest a bruised heel and would have played if the series was still alive. Josh Hazlewood seems indestructible at the moment, a sure sign that he should be monitored very closely and rested at the barest sign of tiredness. Mental fatigue may play a more significant role than the physical and I wouldn’t be surprised if all three play only three of the five games. The South African tour will start in late February and now that the Ashes are safely back Down Under – ie Lords Cricket Ground, London SW8 – the next challenge looms quickly and up another two degrees of difficulty. will need the big three at their very best once again if they want to challenge for the No.2 spot. Winning away from home is proving nigh on impossible these days.
The one-day series may prove a pointer of sorts toward the next World Cup in England in 2019 but the short-term gain may present greater significance for Test cricket. If players are picked for 50-over cricket on T20 form then surely they could be picked from ODIs to play Test cricket? The health of the quicks will be controlled and the form and experience of White will make intriguing viewing. White would make a delicious prospect in a Test batting line-up that is far from settled.