Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/justin-langer/2013/2/20/high-number-of-debutants

Justin Langer

Langer: High number of debutants

20 February 2013

If one good thing comes out of the unusually high numbers of players who represented Australia this summer, it is, that the competition is now as hot as it has been for a long time.

For many years the extraordinary number of talented players playing in the Sheffield Shield or Australian domestic one-day competitions meant that everyone had to be on their toes if they were to stay in, or make, the first 11 of an Australian cricket team.
For a long time there was the saying that it is harder to get out of the Australian cricket team than it was to get in.

This was a product of the success the team was consistently having in both forms of the game and it meant that players who wanted a chance, had to perform well above the norm to be noticed.  

If there has been a criticism of Australian cricket over the last few years it is that too many people have been given an easy ride into the team.

Some have suggested the cap has been devalued because players are no longer outperforming in domestic ranks to truly earn the right to represent their country.

Whether this is true or not, this last Australian summer has opened up some interesting selection discussions going forward.

Suddenly George Bailey, Adam Voges and Phil Hughes are one-day centurions.  They have grabbed their opportunity with both hands and will be hard to ignore the next time Australia play limited-overs cricket.

The ICC Champions Trophy in England will be precursor to the Ashes and a significant opportunity to cement the best squad of players for the next World Cup.

The retirement of one of our all time great one day players in Mike Hussey means that an obvious gap needs to be filled.

George Bailey has been very good up until now. His form this summer has taken another step toward excellent and in the best teams, excellence is the standard. Good or even very good, don't often cut it in the teams we have come to expect from Australia.

Despite criticism of George Bailey it is brilliant to see him playing so well.  He is a fantastic person and a natural leader.  Underneath the humble exterior is a well respected team man who has a strong work ethic and exceptional values.  He is important to the ongoing success of this Australian limited overs teams.

Other opportunities have been granted to Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, David Hussey, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh.

Thankful as they would be for the chance, only Marsh has truly shone this summer.  That said, Finch, Smith and Khawaja should be stronger and hungrier the next time they are given a go.

Dave Hussey will have to fight to regain his position; and that is exactly how it should be for every player around the country.

As competitive as it will be for the batsmen, the all-rounders position is also open for a battle.  If Shane Watson's bowling loads are reduced, or even made redundant, then the question is, who will fill his shoes?  In essence, Shane Watson's choice not to bowl means he is retiring his position as the all-rounder in the team.

If Mike Hussey is hard to replace, a 'batting only' Shane Watson, leaves as great a dilemma for the selectors.

Moises Henriques seems to have be the front runner to this position with his selection to India, but John Hastings and Glenn Maxwell are both great competitors.

Mitchell Marsh is coming off the injured bench and should be up and running for the back end of this domestic summer, but he has time on his hands to develop into a consistent performer over the next few seasons.

The difficulty of Shane Watson's replacement is that all teams crave a batting all-rounder.

The question for Henriques, Maxwell and Marsh particularly, is whether they can command a position in the top six as a batsman only? By doing this, the overs they can bowl become a bonus for the captain and the selectors.

They also have to be the hardest workers in the squad, because they have to master all three disciplines of batting, bowling and fielding.

The selectors are sure to consider the character of the man who earns this role because they will have to be willing to work incredibly hard to make it their own.

There are no shortcuts for any player in the Australian cricket team, let alone the one who has to learn and then polish more than one skill.

Much has been made of teenager Ashton Agar and his selection to India.

As a left-arm spinner he is a delight to watch.  With arms that flow like a hose in the swimming pool, he is loose in his physique but attacking in his approach.

Ripping the cricket ball, he is not afraid to loop the ball into the air too tempt aggression from his opponent.  This mind set takes courage but it is the style adopted by the very best spinners.

In his favour is his ability to bat and field.  Down the track he could emerge as a genuine bowling all-rounder.  His future looks limitless if he is allowed to learn and develop his obvious natural talents.

He is the most exciting prospect I have seen for a long time in Australian cricket.

Critics have gone hard at the rotation or player management strategy adopted this summer, but no one can deny that the players who have grabbed their opportunity have ignited one of the most important ingredients of any successful team; that is competition for places.

Looking forward, this is great for the health and consistent success of Australian cricket.

From Perth

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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