Peter Lalor, in The Australian, 25 April 2013
MARK Taylor believes Twenty20 cricket is to blame for the impoverished state of batting in Australian cricket and says that the existing players have to stand up if the visitors are going to have any chance in the Ashes. The former captain, who was one of the authors of the Argus review and is tipped to return to the board of Cricket Australia this year, was speaking at the announcement of the Ashes squad in Sydney yesterday.
The selectors have, as revealed in The Australian, gone back to Brad Haddin to inject some experience in the side. The wicketkeeper replaces Matthew Wade behind the stumps and Shane Watson as vice-captain, although Wade remains in the squad. Selectors have also dusted off 35-year-old opener Chris Rogers who has scored more than 19,000 first-class runs — many of them in England — but has played only one Test, in Perth in 2008. Haddin and Rogers, along with Ricky Ponting, were the form batsmen of a Shield summer in which no young batsman could score enough runs to force his way into one of the weaker Test batting lineups of the past two decades.“I’ve never doubted my ability to get back to the top level,” an elated Haddin said yesterday. “The only thing that was in my mind is whether I’d ever come back to play cricket, whether the (family) circumstances (his daughter Mia, who is nearly 3, has cancer) would allow that. I knew if I got the opportunity to come back and play any form of cricket, I was going to do it properly.”
Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Watson and Clarke are the other batsmen chosen for the Ashes — of those, only Clarke averages more than 40 in Tests. Taylor believes that Twenty20 in general and the Indian Premier League in particular has changed the cricket landscape and distracted emerging batsmen from the goal of Test cricket. “I think there is too much more for young players to do,” he told The Australian. “There is no doubt the lure of the T20 is affecting the way blokes play. Glenn Maxwell is a great example. He is a good young talent, there is no doubt about that, but after one quick-fire 50 in a one-day game when Australia was chasing 70 he gets a million dollars. He then goes to the IPL and doesn’t play. At the same time you want to tell that player that we want you as a potential Test player down the track so go and spend the next two or three years not playing Twenty20, but ironing your skills, tightening your technique and you might get a contract with Cricket Australia which won’t be a million or two million dollars, it will be very good, but it won’t be that sort of money — that’s hard to compete with.”
Maxwell was given two Tests on the ill-fated Australian tour of India but failed to impress. He, Steve Smith, Moises Henriques, Xavier Doherty and Mitchell Johnson are the players missing from the squad that toured India. The selectors have opted for a more traditional Test lineup in England after experimenting with a number of bit-part players in India.
Nathan Lyon, who was dropped after the first Test Test in India in favour of Doherty and Maxwell, is now the only spinner in the squad. Lyon will announce today that he has left South Australia to play for NSW this summer.
The decision to abandon Wade after 12 matches and revert to Haddin is an admission it was a mistake not to recall him when Haddin made himself available at the start of last summer. Tasmania’s James Faulkner comes into the squad as a “bowling all-rounder” and is presumably a back-up for Watson. Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris were included in the squad, while Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus were overlooked.
Clarke dismissed observations that this was the weakest squad for a long time. “Since I have taken over the captaincy of the Australian cricket team I think I have heard that every tour,” he said. “We will always pay our respects to the English side — I think they are a very strong team, but with this squad we have the talent, the experience and the youth to go over there and have success. Our goal for Australia is to win every game we play and this tour will be no different.”
Taylor, who was on the board of Cricket Australia before it was streamlined, may return as an independent NSW delegate. The Australian summer is compromised by the suspension of all first-class cricket for the Big Bash League and Taylor says this is a dilemma for administrators