We at 51allout are a reasonably international bunch. Some of us even have passports and have been to far-off exotic places like Benidorm and Wales. Despite this, however, it’s fair to say that we’re mainly England fans when it comes to cricket. And with that come certain responsibilites, such as shaking one’s head whenever a teamsheet contains the words ‘Wright, Luke’ and laughing at the misfortunes of the Aussies.
Throughout the 2010/11 Ashes series there was an awful lot of the latter and none of the former, at least until the ODI series came around. Australia, with just a single series lost at home since 1993, were given a genuine thrashing, beaten by an innings three times. It seems barely believable now, but it definitely did happen (and we have charts to prove it).
Given this, it was inevitable that Australia would have to do something of a rebuilding job, bringing in some new (or new-ish) faces and putting some of the previous ‘golden generation’ out to pasture. This week saw the first step in that process as Australia announced their list of centrally-contracted players for the 2011/12 season.
There were a couple of new names, specifically Patrick Cummins and James Pattinson, but by far the most controversial choice was the omission of Simon Katich. As mentioned elsewhere on the blog, Katich is the second highest run scorer in Test Cricket over the past two years, behind only Alastair Cook. In addition to that, his opening partnership with Shane Watson has proved to be the strongest part of the Australian batting lineup in recent years.
The real problems for Australia during the Ashes came after Katich and Watson: Ricky Ponting (113 runs at just over 16) and Michael Clarke (193 runs at 21.44). With Clarke now captain and Ponting seemingly allowed to make his own decision about when he should finish playing, the Australian selectors were left with a choice: either keep the top five the same and be accused of burying their heads in the sand or drop one of Katich and Mike Hussey (570 Ashes runs at 63.33). They chose to drop Katich, apparently on the basis that ‘a new opening partnership would take time to gel’.
It’s very hard to agree with the selectors’ statements. Bringing Phil Hughes in at the top of the order is good news for opening bowlers around the world, while the number six spot remains a problem area. Far more logical (and brave) would have been to ask 36 year old Ponting to step aside. This would have made space for the great Australian hope Usman Khawaja at three. Shane Watson could then have moved to the problem position of six, allowing Hughes (a shotmaker) to come in alongside Katich (an accumulator) at the top of the order.
Regardless, the decision has been made. Simon Katich’s response is at the bottom of this post and is well worth twenty minutes of your time. He’s very honest and open and genuinely sad and the applause at the end suggests that his audience agrees with everything he’s said. The talk around unfair dismissal isn’t something that would do any favours to the game but it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from. Having got into the Australian team (twice) through hard work and commitment he now faces the end of his international career purely due to a face-saving exercise from the national selectors.