Already the theme for this Australian summer seems to be one of redemption. Not necessarily for what happened earlier in the year (although that of course looms large too), but for what happened three years ago on Aussie soil. Already Mitchell Johnson has gone a long way to erasing memories of what happened back in that dim dark time when Wolfmother were considered a band destined for world domination. Devereux will get his opportunity too. Even Michael Beer will get his chance at a petty sort of revenge if he wins the toss in the tour game at Alice Springs and keeps England out in the field for a day or so. It’s the sort of mood you would expect to boil over into the public stoning of any visiting Englishman foolish enough to be seen performing the ‘water sprinkler’ in public. But even that would pale in comparison to this final story of redemption. A story that neatly encapsulates, perhaps, the darkest hour for Australian cricket since the underarm incident. We speak, of course, of the redemption of…
The rise and fall of Doug Bollinger is perhaps the most spectacular, and rapid, of any sportsman in living memory. Something of a nondescript, plodding bowler in a New South Wales attack packed with international experience (Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, and Nathan Bracken, to name just a few), it took a long time for Bollinger to be noticed. But when he was, his rise was rapid. After making his Test debut on home turf at the SCG in 2009, Bollinger quickly became a fan favourite, capturing 50 wickets in 12 Tests, at an average of 25. But it’s only his last Test appearance that anyone remembers these days.
Apart from those godawful ads he appeared in.
Bollinger turned up in Adelaide for the second Test of the 2010/1 Ashes an absolute mess. A long period away from the game recovering from injury meant Bollinger wasn’t exactly in peak condition. Which is putting it somewhat kindly. What he really looked like is someone who had been getting down to the serious business of emptying a family sized tub of KFC every day for the past few months or so. He was, aside from picking up Andrew Strauss in his first over, utterly hopeless in that Test, finishing with 1/130 from 29 overs. That the selectors could have been so unaware of the condition Bollinger was in before they picked him was probably the final nail in Andrew Hilditch’s career, and the catalyst for the Argus review that followed.
Aside from a few further limited overs internationals, that was pretty much it for Bollinger, presumably assigned to the international scrap heap, a hangover from a period Australian cricket would prefer to forget ever happened. That is till now at least.
Bollinger has begun this Australian domestic season in cracking form, picking up 14 wickets at 21.8 in three Sheffield Shield games so far. He also picked up 8 wickets in the preceding Ryobi Cup, at the reasonable economy rate of 4.41. Well, reasonable considering the sorts of pitches that competition was played on. He even picked up a one match suspension in that competition for sconing an opposition batsman in the head with a wild throw from about a metre away.
All of this, of course, has Darren Lehmann more than interested in the once discarded quick. Particularly in light of England’s current…inadequacies…against pace. Left armer? Check. Gets stuck in? Check. Senseless aggression on the cricket pitch? Check. Bollinger looks a shoe-in to take at least some part in this series. He has been helped, of course, by the long injury list that has crippled Australia’s bowling ranks. With James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc out of contention (for the love of God, nobody mention Pat Cummins), Bollinger emerges as the only other genuine quick not only available for selection, but taking wickets consistently in domestic cricket.
The other factor in his benefit is the quick turnaround between the Adelaide and Perth Tests. The Australian selectors managed that turnaround horribly last season against South Africa. Even the appearance of a slushie machine in the dressing room failed to save the Australian attack from being ground into the dust, which required a hastily assembled second string attack to take the field in Perth. Where it was subsequently annihilated in the South African second innings.
This time round you’d think they would have learnt their lesson. Ryan Harris has about as much chance backing up after a gruelling few days in the field in Adelaide as we do of finally securing that long hoped for gin sponsorship (seriously, we would even accept a sponsorship from Seagram’s at this stage). Mitchell Johnson is another who the selectors will be wary of overworking, especially considering how critical he will be to success in Perth.
As a result, the selectors have a few difficult decisions to make. Australia have already announced the same squad for the second Test “depending on conditions”. Which could mean bloody well anything. Having won their first Test for 4,927 years, the selectors would be loath to change things now. But similarly they would be loath to make the same mistakes they did last year.
All of which means that Doug Bollinger must be considered a strong chance of playing, if not in Adelaide then definitely in Perth. Yeah, that’s right. Dougie Fucking Bollinger playing Test cricket again. Not only Test cricket, but Ashes cricket. This year has been witness to some pretty stage stuff already. Like Glenn Maxwell opening the batting in a Test match. Hell, this past week has seen some pretty strange stuff. Is it really that much further a leap of the imagination to envision “Doug the Rug” steaming in during a Test match again? Well, yeah, it is actually. But if Mitch can turn his reputation around, maybe this is finally Doug’s time after all.