This is the article we hoped we’d never have to write. A story so soul-crushingly depressing that we have held out hope against hope that this would never come to pass, that one day everything would somehow work out and all the wrongs of the past would be righted. But it’s now clear that day is never going to come, and so with a heavy heart it’s our duty to tell you of the rise and fall of the forgotten man of the 2013 Ashes, one…
The best thing about Bird really is his name: Jackson Bird. He could have been anything with a name like that. A NASCAR driver. A folk singer. Instead he became a fast bowler. Not a particularly quick fast bowler mind, but one of those in-between types, a tick above medium pace but with the ability to wobble it around and extract a surprising amount of bounce from a good length on occasion. If Josh Hazlewood is the new Glenn McGrath, then Bird is the old McGrath, of the 2005 vintage. The old man who still manages to somehow get things done despite looking like he’s forever bowling into a hurricane blowing in the opposite direction.
Things started out pretty slowly for Bird, simply by dint of the fact he was born in New South Wales. Usually this is a good thing, and sees you fast tracked into the Test team regardless of your actual ability (or so the other states like to think). In Bird’s case it was a very bad thing, as it meant he was forever behind the likes of Nathan Bracken, Doug Bollinger and Stuart Clark. Which is a pretty decent attack for an international team, let alone a state one. So one day he packed his trunk and said goodbye to the circus and off he rode with a trumpety trump. By which we mean he mean moved to Tasmania.
Turns out that was a rather wise decision, one that bagged him 53 wickets in his debut season in the 2011/12 Sheffield Shield. After those heroics he lingered on the fringes of the national side for a while and finally got his chance in the Test team when he replaced James Pattinson (injured, what else?) for the two Test series against Sri Lanka in 2012/3. He performed pretty well in the Boxing Day Test, grabbing four wickets and an awe inspiring 11 ball duck with the bat. In the second Test he did even better, 6 not out with the bat, including a driven four that brought his old home crowd to its feet. Oh, and seven wickets, which earned him Man of the Match honours. Everything, it seemed, was looking up for Bird. His home state had welcomed him back as a conquering hero, and a spot in the Test team looked assured.
Next up the team trundled off to India, and in retrospect Bird breaking down with a back injury before the first Test looked another stroke of good luck. Especially when his teammates were also desperately trying to find any excuse to also be sent home early. But it gave James Pattinson another opportunity to impress, and he was about the only one who did on that tour (alongside one Steven Peter Devereux Smith, of course), and Bird slipped back in the pecking order. Pecking order? Bird? Get it? Yeah, ok. Sorry.
But then real disaster struck. Darren Lehmann, with his penchant for quicks who can bowl express pace, took over the Test team. Bird was included in the 2013 Ashes tour, but he increasingly looked out of place on it. He was eventually given a run in the fourth Test as Starc was rested. He had impressed in tour games, and did fairly well in the first innings too, constantly beating the bat and was eventually rewarded with two wickets. The second innings though, was a disaster of sorts, no wickets and 67 runs leaked from his 20 overs in conditions he ought to have excelled in. Immediately after the Test he was flown back home with a recurrence of the back pain problems (which may have affected his second innings bowling) that had emerged in India.
And as far as his Test career goes, that’s it. Three tests, 13 wickets at 23.3. Not a bad return. But he hasn’t a hope in hell of ever playing Test cricket again. He is still on the circuit, currently playing for Hampshire (when he is not broken), and his performances in the Big Bash each year occasionally border on the phenomenal, as he mysteriously manages to beguile batsman on flat decks. But one person he can’t deceive is Lehmann, and Bird simply hasn’t any hope of returning to the national setup whilst he is still in charge of it.
Maybe when Lehmann steps down the new coach might look more favourably on fast bowlers of a slightly different ilk. But given we’ve already penned this article (though our keyboard is awash with tears as a result), we don’t think he really has much of a chance. We suspect not even a mass outbreak of food poisoning would convince Lehmann to call him up into this current Ashes tour. He’d prefer Watson to take the new ball and bowl one end unchanged all day. Although that would be pretty amazing too. It will always be a case of what if with Bird then. And even if Australian cricket has moved on to better days, we aficionados will always have that Test series against Sri Lanka to look back on. And that awesome name.