So, Australia were knocked out of an international tournament by a team everyone (especially its own players and press) seemed to think was hot stuff, until they turned out to be not quite all that after all. A tournament for which Australia’s preparation consisted of one completed warmup game, a 15-a-side match no less, and that’s it. Their last ODI series was, lest it be forgotten, played back in February with a glorified B team. Team management clearly had no idea of their best XI heading into the tournament, and thus neither James Pattinson or Chris Lynn saw a minute of game time while Mitchell Starc was entrusted with the new ball despite copious evidence that he is unfailingly awful when returning from a long injury lay-off. Plus the whole thing was marred by persistent sniping from Cricket Australia executives who think the best negotiating tactic for dealing with the ongoing contract dispute is to shoot themselves repeatedly in the foot, perhaps in the hope the Australian Cricketers’ Association will eventually take pity on them and just go away.
But let’s forget all about that and just make Moises Henriques the fall guy instead.
Let’s start with the international numbers, since that’s where everyone is going to head first, because as far as Henriques is concerned, they are especially bad. His ODI batting average is 9 after 10 innings (with a high score of 18) and he has a bowling average of 43.71. In International T20 cricket, it’s 22 with the bat, and 39 with the ball (does anybody care about T20 bowling averages anymore? Probably not). In Test cricket, 23.4 with the bat, 82 with the ball. Pretty good huh? In fact, you could easily make these numbers even worse, given the bulk of his T20 and Test runs came from a single game apiece; 68 and 81* on his Test debut, and 56* against Sri Lanka earlier this year in T20 cricket. Take those out and he doesn’t have a single other Test double digit score and his next highest T20 innings is 17, giving a Test batting average of 2.5 and a T20 average of 8.25. Those are some impressively crap numbers, we think you’ll agree.
It might surprise you, therefore, to learn that we consider Henriques to be one of the most misunderstood public figures since Steven Peter Devereux Smith was regarded as a leg-spinning all-rounder and general dressing room jester. Now this is the part where we try and convince you, dear reader, that such numbers, as abysmal as they are, are not truly reflective of Henriques’ ability as a cricketer. Naturally, you are free to disagree, and call us ‘Total Losers!’, or ‘Sad!’, or whatever it is the cool kids are tweeting these days, but bear with us: it’ll pay off. Possibly.
Across the past three Sheffield Shield seasons, Henriques has averaged a tick under 50 with the bat, and that’s despite a heavy injury toll during most of them. In the Matador Cup across the same time span, he has averaged 55. Even more interestingly, in the last season of the Matador Cup, when he was captaining the side, he bowled only 20 overs in 8 matches. Compare that with his ODI career, in which he has bowled 59 overs in 11 games. Meanwhile, his most direct competition for an ODI position, Chris Lynn, hasn’t played in the Matador Cup for three seasons.
Meanwhile in the IPL, he has averaged just under 30 with the bat across the past three seasons playing for the Sunrisers. In 101 games, he also averages about 2.6 overs per innings, but this is under the captaincy of David Warner, who we presume is too busy trying to flog OLED TV’s to his teammates to bother putting proper game plans together. Even so, something must have gotten through, as in the last season of the IPL Henriques’ average number of overs per game dropped to just 2. In the Big Bash meanwhile, he has averaged 34.5 with the bat, and bowled an average 1.4 overs per game. In the past two seasons, where he has captained the Sydney Sixers, he has only bowled on average 0.5 overs a game.
The numbers here suggest that Henriques has been one of Australia’s best performing batsman of the past three seasons, in both domestic competitions and in the IPL. It also indicates that he is little more than a part time bowler, and if his hesitancy to bowl himself whilst captain should be taken as any indication, definitely should not be considered an all-rounder.
So why, then, have his international performances been so awful? Is he just out of his depth? Possibly. But he has hardly embarrassed himself in the IPL (that same IPL which the English press decided had turned their team of make-weights into world-beaters), where he has been one of Australia’s most consistent performances over the past few years. Part of the issue, we’d suggest, is that over an eight year ODI career (he made his debut all the way back in 2009, when Joe McElderry was winning English hearts on X-Factor), he has obviously been in and out of the side just a little, and therefore never given a chance to cement a spot. Further, only four of those games have been played at home. And all of his four of his Tests have been played in Asia.
The bigger problem, though, is the selectors don’t know what to do with him. Going by his own performances when he captains, Henriques clearly doesn’t rate his own bowling. And yet when he is picked for international squads he is always expected to fill the all-rounders role. If Henriques was selected, and backed, purely as a batsman, is he capable of a Devereux-esque mid-career renaissance? Well, his domestic numbers suggest he might. But unlike Devereux, Henriques is not likely to ever get the chance. Instead he’ll be dropped in favour of other makeshift all-rounders like Marcus Stoinis, Hilton Cartwright or *shudder* Mitch Marsh. And more pressingly, he is about to be thrown under the team bus by an administration desperate to deflect attention away from how shockingly unprepared Australia were to compete in an international tournament.
Such is life for a player who everyone seems to have decided is a bits-and-pieces player. Excepting, perhaps, Henriques himself.