Australian selectors made some eyebrow-raising selections for the first two Ashes Tests.
Missing from the list of players who played the last Test against Bangladesh in September are wicket-keeper Matthew Wade, Matt Renshaw and Glenn Maxwell.
Here we look at their omissions.
The 29-year-old wicket-keeper has fallen behind in the pecking order fairly quickly. Since becoming the first-choice keeper at the end of 2016, having made his debut in 2012, Wade made just one fifty in 10 Tests. For a team that doesn’t have a quality Test all-rounder, such returns were never going to be enough. Unfortunately for Wade, he returned to the Test team for the tours of India and Bangladesh which are exceptionally tough for the men behind the stumps.
His spot should have ideally gone to Peter Nevill who has played 17 Tests and is the best batsman-keeper in the country. But the selectors went for Tim Paine, who last played a Test in 2010.
If @pmnevill isn't being selected because he doesn't score enough runs then perhaps the Australian captain should remember the day he was first selected for an Ashes series.— stu macgill (@scgmacgill) November 16, 2017
Verdict: Close call
The left-handed opening batsmen is one of the most exciting young talents to come out of Australia in a long time. His batting at the top of the order during a bruising tour of India, where he hit a couple of sixties and a 44, showed the 21-year-old is a long-term prospect. However, a dramatic loss in form saw him fail to score a fifty in nine first-class innings. A quiet end to the India tour was followed by four innings in Bangladesh without a fifty, ultimately working against him. However, it was in January that Renshaw hit a masterful 184 against Pakistan so to drop him the same year is harsh. The superlative form of Cameron Bancroft, who hit a double hundred in his last first-class match and two fifties against a New South Wales attack that is basically the national line-up, tilted the scales in his favour.
Matt Renshaw’s last Test innings in Australia was 184 at the SCG in January. Made runs in India. Surely for an incumbent, that deserves at least a Test, regardless of Shield form.— Phil Lutton (@phillutton78) November 16, 2017
The all-rounder must be wondering what more he needs to do to get a regular stint in the Test team and more importantly, in Australia. Maxwell has played all his seven Tests in the subcontinent and the UAE. He scored a century in the drawn Ranchi Test against India and in his last match – against Bangladesh – hit 63 runs in the Test the Aussies won by seven wickets. What makes his omission even more difficult to digest is Shaun Marsh has been recalled for the eighth time since his debut in 2011. Marsh is not even averaging 40 in first-class cricket of late and he doesn’t offer much by way of bowling, something Maxwell does.
George Bailey - 35, too old.— Adam White (@White_Adam) November 16, 2017
Ed Cowan - 35, too old.
Cameron White - 34, too old.
Shaun Marsh - 34, not too old.
In perhaps a first for cricket, a Sheffield Shield game in Australia had to be halted when a fire-alarm went off in the dressing room due to a burnt toaster.
Australia’s leading spinner Nathan Lyon was the culprit of the rather unusual event which meant that players had to be called off from the field in the clash between New South Wales and Queensland at Allan Border Field in Brisbane.
The 29-year-old confessed to burning his toast at the Stuart Law grandstand as his New South Wales side batted on day three of the Shield clash.
“(The toast) popped up first and I wasn’t happy so I put it back down and I got carried away watching the cricket,” Lyon said, as per cricket.com.au.
“There’s a first for everything.
— Jack Clifton (@ontheballaus) November 15, 2017
“I was getting a bit bored in the change-rooms,” the New South Wales spinner added.
A fire-truck was called out to diffuse the situation though Lyon said that skipper Steve Smith had been gracious enough to cover the fee.
— Jack Clifton (@ontheballaus) November 15, 2017
“Steve Smith already said he’s going to cover it (the fire truck call-out fee).”
Play was ultimately resumed following the fire-alarm fiasco with Lyon’s side going on to complete a six-wicket victory with a day to spare.
Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon will team up once again as the much anticipate first Ashes Test against England begins on November 23 at the Gabba in Brisbane.
Former India spinner Harbhajan Singh last week mocked the Sri Lankan team on social media, stating he “hope(s) they will revive and get to international level”.
The Sri Lankans are in India for a full tour shortly after having suffered a 9-0 thrashing across formats in their backyard.
Not many cricket enthusiasts are chomping at the bit to watch India take on Sri Lanka in three Tests, ODIs and T20s apiece. Even the Indian team is looking to give some players a break. All-rounder Hardik Pandya hasn’t been selected for the first two Tests while captain Virat Kohli is expected to be rested for the third Test and the subsequent limited overs series in December.
Harbhajan was quick to delete his tweet on the Sri Lankan team, which included this statement: “They are getting beaten by Zimbabwe… 1st inn 200 second inn 150. Sri Lankan team at their lowest so sad to see them like this”.
But the point had already been made and it is clear not many pundits expect anything less than a procession of comprehensive Indian wins, just like it was during the tour of Sri Lanka.
It is true India were a class apart in July-August but the scenario has changed since. This is not the same Sri Lankan team, at least in Tests.
Let’s not forget this Sri Lankan outfit blanked Pakistan 2-0 in the UAE last month. The same Pakistan team that had not lost a Test series at their UAE ‘home’ since moving base in 2010.
The driving force behind this rejuvenation is captain Dinesh Chandimal. Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas is adamant this is a different Sri Lankan team after the setbacks against Virat Kohli’s men.
“What changed for us is internally – the discipline, the culture and how the teams stuck together, the characters that we have picked. As much as the skill and preparation has changed, what we have done internally has changed as well,” said Pothas.
Those aren’t statements thrown around just for the sake of it. Chandimal has ensured discipline and team culture are put ahead of everything else in the dressing room and it was evident in the way they stunned Pakistan in the UAE. Sure, Sarfraz Ahmed didn’t have Younis Khan and Misbah-ul Haq to bail the team out but it was nonetheless a special effort to score more than 400 in both Tests against an attack that had Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah.
India will be a different challenge but supporters, like Harbhajan, shouldn’t get too carried away. The Indians haven’t had the greatest of records when some ‘big’ names have trolled the opposition.
Before the Champions Trophy final in England, former India opener Virender Sehwag had asked Pakistan fans to buy radio sets instead of television as “it won’t pinch their pockets if they have to break them” after Pakistan lose the June 4 clash. India won that contest but lost the final to the same opposition by 180 runs.
Sehwag had earlier made it a habit of belittling Bangladesh, calling the nation India’s “grandson” and an “ordinary side” on different occasions. In fact, Sehwag’s ordinary jibe in 2010 rankled Bangladesh players for a long time and they have since defeated India in an ODI series at home in 2015 and pushed India hard at the 2015 World Cup, 2016 World T20 and even at this year’s Champions Trophy.
Such name-calling and disrespectful behaviour might look great in the flashy world of social media but it discounts the possibility of an upset.
India are decidedly stronger than Sri Lanka but expectations should not reach ridiculous levels.
The islanders really don’t have much to lose. They lost an ODI series to Zimbabwe in June at home and then blanked Pakistan in Tests. The last thing you should do is discount the opposition. The game of cricket has a funny way of biting you in the back.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING
The UAE now seems to be brimming with top-class cricket acad-emies. Off-spinner Ravi Ashwin, wicketkeeper batsman MS Dhoni and former international Robin Singh will now nurture local talent in Dubai.
It was just last year that UAE cricketers received their first professional contracts. Not all national cricketers have a full-time central contract, but it is a start. Since serious cricketers in the UAE can now hope to make a proper career out of the game, it is therefore not surprising there are cricket experts in the market hoping to nurture local talent and help them reach the next level.
IN PICTURES: MS Dhoni launched his first cricket academy in the UAE last nighthttps://t.co/u7Hv1hw36A— Sport360° (@Sport360) November 12, 2017
But having three academies launch within a span of a few months seems like a deluge. And there is every possibility more big names will look to set up shop in the UAE. Former captain Mohammad Azharuddin said academies are not of much use if they don’t produce cricketers who end up representing the country or at least become professional players.
Let’s see how many serious cricketers these academies produce.