April 03, 2013By Clem from Como
March 26, 2013By Clem from Como
March 18, 2013By Vin Maskell
Australia's Worst Test Team since 1970
April 03, 2013By Clem from Como
The bus was late...
THE bus is late again so I can put the finishing touches to a team that I have been working on for some time. My interest in this topic was sparked by an article in a magazine I must have seen 10-15 years ago, which named the worst ever Australian Test team. As I recall it had a damned fine picture of Wally Edwards to accompany the article. Since then I have been wresting with selections; with adjustments here and there as new blokes have come in (briefly) made fools of the selectors, and themselves, and then ended up doing other things – like Wally – he has been a big knob in Aussie cricket organisations for some time now.
For the present team I have received some assistance from another selector – well not so much another selector as another pair of eyes – from a different age group and a different state – a distant relative of the brother of a bloke that I once met digging around for old Capstan tobacco tins at a rubbish dump in Queens Park. Anyway this bloke's brother's distant relative offered some insights into players that he thought were complete rubbish that has added to my list. I will call this lad "Chappie", as given his career with a marketing firm that represents one of Victoria's prime exporters of television commercials, I do not want to denude his anonymity in any way.
For example, I had (thankfully) forgotten the brief test careers of Wayne Phillips (the Victorian one) and Bryce "Chips" McGain, in more recent times.
The mention of Phillips created one of those interesting comparisons from different eras – how to compare his sheer lack of runs, technique and ability against that of the legendary Ken Eastwood. Both Victorian openers, played for Australia about 20 years apart and I think neither managed more than 10. Both replaced favourite sons – Billy "Pigeon" Lawry in 1971 and Geoffrey "Swampy" Marsh in 1992 or thereabouts. And how do you compare the conditions and bowlers for their first test? A rampaging John Snow versus the guile of Kapil Dev on a WACA semi-greentop. I had the pleasure to see Phillips first Test innings at the WACA. I was sceptical and thought it was not the time to replace Marsh. I watched the first few balls Phillips faced and then knew for sure it was not the time to replace Marsh. His dismal dismissal shortly afterwards confirmed it; he was limited.
An interesting but not well known historical fact about the Bill Lawry sacking is that another person who was listening to the radio and heard of Bill's sacking at the same time as he did was none other than future Governor General Sir John Kerr. He was delighted as he had once spotted Eastwood at primary school and declared he had the makings of a first class marbles player. "Kerr-ey" as he was then known, formed the view that if you were going to sack a bloke, just do it; conventions of warnings and talk were just that – all talk. To quote what he said at the time – "just hatchet the bastard".
But I think stats alone cannot justify inclusions in my team. Chris Rogers, another WA lad now plying his trade with the Big V, has so far only played one Test. The fact that he is still playing automatically excludes him from selection, as he might yet be given another chance. But if he remains one of the one Test brigade, with twin failures, should he be in the team?? I would argue no – on the basis that his first class career is staggering, as is the fact that he has been only selected for one Test while the selectors have mucked around with non-openers like Phil Hughes, Watson, and even the ever likeable Ed "Carpet-Snake" Cowan and Dave ("it is a reasonable assumption that he is up himself") Warner. Also the rumour, from good sources, is that Rogers has only played one Test as he had the guts, after a WA team got belted all around the park, to tell Justin Langer his captaincy was shit-house. Others also thought it but did not say so, From then Rogers had his card marked. Those that did not speak up, like David Bandy remain more likely to be selected at Test level.
Another example Chappie reminded me of is Robbie Kerr. Yet despite his failures at Test level I think Kerr was probably ripped off. What would he have done with more chances at Test level?
More than Ray Bright did, do I hear anyone say. Bright is a must starter in my team, despite the fact that he took more wickets than most members and contenders and certainly hung around for longer. In fact one of the prime reasons for his selection is that he did hang around for such a long time – why did the selectors keep picking a bloke with such an obvious lack of charisma, and more importantly given his role in the side –lack of capacity to turn a ball?? To my mind – another of Chappie's thoughts – Bigfella Chris Matthews, the WA left arm pace bowler, did what all first class cricketers should have done if given the chance and belted Ray Bright out the WACA and into the nearby Gloucester Park. The fact that they did not probably means that they reasoned that by not belting every ball for six they could keep Bright in the Test team for years. The strategy worked.
I recently heard on the radio though that Bright was Australia's leading wicket taker in World Series Cricket –not, as most would assume, Dennis Lillee. I have not checked this out, but if true it is the best argument I have heard for the Packer games to never be included in "real" Test records. It was either not, despite the billings of the players, really up to Test standard, or (ala World Championship Wrestling) rigged. The latter claim has some support from the fact that when the Australian Second XI in World Series Cricket were short of a player in Ballarat, after Dougie Walters had been on a bender, Mario Milano filled in, in a one day match against the West Indies, took 3-25 from 8 overs of wrist spin and made a handy 35 in the lower middle order.
Some will mention the possibility of Scott Muller making the worst XI team. Muller was of course dropped after two Tests and haunted by the "can't throw, can't bowl" comment that was picked up by an ASIO bug near the centre wicket. Muller was then replaced by Mike Kasprowicz, a hard worker and decent bowler, for the bouncy WACA, but Muller's figures in his first two Tests were not actually that bad. I have heard they were better than those of Curtley Ambrose after two Tests. Also the controversy over the comment that was picked up by the bug has raged ever since. Claims that it was made by Australia's best ever camera-man were said to have proved unfounded after a Senate inquiry and a Ray Martin interview – the fact of the matter was that instead it was made by Australia's best post (Iraq) War leg-spinner – in Joe the Cameraman.
Anyway, a man could go on reminiscing for a while but as the (next) bus will be with me soon, I will name my (current) Australia's Worst Test Team since 1970. (Before doing so, the word current is relevant as the claims of Rob Quiney and Phil Hughes need to be better tested when they finish their careers. And so too maybe Chris Rogers)
1. Wally Edwards (WA)
2. Ken Eastwood (Vic)
3. Wayne Phillips (Vic)
4. Paul Hibbert (Vic)
5. Phil Carlson (Qld)
6. Trevor Chappell (SA, NSW, WA)
7. John McLean (Qld) (w/k) (v/c)
8. Ray Bright (Vic) (c)
9. John Watkins (NSW)
10. Ross Duncan (Qld)
11. Dave Renneberg (NSW)
12th Alan (Froggy) Thompson (Vic)
13th David Ogilvie (QlD)
Special "knocking on the door" mentions
Tony Dell (Qld)
Bryce McGain (Vic)
Sam (the Rat) Gannon (WA)
I can foretell concerns about the balance of the attack. There is admittedly no "third seamer" to support the lack of pace, penetration and swing of Renneberg and Duncan. But I think that Carlson and Chappell could amply provide a lack of support before the (non) spinners of Bright and Watkins came on to get hammered. Some, even keen cricket supporters, might say "who is John Watkins". The sad thing is that Ian Chappell (then captain of Australia) said the same thing when Watkins was named for the final Test against Pakistan in 1973.