Friday, October 12, 2007

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

The great batting form of Brad Haddin in India recently has shown that Australia has a fine replacement when Adam Gilchrist decided to hang up his gloves. Over the past few years, Haddin’s work behind the stumps has improved substantially, whilst his batting has gained a maturity that sees him scoring consistently. If given the chance, Haddin will undoubtedly prove himself to be a keeper worthy of the legend of Tallon, Grout, Marsh, Healy and Gilchrist. However, Haddin will turn 30 in just a few days. He is clearly the next in line as Australia’s first choice wicketkeeper, but if Gilchrist plays another two seasons, there must be a chance that the selectors will instead decide to go with a younger option and Haddin will never get the chances his talent deserves.

There are many players over the years who could have had long and successful test careers, but were denied by time or circumstance. Stuart MacGill has languished behind possibly the greatest leggie of all time, but back in the 80s his talents would have shone out greatly over lesser players like Peter Sleep, Bobbie Holland, Trevor Hohns and Jimmy Higgs. Jamie Siddons and Stuart Law both waited for opportunities in the Australian middle order that never arrived. Jamie Cox was anointed as the next Australian opener for many years, but the chance never presented itself. Phil Jaques and Chris Rogers are both worthy of a test spot, but it is likely that one may miss out permanently.

There are similar stories from all round the world. Andy Ganteaume made a century on debut for the West Indies, and then never played again. So did Kiwi Rodney Redmond. A whole generation of South African players were lost to world cricket due to their government’s appalling racism. Many players careers (and their lives in some cases) were cut short by the two World Wars. No-one said that life was fair, but I feel sorry for these players that get so close, and then are denied the chance to shine for reasons that are sometimes beyond their control. Different times, different eras – it all could have been so different.

5 comments:

Soulberry said...

Hi,

This is my first visit here and I'm glad I've come. Lovely articles here.

I have seen three Australian wicketkeepers live in India...Healy and Gilly of course and Brian Taber. I wasn't able to watch Rodney Marsh live....one of my heroes, since I was mostly a 'keeper upto a point for mt school team (displaced by Manu Nayar who went on to play as opener/skipper for Delhi, currently selector for Delhi, and was in the reckoning briefly for India in the 80's) and for my club before blokes better than I pushed me out there too.

The problem for those who are pushing for spots in the Australian team is real. Due to the consistency of those already in the team, nearly two generations have ended up playing very limited roles in the international game. If only it were possible to "import" some of them into other teams!

Stuart McGill is one such I rate very highly.

I don't know if this will be the trend. Perhaps Australian followers of the game know best since we do not get telecasts of the Australian domestic cricket), but is it possible that following the retirement of some of the seniors in this team at some stage, the players coming in will be an entirely fresh crop?

Ottayan said...

Stuart,

Simpson had written that Healy is the last of the great wicket keepers.

I disagree. To me Kirmani was the last of the great ones.

What is your take?

I dont want to sound as if I am chumming up,you have a interesting concept for your blog.

Wishing you all the best.

Cheers!

Uncle J rod said...

Let us not forget the best gloveman I have ever seen Darren Berry. He is on the only wicketkeeper who regulary changed the course of games with his gloves. Alas, he was blessed with almost no talent as a batsmen and therefore no real threat to Healy.

Watching Berry up the stumps to Warne is the best sight I have seen in cricket. And watching him take leg side stumpings off Reifel and Harvey when they fired in quick ones down the leg side was awe inspiring.

I also saw alot of Jamie Siddons, who was a better batsmen than Ganguly, Astle and Hussein and yet could never crack into the Australian team. The Don once said to John Scholes that he had so much time to play the ball, even though he had only made 30 odd. Then he turned to Scholes who had just made a hundred and said, you scratched around today didn't you.

Stuart said...

I know where you are coming from re Syed Kirmani. For me, the defining moment when wicketkeeping lost its way was when Jack Russell kept being overlooked for Alec Stewart. They sacrificed the best keeper I ever saw (even taking into account Darren Berry, Allan Knott, Bob Taylor and others) and in the process turned Stewart into an underperforming batsman as well. Australia did the same thing with poor old Wayne Phillips - a very talented batsman whose career was killed by being made to keep.

All of the countries round the world appear obsessed with picking batsmen/keepers, rather than choosing the best keeper on merit. We don't insist that bowlers have to bat, so why do keepers?

Siddons was a class act with the bat and probably the only guy I can think of that was possible a better all-round fielder than Mark Waugh. Sadly, illness and injuries just at the wrong time were part of the reason he missed out.

Uncle J rod said...

Jack Russell was a damn fine keeper, don't think he was as good as Berry up to the stumps, but he was the only man for mine who could match him standing back.