No Lamborghinis for this Englishman in Australia. Driving down Perth’s Stirling Highway in a rented motor that would make a cut-and-shut look like a mobile airbag, I almost swerved off the road when I heard the Australian Test squad on the radio.
I was returning from a chat with the former Western Australia captain, John Inverarity – the Australian Brearley that never quite was. Inverarity was renowned for his excellent leadership skills, yet who played only six Tests and missed out on captaining his country twice in unfortunate circumstances, later taking time out from teaching for successful stints as coach of Kent and Warwickshire.
At one point I asked him what he made of Michael Beer, the left-arm spinner Western Australia plucked from Victoria this year. “I’ve never seen him bowl” was the honest response. That’s not that surprising, Beer has played only five first class games – there are probably very close members of his family who haven’t either.
Yet there Beer was, nestling in the corner of Australia’s Test squad an hour later. Maybe Andrew Hilditch wrote the squad on the back of a Coopers Pale label, in the finest traditions of Mike Bassett England manager, whose selection once accidentally included Benson and Hedges.
Beer is 26 and unlikely to play at the WACA, but if he did he’d be Australia’s 10th spinner (Doherty, Stuart MacGill, Brad Hogg, Beau Casson, Cameron White, Jason Krejza, Bryce McGain, Steve Smith and Nathan Hauritz) since Shane Warne – it’s becoming a running joke. It’s the sort of logic that makes you think they might have considered picking Warne again. It’s the sort of logic that sees a (promising) bits and pieces player replace a batsman in a batting-order that failed twice at Adelaide. Would England rather bowl to David Hussey or Steve Smith? Australia once ruled the world with a four-man attack, they will go into the WACA Test with six bowlers, seven if you include Michael Clarke. What a kerfuffle.
Inverarity spoke honestly and starkly of the problems facing Australian cricket, the reasons for the disintegration of the current set-up and the lack of leadership in the modern game. It wouldn’t make fun listening for those interested in the chances of Australian regeneration over the next few years.
Leadership was a key theme – Inverarity highlighted the work done by Lawrie Sawle, the Australia Chairman of Selectors who identified the players with the talent, and more importantly the guts to take Australia out of their mid-80s torpor. Where is the leadership coming from now? The future is more green than gold.
In the immediate term, does Inverarity believe Australia can turn this series around? “I would be amazed if they did. At the moment there is a very big difference between the two sides.”