Bowlers should be picked on form, writes Ian Chappell

Jan 02, 2013, 08:25 IST | Ian Chappell

Despite controversial rotation policy, Australia pacers are getting injured

Currently, Australia is blessed with a number of talented fast bowlers any of whom are almost guaranteed to succeed if thrown into a Test, especially against the lower ranked sides. There are no assurances this will always be the case and when playing against the top sides the best bowlers need to always be picked when they’re fit.

Look what happened at the WACA against the number one side South Africa when Peter Siddle was controversially left out of the line-up. And the lack of alternatives has squashed any talk of a rotation or a resting policy in regards to Australia’s spinner, Nathan Lyon.

Ben Hilfenhaus leaves the field after  suffering an injury in Hobart on December 16. Pic/Getty Images

The pace bowling policy is not one that’s likely to be replicated widespread. India for instance would love to have the choice of rotating fast bowlers rather than having to scour the hills to find one capable of success.

Then there’s the question of what policy Cricket Australia will adopt in the upcoming Ashes series. For instance would Siddle be missing from a crucial Test against England? Would Starc be rested after taking a belligerent five-wicket haul against Alistair Cook’s men? I’d be surprised if anyone thinks this is going to happen or if it actually does occur.

Finally, we have the not so small matter of who is actually picking the side? Is it the selectors or have the boffins taken over? When a bowler is rested because the boffins have tracked his workload on a computer and the graph has spiked into the “red zone” I don’t class that as selection; it’s more a case of choosing by numbers.

Selection is a lot like captaincy; it’s occasionally about gut feel and betting on a player’s heart and pride when the going gets tough. It’s rarely about a set of numbers whether they be on paper or a computer screen.

Australia has lost to front-running South Africa and beaten a fast regressing Sri Lanka convincingly under the current (rotation) policy. This is no recommendation for a fast track journey back to number one ranked Test side, as is CA’s stated aim.

What is more disturbing is that despite all the resting or rotating, the fast bowlers are still suffering injuries. Ben Hilfenhaus was specifically rested from the WACA Test and yet still broke down on his return in Hobart. How many such injuries will it take before this (rotation) experiment is abandoned and they return to the more traditional form based selection policy?

I suspect we’ll soon see a return to a more normal selection policy; i.e one where the best bowlers are chosen at all times. The commencement of the Ashes series in England is the most likely starting date, otherwise CA will have to charter a Jumbo Jet to fly an extended squad and their support staff to the UK. 

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