Steven Smith, the Saviour

Updated: Sep 17, 2019, 07:56 IST | Michael Jeh | Brisbane

But for the star batter's brilliance, the Ashes could have been an unmitigated disaster for Oz

Steven Smith celebrates with the urn despite Australia losing The Oval Test on Sunday. Pic/ Getty Images
Steven Smith celebrates with the urn despite Australia losing The Oval Test on Sunday. Pic/ Getty Images

Michale JehBrisbane: Australians pride themselves on a 'no bullshit' filter. They readily concede that without Steven Smith, the Ashes would have been relinquished. I have been inundated with comments from outraged cricket fans who realise that the final result masks a deeper, more uncomfortable truth when it comes to inconsistent selection criteria.

It used to be the Asian nations that were accused of biased selections based on family ties and favours owed but recent history suggests that India at least have made it a point to select teams based on performance. What's that you say? Performance? Selected on performance? How quaint! It'll never catch on in Australia.

Here are some of the more illuminating texts I received on the topic. Clearly, Warner knows where the corpses are buried in Cape Town so he can't be dropped. Worst series by an opening batsman in cricket history, but Ponting reckons he is a guaranteed pick for the home series.

It doesn't matter that Mitch Marsh took five wickets. He didn't deserve the opportunity ahead of others. If you keep getting lifelines, most players will eventually succeed.

The selectors reckon that when Mitch Marsh was dropped in the recent India series, he was carrying too much weight. Now that he's lost a few kilos, that's enough to be selected again? Why bother with the Sheffield Shield then? Might as well select the team from The Biggest Loser ( reality TV show) or from Jenny Craig Weight Loss clinics!

Poor record

Before the Oval Test, Marsh had a batting average of 25.39 and bowling average of 43.91. In his last three Tests before Oval, he has averaged 8.16 with bat and 74.50 with ball. And this is enough to get a recall? I might change my surname to Marsh and see if that comes with a free baggy green cap.

All- rounders like Marsh are chimeras. They actually don't exist ( the definition of a chimera is a thing which is hoped for but is illusory or impossible to achieve). They gave Warner and Marsh the last Test of the series because that is an automatic selection for the home series in Australia on flat pitches. They'll score a few runs against Pakistan and NZ and then it's a lifetime gold pass.

Joe Burns and Kurtis Patterson score big hundreds in their last Test and they're dropped. Travis Head and Usman Khawaja are batting for their spots every time they walk out!

Matt Wade scores hundred so he can't be dropped for next Test. But that rule didn't apply when it came to Burns or Patterson. Warner keeps getting picked because he is due for a big one. So the more times he fails, the more he is due!

Complete overhaul needed

These comments above suggest a deep disenchantment with a system that is badly broken and in need of a complete overhaul. But for Smith's brilliance, the Ashes could have been an unmitigated disaster. Smith apart, this is no Phoenix rising from the ashes of Cape Town. Despite all the integrity reviews and promises of a new dawn, these selections do nothing to quell the growing disquiet at grassroots level of a bloated bureaucracy that has betrayed the age- old principles of transparency and fairness.

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