Have recent Test debutants been given a raw deal?

Date: November 14, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
Fast bowler Mitchell Starc

Fast bowler Mitchell Starc

If Mitchell Starc misses out on the first Test against India next month it will mark the eighth time he has been dropped and he has only played 13 Tests.

Since debuting in December 2011, Starc’s Test career with respect to the number of matches he has played each time he was recalled before being omitted reads like this: 2, 2, 2, 3, 1, 1, 1.

If he is axed for the Gabba Test it will see each of his last four Test reincarnations lasting just one match.

Which begs the question – do we actually know whether or not he is a Test bowler?

In his 13 appearances he has claimed 43 wickets at 35.3.

What would those figures look like if he had have been given the opportunity to string a series of matches together?

It remains a great imponderable and Starc is not alone in that regard.

The track record of late has not augured well for men who have debuted beneath the baggy green.

Of the last 24 players to debut at Test level many have had an extremely fleeting time in the sun.

Some, like Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Jackson Bird have been cruelled by injuries while many others have been cut down by the selectors.

Spinners Xavier Doherty (4 Tests), Ashton Agar (2) and Michael Beer (2) were given little time to settle.

Peter George, James Faulkner and John Hastings were each given one Test; Rob Quiney got two; and Trent Copeland and Moises Henriques three each.

Others, like Starc, have been faced with a revolving door.

Phil Hughes is a classic case.

Despite innings of 0, 75, 115 and 160 in his first two Tests he was on the outer after playing just another three.

His exile lasted seven matches before he was recalled and since that time his run of Tests before being dropped again has been: 1, 1, 10, 9.

That adds up to 26 Tests having been dropped five times.

Have we learned definitively whether or not he is a Test batsman?

Usman Khawaja is another who has been given opportunities – nine Tests in all but he has never been given any more than three in succession.

After George Bailey’s five Tests against England last summer produced an average of 26.1, Alex Doolan took his place in a reordered batting line-up.

His maiden Test series was against the highly credentialed Proteas in South Africa.

Across the three Tests Doolan averaged 31 with a top score of 89 – not too shabby first-up at number three against an attack that boasted Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.

Heading into the recent series in the UAE he was the only Australian batsman to score a century in the solitary first-class lead-in match.

His two innings in the opening Test a week later at Dubai produced just five runs and he was dropped for the second Test at Abu Dhabi and bizarrely replaced at number three by Glenn Maxwell (who played his third Test, having played one each time previously before being dropped).

Did Doolan deserve another chance?

Steven O’Keefe has long been supported by many readers here on The Roar.

He made his Test at Abu Dhabi against a highly proficient Pakistan team when it comes to playing spin.

He returned figures of 2-107 and 2-112 off a marathon 57 overs (in contrast Nathan Lyon took 2-220 off 55 overs).

Yet many well-credentialed former players have gone so far as saying that O’Keefe may never play another Test – and that is despite a first-class record of 137 wickets at 25.4.

It is worth remembering that one of the more intriguing starts to a great Test career was that of the great Shane Warne.

He made his Test debut having captured just 26 first-class wickets and only 15 of those had been claimed on Australian soil – only fellow leg-spinner John Watkins with 10 first-class scalps before his Test debut in 1973 had taken less wickets that Warne had in the preceding 100 years before wearing the baggy green.

In his maiden Test Warne returned figures of 1-150.

That was followed by a return 0-78 in his second Test.

After four Tests he had claimed 4-386.

And, he went on to claim 708 wickets at 25.4 through 145 Tests.

So, the question is have the selectors got it wrong with respect to many of the players they have selected in recent years or have those players simply not been given enough time to bed themselves down at Test level?

None perhaps were ever going to compile records like a Warne, Ponting or McGrath but how many of them were given a real opportunity to build a career of note?

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 13 November 2014