Jackson Bird has been thrown a lemon

Date: December 11, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Jackson BirdJackson Bird turns 29 tomorrow.

I have no idea what his loved ones will give him but the Australian selectors’ early present was a lemon.

And it must have had a particularly sour taste.

There is no doubting that Bird would have considered himself a prospect to replace the injured Mitchell Starc in the 12 for today’s series opener against the West Indies.

That hope would have turned to despair when he got wind of the fact that man chosen to come in was Nathan Coulter-Nile.

It has been highly publicised that Coulter-Nile has not played any red ball cricket since turning out for the Warriors in the Sheffield Shield final in March.

He leapt above the likes of Bird, Chadd Sayers and Doug Bollinger because he has more pace.

The need for speed has become a mantra for Australian coach and selector, Darren Lehmann.

It was pace – or more correctly, a lack thereof – that cost Peter Siddle his place in South Africa earlier this year.

Siddle may now be back in favour but he has spoken in the lead-in to the Bellerive Test about the selectors’ desire to field a full-throttle pace attack and the threat he feels as a result of that philosophy.

The fact that Coulter-Nile has been fast-tracked into the squad will not have gone unnoticed by any of Australia’s bowlers who fall outside the pace parameters the selectors are pursuing.

And Bird is at the head of the list.

His story is a fascinating one.

He was a late-bloomer by pace bowlers’ standards, not making his first-class debut until a month shy of his 25th birthday.

When he did, it was for Tasmania, having headed south from New South Wales to further his prospects.

His debut season in 2011-12 was stellar with his 53 wickets at 16.0 earning him the title of Sheffield Shield Player of the Year.

His standout performance came against Western Australia in March 2012 where he collected a hat-trick amongst match figures of 11-95 at Bellerive Oval.

Such was his initial impact, just over 13 months later he was capped as Australia’s 431st Test cricketer.

He walked onto the sport’s biggest stage – the MCG on Boxing Day – on the back of just 17 games of first-class cricket.

In his opening Test he claimed 2-32 and 2-29, snaring the wickets of Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera (twice) who both boasted averages of 50.

Next stop the SCG, where his hauls of 4-41 and 3-76 earned him the Man-of-the-Match award.

His transition from club cricketer to Test player in the space of little over a year was handled with aplomb.

Despite his heroics in his first series he was not selected for the Ashes opener at Trent Bridge in mid-2013.

He was recalled for the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street, where he returned figures of 2-58 and 0-67.

He lost his place to Mitchell Starc for the final match at The Oval.

Since then Bird has had his own injury problems but when he has been on the pitch he has seldom let his skipper down.

This season, through five Shield matches, he has snared 22 wickets at 24.0.

His economy rate of 2.7 has been outstanding.

Bird will never be an express bowler and his record shows that what he lacks in pace he makes up for through his height, bounce, deft movement and metronomic accuracy.

Through his 42 career first-class matches he has captured 174 wickets at the excellent average of 24.3.

His three Test appearances resulted in 13 wickets at 23.3.

In an era where we hear ad nauseum from captain’s about hitting the right area, Jackson Bird does it regularly and from a significant height.

His 105 Test overs have gone on average for just 2.9 runs per over.

Sadly for him though he does it all a few kilometres slower than the selectors’ desire.

There are many ways to skin a cat and Jackson Bird has shown his way is just as effective as the ones favoured by others.

Selecting a bowling attack on pace alone is not always the wisest move.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 10 December 2015, soliciting 92 comments