Quiney exposes lack of Australia’s batting depth

Date: November 7, 2012 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

The selection of Rob Quiney in Australia’s squad for the first Test at the Gabba this Friday against South Africa once again calls into focus the depth in Australia’s batting – or, dare I say it, the lack thereof.

I have never met Quiney but from the interviews I have heard him give in the last 24 hours he seems to be a very well-balanced and thoughtful individual.

He is however, not a young man as he celebrated his 30th birthday in August.

As a first-class cricketer he is considerably seasoned.

His name sprang to prominence after innings of 85 and 11 not out over the weekend representing Australia ‘A’ against the tourists at the SCG.

Prior to that innings however, he had scored a mere 68 runs in his three Sheffield Shield appearances this season.

Ahead of his call-up as cover for the injured Shane Watson, Quiney had played 53 first-class matches.

His career effort stands at just over 3000 runs at an average of 38 – hardly a lot to be excited about for a 30-year-old.

There have been questions raised ahead of the opening Test about the form of recently anointed opener Ed Cowan, who has struggled to get going so far this summer.

Yet, his four Shield matches this season have produced 150 runs at 21, pretty much on par with Quiney’s showing in Shield ranks.

Cowan made his Test debut last summer at 29 years of age and with a first-class average of 38.

Just ahead of him beneath the baggy green was Shaun Marsh, who at 27, boasted a first-class average of 36 over 60-odd matches.

Marsh burst onto the scene with an inspiring 141 in his maiden Test against Sri Lanka.

A lot was hoped for, but before long, he was cast aside as his Test average plummeted to 27 after seven Tests.

Take out his debut 141, and he compiled a mere 160 runs in his remaining six Tests.

Should we have been surprised?

There was little empirical evidence in his cricket prior to his elevation to Test ranks that indicated he would be a long-term, highly productive and effective Test batsman.

A lot of talk amongst cricket followers these days is about the two aging warriors in the Australian middle order.

Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have been phenomenal servants over a long period of time but with both in their 38th year many suggest that it is time to look to the future and replace them with some younger models.

That is all well and good but just who are these new generation of Test batsmen?

Hussey’s elevation to Test ranks is well worth noting.

After years of plying and honing his trade in first-class cricket across both hemispheres he finally got the nod to play Test cricket at the age of 30 by which time he was the most prolific batsman to be awarded a baggy green.

By the time he strode out to open the batting with Matthew Hayden against West Indies in Brisbane in November 2005, he had already compiled 15,313 first-class runs at an average of 50.

Since that maiden Test he has gone on to become one of his country’s premier batsmen.

When he returns to the Gabba on Friday he will be making his 74th Test appearance and will take to the ground with a Test average in excess of 50.

Like Hussey, Brad Hodge was another perennial heavy scorer prior to his Test call-up at the age of 30 in late-2005.

With over 10,000 first-class runs to his credit he scored an unbeaten 203 against South Africa in Perth in just his third Test.

Seen by many as being harshly dealt with, he played only six Tests but carried an average of 56 with him into exile.

If we cast our mind back it was common place to see Australia trial batsmen at a young age – Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer & Damien Martyn readily come to mind – only to see them subsequently sent back to Shield ranks.

Upon their return, often in their mid-20s, they were coming off numerous heavy scoring and consistent Shield seasons – Langer and Hayden both took their Shield averages above 50 and Martyn into the high-40s.

Others got their first taste of Test cricket in that era – Darren Lehmann & Martin Love – after long and highly productive apprenticeships.

Nowadays however, batsmen of that ilk are hard to come by.

The most consistent batsmen outside the Test arena at present are the veteran serial run-makers David Hussey and Chris Rogers, both of whom are unlikely to get a call-up given their ages.

The next generation is yet to set the world on fire.

In fact, some are just simmering.

Callum Ferguson (27yo, first-class average 41), Liam Davis (28yo, 34), Moises Henriques (25yo, 31), Alex Doolan (26yo, 40), Peter Forrest (26yo, 33) have all been touted as potential future Test players.

Interestingly, Australia ‘A’ captain Andrew McDonald has a first-class career batting average of 40 from 91 games with 11 centuries but it is doubtful that he would ever be selected as a specialist batsman despite his record being on a par or superior to many of the specialist batsmen currently going around.

Australia seems to be blessed with plenty of pace bowling depth at present – albeit many of them are suspect to injury – and there is also a solid list of ‘keepers but for whatever reason the batting stocks are thin.

It is a matter that Cricket Australia needs to address.

Having said that though, I hope if he gets the call-up, Rob Quiney makes every post a winner.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 6 November 2012