Should Test cricket be about identifying the best team or the best squad?

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A couple of days ago, we wrote about the slow erosion of a Test team over the course of a series. This is part of the game, but at what point does it become too pronounced?

Australia have omitted their two main pace bowlers for the third and final Test against South Africa. Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus were diagnosed as being ‘knackered’ and have therefore been prescribed a nice sit down and a cup of tea.

But why has this happened? Are the circumstances really so exceptional? Should it be the case that if one bowler gets injured during a Test match then three of them need replacing for the following fixture?

Some will say this is part of modern sport. For example, football and baseball teams play so often that winning a particular competition is generally more about having a good roster of players on which to draw than on having the best first-choice team.

International cricket seems to have found itself in a similar position, but this hasn’t been a conscious decision – it’s just a by-product of playing more matches. It’s therefore worth asking the question: should Test cricket be about identifying the best team or the best squad?

We were going to venture an opinion, but if we go into this we’ll probably end up writing about three more paragraphs and then something else will strike us and we’ll get sidetracked and who knows where it’ll end. Sometimes it’s best to simply not bother.

Remember that – it’s a good philosophy. ‘Sometimes it’s best to simply not bother’.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. In ice hockey they can’t go more than 30 seconds without stopping and changing half the team. I suggest cricket should go the same way. If a batsman faces more than 5 balls without hitting a boundary, he’s out of there.

  2. Well, let’s think this through logically.

    Selectors: This is Ricky’s last test, and we hope he hits a hundred.
    Clarke: Yeah well, that’ll amount to naught if SA score 70-odd (chuckles)
    Selectors: Rest Peter and Ben.
    Clarke (looks confused and then smiles understandingly, nods head vigorously): Geez, that’s rather clever mate. We’ll make Papa Ricky’s contribution stand out.
    Selectors: Of course, you guys should bat around him giving him all the strike.
    Clarke: We’re gonna have a tough time convincing the young ones to do that.
    Selectors: Quixote? Quinoa?
    Clarke: Quiney.
    Selectors: Drop him. Bring in Shane. He’s large, stupid, and injured. He’ll do as we say.
    Clarke: Yeah, that’ll do, that’ll do. Shane’s stupid alright. There was this one time when…
    Selectors: We don’t care. Oh, and drop Pattinson as well. Bring in Hastings.
    Clarke: Who the fuck is Hastings?
    Selectors: Exactly. Exactly.
    Clarke: Ah, I see. Brilliant. Brilliant. We are going to field a terrible team so in the off-chance Ricky does something good…
    Selectors: Off-chance?
    Clarke: Well yeah, well you know how he’s been…..
    Selectors: Get out.
    Clarke: Sure thing, sure thing. Brilliant, brilliant I tell ya.

  3. I originally came here for the cricket commentary, but I stayed on for the life advice and/or existential crises.

  4. Re the main question, my view is that it has always been thus (a test series is a test of squad strength more than team strength) – you just hadn’t bothered to notice that it was thus until recently, KC.

    Squads with especially strong core teams don’t often get tested beyond the core team – that is a key factor in the ” strength” equation and can make the strength somewhat illusory or at least less resilient than might otherwise be expected.

    As for this web site as a source of life advice and existential crises, Patrick, ’twas always thus.

    I would expound über-meaningfully on life’s purpose or lack thereof…

    …but I cannot be bothered.

    1. But is it even possible to get through a series relying solely on your core team in these days of back-to-back Tests? Our issue probably revolves around the distinction between choosing to make changes and basically being forced into them, as has almost been the case with Siddle and Hilfenhaus.

    2. Agree up to a point, KC. But a strong core (eg McGrath, Gillespie, Lee & Warne in their pomp) would not have laboured in vain all day 5 at Adelaide & thus would have been fit for Perth. Back then, the Oz team & therefore squad was mighty strong. Now the squad is relatively weak & there is no combo in all of oz who should strike fear into bats men’s hearts, be it Day One, Test One or a Day five of the third back-to-back test off the reel.

      I prefer your other argument against back-to-back tests, the glorious time that is the expectation between juicy tests, cruelly and shamefully foreshortened when they come back-to-back. I CAN be bothered to emphasise that point for you.

    3. We’re not arguing against back-to-back Tests here, we’re just playing devil’s advocate.

      So you’d say that it’s basically the bowling attack’s own limitations which have led Australia into having to rest their first-choice players. That would make subsequent weaknesses the fault of the players and not those who scheduled the matches and therefore part of the sporting contest.

    4. Hence why South Africa cunningly let Clarke and Hussey score so quickly, meaning their fast bowlers wouldn’t be as tired for the third test.

      Australia have tried to copy this plan today, although it probably doesn’t work so well in the final match of the series.

  5. I note that the box at the top right of your website which previously advertised Mature Dating is now advertising Investment Plans For Those With Portfolios Over £250,000. Clearly internet advertisers have an interesting perspective on the lifestyle of the your readers.

    1. Again, we feel moved to explain that those ads are displayed according to your browsing history…

    2. A married man dabbling in mature dating? tut, tut, Bert.

      For the record, I do miss the big-breasted Chinese girls that were, at one point, “eagerly looking forward to meet me”. I get some nonsense about learning new languages these days. KC, what specific sites should I visit so you unleash spambots on me?

  6. Well, what I get in the top right corner is an invitation to play Crazy Cricket. Is that a reflection of my sad life, or is Crazy Cricket an euphemism?

  7. My last three advertising invitations on this site were to:

    * subscribe to a Muslim bride website;
    * send money to India “cheaply”;
    * buy my own book through Amazon.

    The first two are presumably linked to my and Daisy’s choice of holiday destinations, with the existence of Daisy largely unseen by this PC’s search history as she insists on surfing with her Apple.

    I suppose I needn’t elaborate on the reason why Amazon might think I want to buy my own book! Amazon also e-mails me suggesting that the book really is “the one for me” almost as regularly as it places adverts for same on KC’s site.

  8. I see all of those ads as well Ged. We all see the same adverts. Clearly this “It’s all to do with your browsing history” line is bullshit. If that were true, why don’t I see adverts for holiday cottages, ocean cruises, and pet dogs?

    1. Your surfing history is probably similar to mine, Bert, in its emphasis on cricket. You are deemed to be a single man of sub-continental origin. Hence Muslim brides and send money to India.

      I sincerely hope that Amazon are also pumping my IRL book at you. Have you bought it yet?

    2. …I’ve just been offered a log cabin, I kid thee not.

      Just by responding to Bert’s mention of holiday cottages means that I am clearly looking for same!!

      This is fun…

      …beats working anyways.

    3. Ah yes, your book, that book of yours, about that thing that it’s about. I did mean to buy it, I really did, but you know how it is – I’ve already got several books on the subject of that thing your book is on, and £200 is a lot to spend on a book, no matter what the subject matter of it being on is. So no.

      Why don’t you serialise it on this website? That way we could all get to find out what it’s about, and also not pay anything.

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