Opinion

His master’s voice on song

by
February 13, 2018

Glenn Maxwell should be considered to replace Jackson Bird in Australia's Test squad.

Chadd Sayers is in the box seat to claim a ticket to South Africa, but is he really needed?

Call the turntable repairman because this column is about to play another broken record.

But while the message remains the same, the volume has been turned up a notch in the past week.

Glenn Maxwell is a cricketer in form.

In the Twenty20 international tri-series between Australia, England and New Zealand, Maxwell has 182 runs in three matches and has been dismissed just once.

Even more remarkably his average strike rate across the tournament is 168.52.

This is also the man who led the Melbourne Stars with the bat in the Big Bash, scoring 299 runs at a rate of 154.12 per 100 deliveries.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but there is no way ‘‘The Big Show’’ should have been left out of the early stages of the one day international series.

When Chris Lynn then pulled out injured, Maxwell was the clear candidate to replace the big-hitter, but instead the selectors went with Cameron White.

By the time Maxwell christened Optus Stadium with 34 from 39 deliveries the series was done and dusted.

But what Maxwell’s public dressing down at the hands of Australian captain Steve Smith — where the leader told the Victorian to get back to the basics at training — may have done is light a fire under the enigmatic all-rounder.

The superstar has looked a man on a mission since returning to the national squad.

What the National Selection Panel must do now is capitalise on his momentum and rubber stamp his ticket to South Africa as part of the Test squad.

I had much less issue with Maxwell being left out of the initial touring group as the all-rounder (Mitch Marsh), back-up spinner (Jon Holland) and reserve batsman (Peter Handscomb) positions were already filled.

But his continued form cannot be ignored, and Jackson Bird’s hamstring injury has opened the door for his inclusion.

Maxwell has also been in great touch in the whites this summer, leading the Sheffield Shield for runs with 590 at an average of 73.75, meaning a promotion would not be out of the question on just those statistics alone.

Standing in his way though (apart from the fact he is not a fast bowler) is another serially unlucky cricketer.

Chadd Sayers deserves a ticket to South Africa as much as anyone.

The conditions set to greet Australia for one of the most important series on the Test calendar will suit Sayers to a tee.

The South Australian will swing and seam the ball all over the place on any pitch, but especially those in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Australian coach Darren Lehmann even supported the quick yesterday, naming Sayers as the next man in line if Bird fails looming fitness tests.

‘‘Jackson’s being assessed by the medical staff today (yesterday), so we’ll make a call on that in the next 24 hours and see how he goes,’’ Lehmann told cricket. com.au.

‘‘We’ll replace him if required. The logical (replacement) is probably Chadd Sayers, but we’ll sit as a selection panel and work that out.

‘‘We’d like a fully fit squad to go into a tough tour. So if he is to tour, we want him playing the tour game.’’

But after Marsh showcased his improving bowling talents with 4-50 in the first innings of Western Australia’s shield clash against NSW, I do not feel another fast bowler is needed in the squad.

Marsh’s WA teammate Jhye Richardson will remain as the reserve paceman for the tour, and with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in ripping form, he should not be needed.

So why should we drag another quick along just to run the drinks?

Australia’s main concern will be making runs against South Africa, so why are we heading into the tour with just Handscomb as back-up for an already underperforming Cameron Bancroft?

At least if Maxwell is on tour he can realistically provide support to the batting and bowling stocks.

If one of the pitches looks likely to be a green monster, the common train of thought would be to leave out specialist spinner Nathan Lyon for another fast bowler.

But I have always thought this was complete folly.

Any attack — especially one as good as ours — will take 20 wickets on a pitch full of demons.

The problem on those types of decks is actually making runs.

The NSP could replace Lyon with Maxwell to lengthen the batting order while also keeping a spin option.

Even if Maxwell did go over and failed to break into the side though, he would surely have to be the best substitute fielder in the world.

When the series is likely to come down to fine margins, even something like that has to be considered.

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