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Ducks and Jaques Simply Don't Mix

Phil Jacques should play in the first Ashes test next week, but not in the opening role as has been suggested.

With Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden firmly entrenched at the top of the order, it still seems ridiculous to leave out a man who has not only dominated the English bowlers in the early part of their tour, but who has also been terrorizing attacks around Australia and England for the best part of three years.

So why not play him in the number 6 position – a position which the selectors have been loath to make a concrete decision on?

Before we speak of the positives that could come out of such a decision, let’s have a look at the other contenders that have been bandied about in recent weeks.

First and foremost, you’ve got Shane Watson, an ‘all-rounder’ who does not know if he is more of a batsman or a bowler. His one day figures with the ball are improving, but it is a lot easier to get wickets when the batsmen are trying to score quickly than when they are merely trying to occupy the crease, as is the case in Test cricket. In short, his right arm quicks do not seem dangerous enough to be a constant threat when the players have donned the white clothing.

His batting, whilst mildly effective in the Champions Trophy, appears to have significant flaws. His technique is constantly praised by those in the power positions of Australian cricket, such as the captain and coach, but it is his decision making which often lets him down. He regularly gets himself in a tangle with premeditated shots, and although this can look quite ingenious in one day cricket, it is a significant problem that the Australian team can’t afford to bare the burden of in such an important series. Shane Watson could well develop into a significant Test performer for Australia in the future, but only once he has matured as a batsman, and improved as a bowler.

Next we’ve got Andrew Symonds. Probably the most damaging one day cricketer in the world, yet unable to don the Baggy Green as often as he would like. The reason? Quite possibly the exact reason he is so wonderful to watch – flamboyance. Here is another batsman who appears to be constantly in two minds – shall I play my natural game, or curb my instincts and carve out a dogged innings? He has shown that he is capable of doing the latter, but it almost seems at times that he succumbs to the pressure of being Andrew Symonds the entertainer, and strikes out at inopportune moments. Indeed, probably his best test innings have come when he has released the shackles and played a swashbuckling innings with which we are so familiar, but until he can do this with Gilchrist-like regularity, he too will wander the Test cricket abyss.

Symonds’ bowling is certainly improving, and his performance at the WACA last week against a powerful Western Warriors batting line up, both with an upright seam and with his finger spinners, would have given the selectors much heart. Such variety is invaluable but again, he needs to be taking regular bags to be considered a genuine all-rounder, and when he does, it will be an exciting prospect for the Aussie selectors.

There is no doubting the talent that lies within Michael Clarke’s veins, but until he can prove himself over an extended period of time in the longer form of the game, he is best consigned to the shorter format. He has a fantastic cricket brain, and an attractive, unabashed approach to his game, but his ‘peaks and troughs’ performance rating is not quite what the Aussies are looking for at this time. He has the ability to one day captain his country, but not until he begins visiting the pinnacles more often than the valleys.

Leaving us with Phil Jacques, an opener who has plundered all sorts of attacks in both Australia and England since 2003. He has managed to tally over 1000 runs in both Pura Cup and County Cricket seasons 4 times in that period, yet he is constantly being held back because it is perceived too difficult a decision to split up the dominating combination of Langer and Hayden.

By slotting Jacques in at number 6, it could aid in solving the problem of Australia’s brittle and inconsistent middle order, helping to take the pressure off a stumbling Adam Gilchrist who is so often looked to to hold up the tail, whilst at the same time, piling on the runs. It will also ease Jacques into the cauldron that is Test cricket without throwing him to the sharks that hurtle the new ball at opening batsmen.

He is clearly the form batsman of Australian cricket at the moment – with the exception of possibly Michael Hussey – and his style of game suits the number 6 position down to the ground. He will have the ability to come in when the chips are down and steady the ship with an excruciatingly patient innings as openers are required to do, or enter the arena at 4 for 400 and put further damage to the scoreboard in record time.

In modern day cricket, it is important to have flexibility. This is not only consigned to the players themselves, but also to the coaching staff and selectors. And with the Ashes up for grabs – and possibly our national pride – this no time for pigeon holing quality players with quality records.
Thu 16/11/2006 Clint Testa 488 views

4 Comments about this article

  • You know NOTHING Testa! I bet you are some pussy NSW fan who sees everything through a warratah blue set of glasses! I bet you even support those silly Sydney Swans!!! Why would we want a Pommie born player anyway - if we put Jacques and Symonds in the team then we will be as bad as New Zealand who constantly feel the need to adopt players from other nations into their top teams. C'mon Clint - Australia deserves better!

    Posted by Peter Hawke Thu Nov 16, 2006 04:19pm AEST
  • Yeah I hear you Clint. Jacques definitely deserves a crack and I think Langer & Hayden should stay for a while longer. Why the hell can't they play him at 6? Does being able to see off the new ball mean you can't play an old one? The guy's got a great one day record so scoring quickly isn't an issue for him.

    As for Michael Clarke, why does everyone keep pushing his barrow? Clint you refer to his cricket brain being very sharp. What evidence do you have of this? His haircut?

    Posted by George Stanley Tue Nov 21, 2006 12:28pm AEST
  • Todd, I watch Clarkey in the field and see a thinking cricketer who always seems to be offering his perspective to the captain, sometimes ignored, other times not. His prowess in the field also probably assists him in knowing how to cut off angles with field placements etc. Captaincy requires a lot more nouse than just knowing where to put the field, but it's certainly a good indicator that he is able to read a batsman's weaknesses and strengths, and that's how you get wickets.

    Posted by Clint Testa Tue Nov 21, 2006 02:18pm AEST
  • Clarke is a promising Test player and is the future of the middle order. Back to back tonnes against England should be enough evidence.

    Posted by Tee Enn Wed Dec 20, 2006 06:02pm AEST

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