Thomas Hunter at the Crikey sports desk writes:
Getting a game for Australia is no easy gig. Take Brad Hodge for example. Mountains of runs and 12 years as a first class cricketer later, he’s only just become the new boy on the block. Michael Hussey’s rise to a regular position in the Australian team followed a similar path.
But Phil Jaques, the New South Wales opener who was yesterday selected to stand in for the injured Justin Langer, comes to the Australian team after serving a much shorter apprenticeship.
He’s played 100 fewer first class matches than Hodge and Hussey. Whereas Hodge has scored over 13,000 first class runs and Hussey over 15,000, Jaques has made 6,370.
The question of whether or not he has earned his place in the team is a vexed one. Opening the batting for New South Wales, Jaques has been prolific. If sheer weight of runs is enough to get you into the team, he has certainly earned his baggy green. He has hit four centuries in his past four games, leading chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns to say he “virtually demanded selection.”
But Stuart McGill may well ask, if sheer weight of runs is enough to get you selected, why isn’t sheer weight of wickets? Team balance might be the response, or the need for an all-rounder. Andrew Symonds has reason to feel sheepish.
While stats will count for nothing when Jaques strides out to the middle in the Boxing Day Test, Australian cricket’s biggest annual event, he is the eighth new player to enter the team since Ricky Ponting became captain. There were only seven in Steve Waugh’s five year reign as skipper.
He’s almost five years younger than Hodge and Hussey, and eight years younger than his new batting partner, Matthew Hayden. That’s a crucial stat right there. Fans are getting a sneak preview of the future Australian top order. With Hayden, Langer, Warne, Gilchrist, and McGrath all nearing the end of their careers (read: Ashes 2006-07), Jaques represents another step toward a completely new look Australian cricket team.
And who said there’d be no fallout from the Ashes series?