Cricket: Wilson the new wizard of Oz

Stephen Brenkley unveils the unknown at the heart of Australia's bowling attack
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The Independent Online
AUSTRALIA, being Australia, have picked for their next Test touring party an uncapped fast bowler of 26 who had to beg for a place in their vaunted Academy of Cricket and has a first- class bowling average this season of 39. It is the sort of choice that, in England, would have finally convinced us that the selectors had gone bonkers but in Australia is being greeted as an inspired masterstroke.

The recipient of their unlikely nod, seemingly without having given them much of a nudge let alone a push, is Paul Wilson. He is 6ft 5in tall, built like a brick dunny and known as "Blocker" for the sound Antipodean reason that when he appears in view he immediately blocks out the sun.

"Figures don't mean much at all," said Rodney Marsh, director of the Academy in Adelaide, referring both to Wilson's Sheffield Shield summer which has brought him only 13 expensive wickets and an entire first-class career in which he has delivered fewer than 500 overs and captured a mere 38 wickets at 30 each. "They don't take into account dropped catches or balls past the outside of the bat. He isn't a player who is going to play a hundred Test matches but he has a good line, gets bounce, moves the ball both ways and he has a beautiful temperament."

Wilson is one of four uncapped players in a squad who will play India in three Tests starting on 6 March. The others are Darren Lehmann, the batsman who was so effective for Yorkshire last season, the off-spinner Gavin Robertson and another seam bowler, Adam Dale. Wilson is the largest surprise and while there are enforced absences he has still been chosen ahead of Andy Bichel, who toured England last year, and Damien Fleming, who has a Test hat-trick to his name.

"Blocker" has played one-day internationals this summer partly because there have been so many and others needed a rest, and partly because of injuries. He has been persistent but has still yielded nearer five runs an over than four. Yet he has gathered much popular support for his big-hearted approach.

"He wrote to me and I ignored the letter and then I think he wrote again and I ignored that," Marsh said. "Then he came to see me, virtually banging on the door. It was my secretary who persuaded me to see him. We used him as a net bowler and he bowled far more than anybody else."

With the big guns who destroyed England last summer, Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie, both injured, Wilson and company form something of a reserve force. But Marsh, exuding confidence in his graduate who left home and his job as a trainee accountant in Newcastle, New South Wales, to be a bowler in Adelaide, thinks Wilson could be around long enough to be a back-up seamer to the fast, new-ball pairing.

"The selectors have taken a calculated risk caused by injuries. But Wilson is a captain's dream," he said. "He will be a good tourist and he may suit Indian pitches." Wilson seems certain to make his Test debut and we wait to discover if playing with the world champions helps to enhance that average.

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