Ashes Diary: Hodge left sick by selectors' merry-go-round

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There was a time – not so very long ago – when Australia were so good they could leave out batsmen who would have walked into the England side. Like Darren Lehmann, South Australia's (and Yorkshire's) chunky run machine, or Brad Hodge, who scored 203 not out against South Africa in Perth five years ago and was dropped three weeks later. The latter retired from first-class cricket last year but he does not appear quite ready to fade into the background. Far from it.

"Mitchell Johnson got dropped two weeks ago, hasn't played a game and now finds himself back in the side. How can you lose form and then find form without even playing a game? I find that bizarre," Hodge said yesterday. "And compared to me – I'd have to go back and make 1,500 runs in a season to get back in the side and that doesn't feel right in my mind.

"Xavier Doherty got picked averaging around 48 [per wicket] in Sheffield Shield cricket, Michael Beer is averaging 40. My spin bowling is 41 and my spin bowling is horrible!"

Hodge's frustration is understandable given that he played just six Tests and there are cricketers sporting Baggy Greens at the moment not fit to strap on his pads. What appears to be frustrating him most, though, is the failure of the Australian selectors to give a chance to David Hussey – younger brother of Michael and a big run-scorer in England and Australia.

Hodge said: "The problem is, I guess, that there's no actual criteria in your workplace employment which sort of determines whether you get picked. He [David Hussey] goes and makes 1,000 runs, averages 65 at a strike rate of 80, [and] it still doesn't guarantee him getting a game. That's frustrating."

Taylor gives Beer both barrels on call-up

Michael Beer is not the first Australian spinner to be plucked from obscurity: when Peter Taylor got the call 23 years ago, many thought the selectors had mistakenly called up the wrong Taylor (the other one, Mark, went on to have a pretty decent career anyway).

Taylor's figures for that match – the fifth Ashes Test in 1987 in Perth – were 6-78 and 2-76 and he was named man of the match. His advice for Beer? Keep your head down. "If he gets caught up in all this stuff that's in the periphery, it's not going to help him," he says. "In my view he's got to knuckle down and perform to the best of his ability in that match. He won't do that without getting in and knowing his team-mates."

Denly has a dig at falling standards

It's good to be an Englishman in Australia at the moment. Even Joe Denly, England's erstwhile one-day opener who couldn't buy a run for Kent in four-day cricket last season, is feeling chipper. Denly, who is in Sydney playing grade cricket, feels Australian cricket has stood still at all levels over the past few years. "When I was out here last time grade cricket was at a really high standard," he said. "You would like to think a few more players might have developed. Why that hasn't happened, I don't know."

Tweet tweet, it's Tim

At least Tim Nielsen, the Aussie coach, is still feeling upbeat. "Training done & group is building nicely 2 Test... keen to atone for below par perf in Adel. Wicket has plenty of grass... exciting 1st session!" he tweeted yesterday. That's the spirit.

It's all gone rather quiet over there...

The Aussies have had enough. The Melbourne Herald-Sun is urging readers to email them their best chants in a bid to counteract the Barmy Army before the Boxing Day Test kicks off in just over a week and a half. As yet, none has been published – but we're sure they'll be of the very highest quality. Why wouldn't they be, eh?