Michael Beer met Ricky Ponting for the first time yesterday. It was probably as well since, starting on Thursday at the Waca, Beer will be expected to rescue the Ashes for Australia. Knowing your captain, even a teensy-weensy bit, can only help.
Of course, Beer is not alone in the salvaging operation but that impression is being given because he has been selected after only five first-class matches for Western Australia, where he moved because he could not get a game for his native Victoria. A year ago, he was a big cheese in club cricket. St Kilda's loss is Australia's gain.
If Beer is as overwhelmed by England's batsmen as he was in facing the cameras and notebooks yesterday, he will struggle to let go of the ball. That may not be the case because it is constantly shown that being articulate on the sports field has nothing to do with elocution.
But the 10th specialist spin bowler to be selected by Australia since the retirement of Shane Warne four years ago seemed still to be in a state of what George W Bush used to call shock and awe. Nothing he said would have done, but it served to remind that he has taken only 16 wickets with a best of 3 for 39 in the first-class game.
Five of them came against England in the tour match here five weeks ago when he was as far away from the Test team as beer from champagne. He could not be sure that he was ready yet for Test cricket.
"It's a hard one that," he said, "it's a hard one. I'm looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully. I'm confident of my own ability in a contest, so hopefully that comes out shining."
Beer, 26, moved to Perth to try his luck because Jon Holland, also an orthodox left-arm spinner, and Bryce McGain, a leg-break bowler, were preferred in the Victoria squad. Western Australia eventually offered him a one-year contract.
"The main aim was to get the best out of myself as a cricketer," said Beer. "Wherever that ended up I'm not sure, but that was the main aim. I'm still in the process of doing that. There's definitely a difference and I'm learning it and enjoying."
Beer had bowled to some of Australia's batsmen in the nets four or five years ago, he thought, but he had never met either Ponting or Clarke. He bumped into Shane Watson and Ryan Harris for the first time in the Qantas departure lounge on Sunday at Brisbane, where he had been playing his sixth first-class match.
He met the rest yesterday in an Australia net session that was marked by its unstructured nature. They did not behave like a team 1-0 down in the Ashes.
The selection has stunned Australia, although his name was proposed by both Mickey Arthur, the Western Australia coach who used to coach South Africa, and Shane Warne, almost as an afterthought in his newspaper column.
Beer knows Warne because the great leg-spinner sometimes still drops in at St Kilda, where he too played his club cricket. It was not entirely certain that Beer had learnt much.
"Yes and no," he said. "I played a few games of club cricket with him and bumped into him a few times when he has been around. I like the way he goes about the game and the way he thinks so when he has been around I've tried to sponge as much as I can."
He should know that spinners have had an indifferent time of it at the Waca in all its manifestations, lightning and not so quick. The last spin bowler to take five wickets in an innings there was Monty Panesar four years ago for England (when they were beaten by 206) and there have been only six instances in all.
Warne never took five wickets in an innings there and it was easily his least profitable of Australian Test grounds, taking 37 wickets in 12 matches, only five more than he took in four matches at The Oval. Beer should tell that to Ponting and the Australian public.Reuse content