Doherty has put Antipodean selectors in a spin
Sunday 05 December 2010
Australia's bowlers worked hard to little effect. Overall the attack looked stronger than in Brisbane but their batsmen had let them down. At least the flingers pitched the ball up, attacked the stumps and remained strong despite the withering conditions but the English batsmen were imperturbable
All three speedsters bowled their hearts out. None of them carried as much baggage into the match as Mitchell Johnson would have. Ricky Ponting was able to throw them the ball confident that they would try to execute his plans. However, it was to no avail.
Moreover the plans were flawed. The Australians try too hard to accommodate different batsmen, setting pre-ordained fields designed to exploit technical flaws. It looks clever and everyone goes gaga when it succeeds but it is contrived and can put the bowler off his game. As often as not, it's wiser to let the flinger focus on his own skills.
If the pacemen held up their heads the twirler was found wanting. Xavier Doherty is not the answer to Australia's spin problem. Until he adds to his repertoire the selectors need to look elsewhere.
At present the lefty lacks the resources needed to trouble accomplished batsmen on docile pitches. He does not give the ball enough of a tweak or beat batsmen through the air or possess a withering change of pace or the shock delivery that sets top practitioners apart. Nor can he tie up an end.
Part of the reason England prospered on the opening day was that Graeme Swann was able to adjust his style to suit both pitch and position. His counterpart lacks that capability.Admittedly Swann is an old hand and the highest ranked spinner around. Doherty is a newcomer
Not that the rookie has had much luck. Neither Test pitch has offered encouragement. To make matters worse the new-ball bowlers have not been taking wickets, so he begins against opponents already established at the crease. And it has been hot.
Doherty has been handicapped by curious field placements. He was asked to bowl to Jonathan Trott with a packed leg side and inevitably drove his deliveries into the pads thereby negating his spin. Nor was he protected at deep cover, a customary placement given the short square boundaries at this ground. Accordingly anything aimed a fraction wide could be productively dispatched.
Ricky Ponting's captaincy has been unsympathetic. Certainly he has been unable to nurture a spinner. The list of failures is getting longer. He tends to give them long spells at the wrong times and is reluctant to use them aggressively. Yesterday Doherty had one over in the morning and did not reappear until afternoon drinks.
Questions can also be asked about the quality of the local spin coaching. The advent of spin doctors does not seem to have improved the health of the patient. In that regard England has moved ahead with its innovative technology to measure revolutions put on the ball. Australia's "doctors" look more like snake oil salesmen.
Had all factors been in his favour Doherty might have fared better but he is not up to scratch. Nor has he been able to contribute in other areas. He dropped a difficult catch at The Gabba and ran himself out here.
Test cricketers are judged by the highest standards. Doherty falls short of that mark. His first 64 overs in Test cricket brought two wickets, both of them tailenders lashing out.
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