2 December 2010

Is it best to be occasionally brilliant?

Now that Australia have finally dropped Mitchell Johnson I think it raises some interesting questions about why some bowlers are retained for longer than others. Some seem to be retained against all common sense, while others are always talked about as close to being dropped. I'm no psychologist, but it must come down to people (and selectors) feeling more favourable towards players who give brilliant performances and very poor ones, compared to the steady-eddies.

Of course the best bowlers are always steady-eddies and can occasionally put in brilliant match-winning performances too. I'm thinking of bowlers like McGrath, Warne, and dare I say his name in the same breath, Flintoff in his latter career (NB. he had a far better later part of his career). Their worst was a decent Test match performance. And their bowling averages - yes, I know stats don't tell the full story - back that up.

But then you've got the steady-eddies who don't seem to ever be quite as revered as the scattergun occasional match winners. I'm thinking of the likes of Angus Fraser who averaged 27 but always seemed to be on the verge of being dropped in the second half of his career. Or Matthew Hoggard, who's average of 30.5 puts him miles ahead of Devon Malcolm (37), Steve Harmison (31.8), and Flintoff's overall average of 32.8. But no-one remembers Hoggard's regular 3 fors, just the 9 in an innings that Malcolm got against South Africa, Harmison's 7 for 12 against West Indies, or Flintoff's 5 for at Lord's against Australia.

Mitchell Johnson (30.1) had a sensational period in Test cricket and will remember some real highs, such as his 8 for against South Africa. But somehow those highs stopped the selectors from assessing him as they should have done, just as England did with Harmison. Then consider this against Stuart Clark, who averages 23.9 in Tests, only took a 5 for twice and never took 10 in a match, and was swiftly forgotten after injury pegged him back a little (sorry Dave, just had to mention Clark one more time to rile you!!).

Anyone with me on this theory that players get cut far more slack if they can be a matchwinner occassionally rather than a steady performer almost every match?!?

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