THE PEO­PLE’ S XI

Shepparton News - - SPORT -

There is no doubt about it — Aus­tralian do­mes­tic cricket is in cri­sis. Once the stomp­ing ground of bona fide run-ma­chines do­ing ev­ery­thing to push their case for na­tional se­lec­tion, the Sh­effield Shield has be­come noth­ing more than a test tube where those in po­si­tions of power at­tempt to cre­ate the next big thing. In all hon­esty it spits in the face of ev­ery­thing that has made Aus­tralia the dom­i­nant crick­et­ing na­tion in the world for large swathes of the past 30 years. Play­ers are be­ing pro­moted to the in­ter­na­tional arena on hunches and gut feel while veterans on the do­mes­tic scene pile on cen­tury after cen­tury and watch their hopes gur­gle down the drain. But you do not need to come to this col­umn to know that. Just this week alone there has been more than a hand­ful of un­lucky or hard done by 11s floated in the na­tional me­dia as pub­lic up­roar nears boil­ing point. What can I of­fer you then, other than an­other col­umn of fan­ci­ful wishes of what could have been for blokes who prob­a­bly still wake up in cold sweats from the night­mares of be­ing a fringe in­ter­na­tional crick­eter? Well, rather than just point­ing out the prob­lem I’ve come up with a solution. The ax­ing of four play­ers lead­ing into the first round of the new Sh­effield Shield cam­paign was an atroc­ity. Michael Klinger, Ed Cowan, Cameron White and Tim Paine are all com­fort­ably in the top 66 play­ers in the coun­try, yet they find them­selves with­out a place in their re­spec­tive state sides due to in­struc­tions from above. Yes, when the whips get crack­ing this sum­mer and the in­ter­na­tional crick­eters re­turn to their pedestal this quar­tet will once again dom­i­nate the high­est level of the do­mes­tic scene. But that is sim­ply not good enough. Where is the re­spect for the com­modi­ties that un­der­pin the world’s great­est game — runs, wick­ets and dis­missals? What these veterans need is a more per­ma­nent solution, where their form will be re­spected no mat­ter how many grey hairs sit un­der their hel­mets. What they need is The Peo­ple’s XI. Cricket Aus­tralia took it upon it­self to ar­ti­fi­cially in­sem­i­nate an 11 of its own into the do­mes­tic one-day com­pe­ti­tion (yes, it still ex­ists) in 2015, filled with young crick­eters who could not break in to their own state team. So why can’t the Sh­effield Shield also ex­pand to seven teams to ac­com­mo­date the grow­ing list of in­form veterans un­able to hold their spots for their state teams on per­for­mance alone? It would be a win-win sit­u­a­tion for every­one. Cricket Aus­tralia opens up more spots for its ex­per­i­ments, crick­eters have a greener pas­ture to go to be­fore they step down com­pletely and the view­ing pub­lic have the op­por­tu­nity to watch some of the coun­try’s best play­ers go around again for a few more sea­sons than usual. Un­lucky: Veterans’ ad­vo­cate: I have taken some cre­ative li­cence with the team, poach­ing some play­ers in the guise of them jump­ing ship be­fore they are pushed, as well as drag­ging a few stars of yesteryear out of re­tire­ment for some fun. The Peo­ple’s XI will play out of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, and you will see why I chose it over Can­berra when you read a pair of the names se­lected in the mid­dle or­der. This group of play­ers would pose a strong threat to any state side, and I can guar­an­tee the turn­stiles would tick over at a much faster rate than they cur­rently do for the once-great com­pe­ti­tion that is the Sh­effield Shield. 1. Michael Klinger How this man has not been given a chance in the Test arena baf­fles many an Aus­tralian cricket fan. Even more as­tound­ing was his ab­sence from Western Aus­tralia’s round one Sh­effield Shield line-up. The 37-year-old has amassed 11 320 runs in 182 first-class matches and has plenty left in the tank. Tal­is­man: 2. Ed Cowan The lead­ing run-scorer from last sea­son could not re­tain his spot for New South Wales for round one. The 35-year-old ac­cu­mu­lated 959 runs at an av­er­age of 73.76, and would form a per­fect com­bi­na­tion with Klinger at the top of the or­der. Hell, even most of the other states would rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to have him blunt op­po­si­tion attacks for hours on end. 3. Cameron White Re­cently talked about as an op­tion for the na­tional lim­ited overs teams, White found himself car­ry­ing drinks for Vic­to­ria for round one. At 34 , White is an­other who sim­ply does not fit into state se­lec­tors’ neat in­struc­tion box which reads ‘‘young and promis­ing’’ rather than ‘‘in-form’’. Also gives you a bowl­ing op­tion in a team where legs will tire quickly. 4. Brad Hodge The poster boy for a gen­er­a­tion of scorned crick­eters, Hodge owns an un­beaten dou­ble ton in Test cricket yet only man­aged six matches. Not con­tent with crip­pling the 42-yearold’s chances at in­ter­na­tional level, the crick­et­ing gods then saw fit for him to be un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped from the Ade­laide Strik­ers after hit­ting 286 runs at 40.85 last sea­son. Would need to be coaxed back into the whites, but surely Old Spice could foot a lu­cra­tive spon­sor­ship bill for this team. 5. Matthew Hay­den I know what you’re think­ing. The last time Hay­den, 46, played a com­pet­i­tive cricket match was in Jan­uary 2012 (not count­ing char­ity or ex­hi­bi­tion games). But just imag­ine for a sec­ond if you got him back with his great mate An­drew Sy­monds to put bums on seats. The pair could just play home games in the Ter­ri­tory and go fish­ing ev­ery sec­ond week. Has to bat down the or­der to start with while he shakes off the rust. 6. An­drew Sy­monds At 42, Sy­monds is also sure to take a while to warm up after a num­ber of years out of the game. His ver­sa­til­ity at the bowl­ing crease would be very handy though, and maybe — just maybe — the crick­et­ing pub­lic could be treated to some­thing akin to his and Hay­den’s 279-run part­ner­ship at the MCG in 2006 against the old en­emy. 7. Tim Paine Touted for a Test re­call and then left out of a strug­gling Tas­ma­nian team for in­cum­bent Matthew Wade. On bat­ting alone Paine is a walk-up start for the Tigers, but the 32-yearold is also one of the finest pure glove-men in the land. 8. Ben Cut­ting Any team needs some youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance and 30-year-old Ben Cut­ting will cer­tainly snare the cov­eted fine-leg to fine-leg field­ing gig in this line-up of age­ing war­riors. Lan­guish­ing in Queens­land grade cricket at the week­end, Cut­ting’s six-hit­ting ca­pa­bil­i­ties and first­class bowl­ing av­er­age of less than 30 would be very wel­come here. 9. Peter Sid­dle The 32-year-old ba­nana en­thu­si­ast would still har­bour dreams of re­turn­ing to the in­ter­na­tional scene, but too many younger mem­bers of the fast bowl­ing car­tel have gone past him. It won’t be long be­fore the same hap­pens at the Bushrangers, so Sid­dle should jump be­fore he is pushed and spear­head the most pop­u­lar bowl­ing at­tack do­mes­tic cricket will ever see. 10. Doug Bollinger Like Sid­dle, Doug the Rug is still mak­ing bats­men across the coun­try jump at the crease. But at the wrong side of 36 Bollinger will soon be put out to pas­ture, un­less NSW’ se­lec­tors sud­denly do an Olympic gold medal wor­thy back­flip. I can hear the chants al­ready from the stands as Sid­dle and Bollinger steam in from ei­ther end of TIO Sta­dium. 11. Brad Hogg Who bet­ter to lead the charge into a new era of vet­eran cricket than the spin­ning wiz­ard that is Ge­orge Bradley Hogg. Still ply­ing his trade and twist­ing his tongue for the Rene­gades at a sprightly 46, Hogg puts the rest of this team to shame when it comes to longevity. Will warm Warnie’s spot un­til he is done on the The Bach­e­lor. Coach: Brett Geeves The Peo­ple’s XI de­serves a Peo­ple’s Cham­pion and Geeves is reg­u­larly the voice of the dis­grun­tled Aus­tralian cricket fan. He would cer­tainly en­joy stick­ing it to the es­tab­lish­ment by lead­ing a vet­eran team to a do­mes­tic ti­tle. Would have to get in the ears of plenty of other for­mer in­ter­na­tional stars to flesh out the play­ing list, but it could be done.

Ed Cowan can count himself as one of the un­luck­i­est crick­eters in the coun­try after be­ing dropped by NSW for the first game of the Sh­effield Shield.

Pic­tures: AAP

Peo­ple would get around Brad Hogg’s re­turn to first-class cricket.

Brett Geeves reg­u­larly speaks out against Cricket Aus­tralia and its fail­ings as an or­gan­i­sa­tion. A team made up of dis­carded veterans in the Sh­effield Shield would be per­fect for him to lead.

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