Chadd Sayers’ shock selection for the Test tour of New Zealand can be seen as a sign selectors have softened their hardline “velocity” stance for a “horses for courses” policy with their fast bowlers – but in truth they had no other option.
It is almost a case of last-man standing with Australia’s pace stocks, which will reach crisis point if James Pattinson and Peter Siddle fail to overcome their injury niggles in time for the first Test.
Pattinson is nursing shin splints but has been cleared of stress fractures. Cricket Australia expect him to prove his fitness by playing in either Victoria’s next Sheffield Shield game, starting February 3, or, if selected, in the one-day internationals leading into the Tests.
Seldom in recent times have Australia dug so deep into their fast bowling well for reinforcements. By naming Jackson Bird and Sayers, selectors have now called upon 17 fast bowlers in their squads since the season started with the aborted tour of Bangladesh.
Neither bowler is express, which has been a prerequisite under the Darren Lehmann regime, but have been highly dependable performers at shield level for a number of years and whose brand of seam and swing selectors believe will be ideally suited to Kiwi conditions.
Chairman of selectors Rod Marsh bristled at suggestions there had been a shift in Australia’s fast bowling mantra, though Sayers and Bird would be well down the pecking order if Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile – all of whom can bowl in the 140s – had been available. Marsh suggested as much seven weeks ago when he declared Bird had not been unlucky to miss selection for the West Indies series.
“I haven’t deviated from anything, because what I always thought is you pick the best bowlers for those conditions. To me speed is not everything, there’s no point bowling 150 km/h if you bowl half volleys and wides,” Marsh said on Wednesday.
“Good bowling is good bowling, you pick your best bowlers. I don’t care what speed they bowl, as long as they bowl beautifully.”
Sayers is no stranger to national selectors – even if Mark Waugh admits he has not seen the South Australian bowl much – having represented Australia A in 2013 and 2014 and would have been close to an Ashes call-up last year had he not been injured in the preceding summer.
He caught Marsh’s eye with a five-wicket haul on a flat track against India A in 2014.
“Chadd’s got a terrific record in Sheffield Shield cricket. He was injured most of last summer but he started well again this summer. The season before he was rewarded with A team status in the side that went to England and did very well there,” Marsh said.
“And it’s a matter of horses for courses, we think the conditions in New Zealand will suit Chadd as much as anyone. He’s a good bowler under conditions that nibble around a little bit, and we’re very happy for him to be chosen.”
Bird’s ability to probe away was a key to his selection, not least his ability to hold up an end – a trait that was lacking in the failed Ashes campaign.
“Under normal New Zealand conditions I think that’s what you have to do, you have to bowl line and length, you’ve got to be patient, something we haven’t always been good at, but we’ll have to get good at it if we want to win this series,” Marsh said.
Boland’s omission after being included in the squad for Melbourne and Sydney is a sign selectors deem his vigorous style better suited to the harder wickets of home. But with so many fast bowlers out the Victorian may not get a better chance to wear the baggy green.
“Again horses for courses. Scotty’s a big, bustling bloke that hits the pitch hard and that’s not always necessary under the conditions we expect in New Zealand,” Marsh said.