Monday, February 25, 2013

Alternative XI: New South Wales escapees

30% of all Australian First-Class contracted players have their origins in New South Wales.  However, the frequency with which players have departed Sydney for Sheffield Shield opportunities is quite alarming.

This isn’t a new phenomenon: for decades New South Wales have produced players who have achieved more for adopted states – either money or opportunity has lured players the likes of Sir Donald Bradman, Jason Arnberger, Allan Border and Jeff Thomson from the powder blue.

Now, with New South Wales sitting at the bottom of the Sheffield Shield table, it pays to examine the best players the state can’t call upon any more.  Any Australian call-ups since their departure and total First Class averages are also listed.

FC average
PJ Hughes
Test, ODI
EJM Cowan
TLW Cooper

PJ Forrest
UT Khawaja
Test, ODI
JW Hastings
24.75 bat, 25.00 ball
Test, ODI, T20
AW O’Brien
27.75 bat

JJ Krejza
25.19 bat, 49.59 ball
Test, ODI
JM Mennie
23.17 ball

BT Cockley
29.98 ball
ODI squad
JM Bird
16.18 ball
MG Hogan
28.66 ball


  1. "In a state competition where only six teams compete, this suggests that the Blues produce almost double the amount of top-tier talent that one would expect."

    Eh? NSW produces almost exactly what the number of first-class players you'd expect, given their population. That the numbers are reasonably close to population is a surprisingly good sign for Australian cricket, as it implies talent is distributing itself and players are "getting a chance".

    Though, as I've argued many times, I don't think it is optimal that players have to move states. Australia needs probably four more sides to match quality of competition with development opportunities.

  2. Agree with the comment above regarding population proportions. Not fool proof but logically the state with the greatest population should produce the largest proportion of participants in a truly national game.

    No way however does australia need more first class sides - there is a reason NSW players (and others) switch states, because there is an opportunity there, it wouldn't be as prevalent if each state could produce 11 top quality cricketers.

  3. Ben, it is not really a problem for batsmen, or fast bowlers. But time and again the lack of opportunities has stymied the development of spinners. Take Agar. Obviously a prospect, couldn't get a game in Victoria because he is behind Holland, and probably Fawad Ahmed. Has moved to WA, but is in competition with Beer who played in the test side only a two years ago, and is probably the third ranked spinner in the country.

    That means either batsmen are going to be facing Agar, a raw prospect, or the youngster will be left on the vine for the (only slightly) more experienced player. Beer himself had to move from Victoria as well. At various times Krejza, Hauritz, Doherty and O'Keefe have been in line for national selection and not been playing regular Shield cricket. Compare the development of Swann, who drifted around county cricket for several years before working his way into the test side. Hell, even Warne was playing more for Aust.A than Victoria when he made his debut.

    1. Don't get me wrong, I completely understand that New South Wales is the most populous state and therefore is liable to produce the most talent.

      According to the most recent figures, New South Wales' population is 30% greater than Victoria's, and 60% larger than Queensland. The numbers say that New South Wales produces on par for it's population; I haven't checked those of Victoria or Queensland, but off the top of my head I can think only of Zoolander and Shane Watson as Queenslanders who play elsewhere (I'm sure others will turn up as well).

      If we're going by states and territories producing FC cricketers above and beyond their population, my suggestion might actually be the ACT (Lyon, Floros, Sheridan, May, Carters and Behrendorff, not to mention Brad Haddin).

      My point wasn't exactly in those numbers (and therefore the piece will be amended), but rather to point out the significant talent that New South Wales has let escape while they languish at the bottom of the Shield table coaxing runs from 30-year olds like Tim Cruickshank.

  4. As for the lack of opportunity afforded to First-Class spinners, well, you've both got a point. The lack of FC experience that most players get now is galling - especially when matches against touring international parties are now like hen's teeth. Personally, I don't think it's a coincidence that the most successful Australian teams came on the back of several of their players honing their games in County Cricket in England (even if that player didn't necessarily make a big splash in the Test time, c.f. Stuart Law). The returning County Pros then improved the local standard of cricket in their home state.

    Cricket Australia might be best served by installing a regular Australia A schedule which allowed players like Agar, Glenn Maxwell and Usman Khawaja the chance to tour other countries more regularly; the 1992 Australia A tour to Zimbabwe is still notorious for the sheer output of outstanding talents that grew from it.

  5. Good point on spinners, ultimately because of less adventurous selection (and highest quality captaincy) a spinner has become the equal of a wicketkeeper - any team can only have one and they had better be able to bat, therefore there can only be 6 plus 1 (the incumbent international) playing first class at any one time. Arguably Australia has at present more top line spin prospects (relative to positions available) than bats.