Opinion: Wrong man on the plane
It is hard not to be drawn to Jon Holland’s quirky smile, and somewhat sloppy physique for a top-level athlete. He’s a loveable character, and the honour of receiving Australia’s 444th Baggy Green is second to none. But did the selectors make the right decision rushing this man out of the country and asking him to step up to the plate in the second test in Sri Lanka?
Holland bowls loopy left arm orthodox, and on the surface appears to be a like-for-like replacement for the injured Stephen O’Keefe. The key distinction between O’Keefe and Holland are their first class records: Holland has taken 108 first class wickets at 38.43, O’Keefe has taken 207 wickets at 24.83.
And that’s fine; the selectors needed a bowler to turn the ball away from the right handed Sri Lankan batsmen, to compliment Nathan Lyon’s off-spin. But what if I told you there was an in-form bowler who fits that build, with remarkably more subcontinental bowling experience than either O’Keefe or Holland?
That man is Holland’s fellow Victorian, Fawad Ahmed.
Ahmed certainly gives the ball a rip, bowling wicket-taking right arm leg breaks that have impressed all since he emigrated into Australia in 2010. The former Pakistani domestic cricketer topped the Sheffield Shield wicket tally in season 2014/2015, and last year he played all eleven Shield games in Victoria’s triumph. His second-fiddle was Jon Holland, who competed in just two matches last year (albeit, including the final).
Holland has gone from back up state spinner to national debutant in a manner of months. And for what reason?
Well, statistics rebut the selectors decision, with Ahmed averaging 31.12 from his 51 matches. Holland’s average of 38.43 from his 39 first class appearances is far from elite, and his two five wicket hauls are six short of Ahmed’s impressive return. Ahmed is a clear wicket taker, and for two seasons has been the stand out spinner in the country.
To gain some perspective, Aussie “G.O.A.T” Nathan Lyon’s first class and test average with the ball are 36.43 and 32.78 respectively, less imposing than Ahmed’s.
Furthermore, part time orthodox tweaker Adam Voges, averages 34.90 with ball in hand from his 590 first class overs, which too is superior to Holland’s. Holland’s figures to date are disappointing, and some may say his call up was destined for failure from the get go.
Prior to Holland’s dismissal of Herath in the second innings, he held the temporary record of worst bowling average in Test cricket history, surpassing Sri Lankan’s left arm googly Asoka de Silva, who took eight wickets at 129 back in 1991.
With Ashton Agar suffering a shoulder injury, it was a two horse race for this vacancy, but why opt for the significantly less dominant spin bowler?
Sure, age is on Holland’s side, as the 29-year old is 5 years to the better of Ahmed, but Adam Voges, Misbah ul-Haq and Rangana Herath are all defying the odds around the world to prove that age is no barrier to success.
Giving Holland a chance was a risk that unfortunately didn’t pay off in the second test. But in fairness to Holland, underwhelming efforts across the board leaves Moises Henriques as arguably the only success story coming from the tour, after a sensational one handed specky at mid wicket as a sub fielder in the first test.
Dutchy’s debut in Sri Lanka was puzzling, to say the least. But even more confusing is the question of, “will Holland’s two scalps be enough to keep his international career alive?”
It’s the question we never thought we’d have to ask. And only time will tell.
But what we do know is that Ahmed is waiting in the wings.
What did you think of Jon Holland’s test match debut? Was he the right man for Galle? Will Ahmed ever debut for Australia? Let us know in the comments below!