Had Justin Langer forgotten about Kurtis Patterson?
Not so long ago, Australian coach Justin Langer was on record saying that everyone in the Australian first class system averages 35 or under. He went further stating that the problem with picking players like Marcus Harris (average 35.57), Aaron Finch (35.49), Travis Head (36.68) and Marnus Labuschagne (average 33.23) is that this is what everyone else averages too. Except that that’s not true.
For the Sri Lankan test series, many were shocked to see the numbers for one Will Pucovski, a 20 year old batsman from Victoria with a first class average of 49.00. A batsman who had scored 243 runs in one innings only a few months ago, and is still young enough to be batting at Under 23 level, where he just keeps churning out century after century.
Where was that guy when the Indian series was on?
In Pucovski’s case, he had some mental health issues, so it was fair enough to not play him. He had suffered a number of concussions that led to him having difficulties concentrating. He’s okay now, we are told. If he misses out on the first test against Sri Lanka, that’s probably why. On form, he should be there.
Kurtis Patterson is another one who seems to prove that Justin Langer is a liar. There he is with a first class batting average of 41.00, numbers so high that it puts him right up there with the very best in Australian first class cricket. Only Steve Smith (57.27), Will Pucovski (49.00), David Warner (48.63), Usman Khawaja (43.66), Chris Lynn (43.53), Matthew Short (42.00) and Glenn Maxwell (41.10) are ahead of him.
No Sri Lankan first class boost.
Patterson’s numbers weren’t even boosted by the performances that saw him as a last minute call-up to the squad, his twin unbeaten centuries against Sri Lanka. Due to a quirk in the system, his playing for a Cricket Australia XI was not considered to be a first class match, and his 157* and 102* do not count. If they did, then his average would be up to 43.78, and he’d be above Usman Khawaja even.
A lot of people mistakenly think that this is similar to the situation when Cameron Bancroft was called up to the Australian side back in November 2017, on the back of two centuries in three first class matches. The difference is that Bancroft was otherwise out of form and had a poor overall record. That’s not the case for Patterson.
When current trumps consistent.
Patterson has scored 428 runs at an average of 47.55 this Sheffield Shield season. Not great numbers, and it only puts him at number 11 on the run scoring list. For the selectors, who are so keen on “current form”, being 11th on the run scoring list means you aren’t in contention, and so the players who average 35.57 overall but 71.57 this season, like Marcus Harris (most of which was in a single innings of 250, and otherwise he averages 35.87), get in ahead of him. But it shouldn’t be like that.
Kurtis Patterson has been scoring big runs for 7 1/2 years now, since he made his Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales against Western Australia, batting at number 6, and scored 157, after coming in with New South Wales 4/164 chasing Western Australia’s 150 all out. In his first innings, he scored a 221 run 5th wicket partnership with Simon Katich, got the highest score of the match and won the man of the match award.
Better late than never.
Patterson could have been picked for Australia then, but instead he was left out of the New South Wales team for the best part of two years so that he could mature. He was only 18 1/2 years old on Sheffield Shield debut and now, aged almost 26, he has had time to mature. He has been scoring consistent runs, over and over again, not just in a one-off big score, but with lots of them, and he is well and truly ready.
The problem is that he is in a side where two absolute hunches in Marcus Harris and Travis Head are going to make the side without any doubt whatsoever, as they were the two highest scorers in the recently completed test series against India. Neither of them should really have made their Test debuts but we’re now kind of stuck with them, at least for the near future. That means that Kurtis Patterson is fighting it out with a number of other genuine players, with a third hunch in Marnus Labuschagne apparently guaranteed a spot.
So Kurtis Patterson is fighting with Will Pucovski, who averages 49.00, along with two players with proven test records who were unfairly dumped at various points in the past in order for Australia’s selectors to try out their latest hunch, in Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns.
Who should the Australian Selectors pick?
All four of those players deserve to play in the test match. On form, Renshaw and Burns are probably the two to miss out. But it probably shouldn’t be at the expense of Labuschagne.For me, Patterson should play in the first test, and Pucovski should play too, presuming that his mental health issues are under control, and the final spot should be out of Renshaw and Burns. Renshaw has the bigger claim as he was never dumped legitimately, while Burns has shown better form lately. If Pucovski is out then both should play.
If Pucovski plays, then it is a toss of the coin which of them should make it. Realistically, probably both should play and Labuschagne, Head and Harris should be out, and we should be adding Glenn Maxwell to the mix as well. The problem is not that Patterson was picked so much as he should have been picked before this. He should have played against India, and so should Glenn Maxwell. While Harris and Head were our two top scorers, neither of them should really have been picked.
Hunches are okay every so often. Some of them do well. The problem is when they don’t do well and we are ignoring legitimate candidates like Patterson and Pucovski, or giving genuine test-level players like Maxwell, Renshaw and Burns mixed messages and inconsistent selections, seemingly at random. At least with Patterson I hope that he is picked for both tests no matter what and given an extended run, treated as a genuine pick, not as a hunch.
Hunches given too much weight.
Mind you, of late the selectors have been treating the hunches like they were genuine picks, given ridiculously long runs based on nothing. While the genuine picks like Maxwell, Renshaw and Burns have been in and out like nothing and dropped based on a single low score and sometimes without failing at all. Renshaw, remember, was in form when he was dumped in favour of Bancroft back in November 2017.
He was still in form when, after recovering from injury, he was replaced by Marcus Harris. Marnus Labuschagne only played in the UAE because Renshaw was injured. Yet now Renshaw is fighting for his spot while two less deserving players in Harris and Labuschagne are apparently guaranteed a spot.
Perhaps it is too late to start treating Renshaw, Burns and Maxwell fairly, but Patterson at least so far is yet to run afoul of the selector’s random selections and inconsistent decision-making. Let’s at least show him some kindness, and be fair with him. He deserves to play in the first test so let’s pick him, and then let’s at least give him both tests.
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