SPORTING DECLARATION: Tests ahead

MUCH to Sporting Declaration's astonishment, the men in the Baggy Greens emerged from the first Test against South Africa with reputations intact and, in some cases, enhanced.

I honestly thought Australia would be hammered.

Mind you, I'm certainly not getting overexcited about our prospects of winning this series against the team who are ranked No.1 on the International Cricket Council ratings.

The fear is that Jacques Kallis is merely warming up.

This columnist still has a number of concerns about the Aussies.

For starters, I have been alarmed by Peter Siddle's admission that he has become a vegan.

Siddle, the so-called enforcer of Australia's fast-bowling attack, can run down the pitch all he likes snarling and cursing at Hashim Amla and company.

But seriously, how intimidating can any man be who lives on a diet of mung beans, brown rice and wheatgerm juice?

The greatest paceman of them all, the one and only D. K. Lillee, would famously eat a raw steak for breakfast every day.

He would then allow blood flecks to dry on his trademark moustache, creating an image that caused opposition batsmen to soil themselves before they had even set foot on the field.

I also have a suspicion that Siddle has undergone some Warney-style dentistry, leaving him with an unnaturally gleaming smile but with as much tough-guy street cred as Elton John.

As for the rest of Australia's bowling line-up, James Pattinson will take 400 Test wickets if he stays fit but Ben Hilfenhaus is a trundling tryhard.

Nathan Lyon's only hope will be if we send him to Sri Lanka for some intensive coaching on how to throw a doosra.

Every other country seems to produce these mystery spinners, yet apparently John Inverarity frowns on such techniques and would rather we had an orthodox tweaker who performs an uncanny impersonation of cannon fodder.

After declaring at 5-565 at the Gabba, you could be forgiven for thinking our batting was in good shape. I still have my doubts.

I'm sure Rob Quiney is a lovely bloke. He's a good fieldsman, he bowls nagging dibbly-dobblies and he hits a long ball in the T20 format.

But it says plenty about the state of Australian cricket when the national selectors are including a 30-year-old for his Test debut on the strength of a first-class batting average of 37.36.

In years gone by, when we were the world's best team by light years, blokes like Michael Bevan, Brad Hodge, Stuart Law and Darren Lehmann would rack up 1000-run Sheffield Shield seasons, averaging 50-plus, without getting a look-in.

And just consider that the vast majority of Quiney's runs have been scored in a Sheffield Shield competition devoid of Test players, who are all too often unavailable.

That Quiney was tossed in at No.3 raises another moot point.

Sure, he's a top-order batsman, but since the days of Don Bradman, Australia's most valuable player has always batted first wicket down.

Our premier run-getter is clearly Michael Clarke, who has been in prolific form at No.5.

I could accept Steve Waugh batting at third drop, when he had Hayden, Langer, Ricky Ponting and Mark Waugh ahead of him, but if Clarke wants to lead from the front, he needs to man up and bat where Bradman, the Chappell brothers and Ponting did before him.

Finally, we get to Shane Watson, whom I labelled last week "Australia's most overrated cricketer", prompting an angry response from one reader.

Watson debuted for Australia in 2002.

Ten years later he has played in 35 Tests, scored two centuries and averaged 37.54 with the bat.

Those are hardly the stats of a champion, and at 31 years old, he is fast running out of time to live up to his overblown reputation.

Sure, Watson has won two Allan Border Medals and done a fair bit of damage while wearing the canary-yellow pyjamas.

But real cricketers are judged in the Test-match arena.

After Adelaide and Perth, we'll have a better idea of where Watson and his mates in the Baggy Greens really belong.

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