South Australian batsman Callum Ferguson has been drafted in as injured skipper Michael Clarke’s replacement for the seven-match One-Day International (ODI) series against India starting October 13. Jaideep Vaidya looks at the implications of Clarke’s absence and Ferguson’s inclusion into the Australian team.
It was always going to end up this way. When Michael Clarke, the Australian captain, is nursing a long-standing injury (back) which has ruled him out of important matches and tournaments earlier, and has the potential of keeping him away from the blockbuster event of the southern hemispheric summer, the Ashes, it’s seldom that he would be risked for a Mickey Mouse series such as the limited overs duel starting in India shortly.
Even though Cricket Australia (CA) would dare not belittle the contest, given the substantial financial gains that an India series brings with it, it’s an open secret that the only cricket that the nation is interested in is the series that begins on November 21 at Brisbane, when Australia would look to wrestle the urn away from Alastair Cook‘s England.
So, even though the series against India is actually a tussle for the No 1 ranking between the top two One-Day International (ODI) teams in the world, it would still be a secondary as compared to the orgasmic joy of regaining the Ashes and hold on to it for a couple of years. Would you, thus, risk your captain and best batsman for a seven-match battle on the dust bowls of India? It’s a no-brainer.
Twenty-eight-year-old South Australia batsman Callum Ferguson is the main benefactor from the decision to withdraw Clarke, while George Bailey will take over the captain’s arm-band. Clarke’s talent and abilities as a player and captain are irreplaceable, and no one would least expect Ferguson to be a reincarnation of his skipper. But the form that the right-hander has been in the last season, with a good outing in India he could just force his way into the Ashes probables list.
Ferguson’s call-up comes on the back of his prolific form in the domestic circuit, both in First-Class and List A formats. In the 50-over format, especially, Ferguson has been among the runs and was an easy pick for the selectors. He scored 271 runs at an average of 45 in the Ryobi One-Day Cup. Also, in three matches for Australia A against the England Lions earlier this year, he scored 149 runs at 49.66. His last five List A scores read 110, 78, 74, 65 and 10.
Ferguson is an attractive attacking batsman and usually comes in to bat at numbers three or four in the batting order. This would, thus, make him the ideal replacement for Clarke who also bats in those positions. If you look at Australia’s squad for the India series, Ferguson would nicely fit in one-down behind Shane Watson and Aaron Finch. Phillip Hughes could come in at No 4, followed by Bailey and Adam Voges/Moises Henriques to round up the top six. If the top three batsmen can get Australia off to a flier, the Indians could be in for a leather hunt.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph last month, Ferguson, who finished eighth on the Sheffield Shield runs tally last season with 639 runs at an average of 40 in nine games, said, “I am feeling good about my game. Last season I faced more balls per innings than I had for a while, which was great, so that is something to build on.”
Ferguson has played in India before during the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) and had a really good outing in the 2011 edition for the Redbacks. He has even played 30 ODIs for Australia after making a debut in 2009, scoring 663 runs at a healthy average of 41.43 and a strike-rate of over 85. A poor injury record restricted his involvement in international cricket; his last ODI was in 2011. A good tournament in India could not only keep him in contention for a permanent spot in the ODI setup, but he could also knock on the doors of Test selection.
(Jaideep Vaidya is a correspondent at CricketCountry. A diehard Manchester United fan and sports buff, you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook)