By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Donning the coveted Baggy Green is the ultimate honour for any Australian cricketer. That honour has now been conferred upon all-rounder Moises Henriques, who is set to become the 432nd Test player to represent Australia when they face India at Chennai on February 22. Henriques beat the off-spinning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell in the race for the coveted cap ahead of the first Test.
For years, Henriques has been earmarked as a special talent with his useful medium-pacers and an aggressive approach to batting. Born in Funchal, Portugal (which is also the birthplace of the iconic footballer Cristiano Ronaldo), he has been on the selectors’ radar for a few years, but his international appearances have been limited to the one-day arena. However, the Test cap is a big step and the opportunity to impress and cement his spot in the side.
Henriques’ record in First-Class cricket:
This record may not stand-out per se, but his returns during the 2012-13 First-Class season have been fantastic. In six games, he has scored 391 runs at an average of 65.16. With the ball, he picked up 14 wickets at 20.28. That has propelled his return to the Australian side after playing a few One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against Sri Lanka last month. In all likelihood, he will bat at No 7 and would be a back-up to the three fast-bowlers — should one of them have a bad day.
For some, Henriques’ selection ahead of Maxwell may seem surprising. Australia are already playing three frontline pacers in Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson with Nathan Lyon being the lone spinner. While pace bowlers may have done well in India in recent years, Australia may have gone a bit too far on this occasion. With four fast-bowling options and the lone-spinner, they are pace heavy and the pressure on Lyon may be too much.
Maxwell’s inclusion would have given the side more balance as he could have backed up Lyon with his off-breaks. Perhaps, Michael Clarke may roll his arm over with his slow left-armers and that may have been a factor in making that call. The other reason why Henriques would have got in is the fact that Shane Watson wouldn’t be bowling during this series.
The onus is on Lyon to perform, but his experience in Sri Lanka (in 2011) should hold him in good stead. Against a formidable Sri Lankan batting line-up, he recorded a fifer in his very first innings. Since then he has established himself as Australia first-choice spinner and there is some stability in that department following the post-Shane Warne uncertainty. Lyon hasn’t had a good season at home, but might get back into his elements on the spin-friendly Indian tracks. As Stuart MacGill advised him, he needs to replicate the performance of his debut series.
Australia top three, David Warner, Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes, would be playing their first Tests in India. That puts an added responsibility on the shoulders of Watson and Clarke at numbers four and five as they will have to anchor the innings. In a sense, the glue of the Australian batting line-up is right in the middle as Mathew Wade and Henriques are also new to the Indian conditions. Considering these factors, it is a huge challenge for Henriques.
Recent tours would suggest that India hasn’t generally been a happy place for Australian debutants. Clarke is the only one who has gone on to build a successful career, but the others fell by the wayside. Nathan Hauritz made his Test debut on the 2004 tour, but had to wait for four more years for his next game. Cameron White (debut: 2008) and Peter George (debut: 2010) are yet to add to their Test caps after their first series. There is also the curious case of Jason Krejza, who picked up 12 wickets on debut but played only one more Test.
Henriques would want to change that negative trend and his inspiration in that regard he need not look beyond Clarke for inspiration.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_
Also on cricketcountry.com