Moises Henriques was all of 18 when, in the ING Cup final against South Australia in 2005-06, he played with grit and dogged determination, and helped New South Wales Blues to a nerve-wracking one wicket victory. A few years earlier, he was also the top performer for Australia, in the Under-19 World Cup played in Sri Lanka. He was already a star in the making.
Fast forward to the recently concluded first Test at Chennai. Before the Test series, critics opined that Henriques hadn’t done justice to his potential in First-Class cricket. But in the first Test against India, on a treacherous track, Henriques, on his debut, stamped his class by notching up half-centuries in both innings.
At Chennai, Henriques’s ability to play late was a revelation. It was a stark contrast to how the more experienced trio of Matthew Wade, Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes continued to grope for the ball. Henriques used his reach and showed exemplary footwork to smother the spin, and counter the Indian spinners in their own den. Unlike other Australian batsmen, he was refreshingly positive in his attitude. Above all, he showed an unflappable temperament in tough conditions for batting. His valiant battle in the second innings could have just lifted the drooping shoulders of Australian batsmen.
Henriques’s brisk gait to the crease, his impeccable shot selection and and an uncomplicated technique, gives you an impression of a cricketer who belongs to the big stage. For the second Test, the Australian think-tank should look at promoting the confident Henriques to the No 6 slot in the batting-order.
It is too early to judge Henriques’s ability as a cricketer. But a rousing start to his international career augurs well for Australian cricket. There have been occasions when Henriques was criticised for his inability to convert starts into big scores in domestic cricket. During the 2012-13 season, though, he chalked up some impressive numbers in the Sheffield Shield. He averaged 77 as a batsman, and took his wickets at the cost of just 18 runs.
Henriques was largely ineffective as a bowler at Chennai. But the experience of bowling on a track that didn’t assist the seamers would stand him in good stead for the future. The true test of a seamer is bowling seam-up in extreme hot and humid conditions, dusty wickets with barren outfields. Hopefully, in the near future, he will pass the litmus test of bowling on flat decks with flying colours.
In recent times, Henriques has looked up to his Australian and New South Wales teammate, Shane Watson, for inspiration. “To have one of the greatest all-rounders in the world at the moment in the dressing room is certainly a great advantage and to be able to bounce ideas off someone like Shane [is a bonus],” Henriques said after the two-day game at Chennai’s Guru Nanak College Ground against India A.
In many ways, Henriques is still a work-in-progress. Unfortunately for him, a few journalists have already labeled him as the next Steve Waugh. The history of the game is littered with numerous examples of promising cricketers being unfairly compared to legends of the game that prevented them from soaring to greater heights. Just allow Henriques to develop his game, and make a name for himself in the international arena.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
First Published: March 4, 2013, 11:06 am