Jason Krejza © Getty Images
Jason Krejza © Getty Images

 

By David Bonnici

 

Australia has been found it easier to select a new fighter jet for its air force than it has to find a quality spin bowler since the retirement of Shane Warne. With Tasmanian off-spinner Jason Krejza hastily packing his bags for India, the Australian selectors have almost gone full circle in the process, which seems one of elimination than selection.

 

In the past four years, eight spinners – not counting part-timers – have worn the Baggy Green cap. And of that lot, only two have played more than two Tests.

 

Warne’s retirement provided an opportunity for Stuart MacGill to emerge from the great man’s shadow. However, fitness issues marred his renaissance and he left the Australian team a year later during the 2008 Caribbean tour.

 

The surprise retirement of fellow veteran spinner Brad Hogg just weeks earlier provided 25-year-old Beau Casson a shot at his boyhood dream. The promising left-armer from New South Wales had a respectful debut at Bridgetown, taking 3 for 86 in the second innings. However, he was a shock omission from the squad that toured India later in 2008, which included Krejza and Victorian leggy Bryce McGain.

 

Krejza debuted in the final Test in Nagpur, where he took eight wickets in the first innings – including Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He finished the match with 12 wickets. However, he conceded a whopping 358 runs – a factor that must have played on the selectors’ minds when they chose the team to play New Zealand at home.

 

Enter Nathan Hauritz. The New South Wales off-spinner played a Test in 2004 and was shocked as anyone to be called up again four years later. He took a few wickets against the Kiwis in Adelaide only for the selectors to give Krejza an opportunity in Perth against South Africa on a wicket that turned slower than a super tanker. He took 1 for 102 in the first innings and then no wickets for the same number of runs in the second.

 

Krejza’s fate sealed, Hauritz returned to the side for the two remaining Tests against the Proteas. He was then selected for the return series in South Africa, but only bowled in the nets. Australia went with a part-time spin option in Marcus North for the first two matches before finally giving Bryce McGain the nod for the 3rd Test in Cape Town.

 

His debut, a week before his 37th birthday was tragic. He failed to get a wicket and conceded 149 in his one and only innings (Australia lost after following on), becoming yet another spinner to hang up a brand new hat.

 

Hauritz was the last man standing simply because he couldn’t arrest the haemorrhage of runs. His contribution during the 2009 Ashes Series in England was satisfactory, though he was inexplicably left out of the deciding 5th Test at The Oval on rough pitch that provided England spinner Graeme Swann eight wickets. He remained Australia’s frontline spinner in Tests and ODIs throughout 2009 and 2010 and finally started finding his niche. But the selectors weren’t done yet.

 

For reasons yet to be explained, Hauritz wasn’t selected for the recent Ashes series in Australia. The selectors opted for Xavier Doherty, who excelled at one-day cricket for Tasmania, but had a questionable first-class record. Like the sacrificial lambs before him Doherty failed to impress in his first two Tests and was pushed out the revolving door.

 

Meanwhile, Hauritz took five wickets and made a century for New South Wales. Yet, with the Ashes on the line, the selectors picked little known West Australian player Michael Beer who then sat out the Perth Test despite earning selection based on his first-class performances there.

 

With the series lost at the MCG, Australia went to Sydney hoping to gain some respect. They again overlooked Hauritz, despite his good form and excellent record at the SCG, to give Beer his debut on a ground he had never even seen before. He bowled reasonably well, but with luck deserting him and Australia further adding to its Ashes humiliation, it seemed yet another Australian spinner’s Test career was over.

 

Hauritz was finally recalled for the ODI series against England. But the cricketing Gods again afforded him little mercy and he suffered a shoulder injury caused by an innocuous-looking fielding mishap, which has kept him out of the 2011 ICC World Cup.

 

Doherty played an ODI, but didn’t take a wicket, so the selectors again turned to Krejza. He could be forgiven for thinking he’d never represent his country again, but the man they call “Krazy”, a experience of two Tests and one ODI, stands tall as Australia’s No.1 spin bowler, like the winner of a bizarre game of musical chairs – for now!

 

(David Bonnici has been a cricket tragic since watching his first match at the MCG as a child and cheering on the likes of Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh. The Melbourne-based journalist is a former editor of the Cricket Australia match programs and the prestigious ABC Cricket magazine. His desire for competitive cricket meant he probably didn’t enjoy Australia’s dominance during the past decade as much as he should have. Now he lives for every Aussie win)