I'm not like a lot of folk these days. I only really follow two and a half sports and I don't pretend to be an expert or even passingly knowledgeable in most other pursuits. In fact, the half sport for me equals cycling in that I enjoy watching the Tour De France, but I certainly don't know enough about that to be able to cast judgement on tactical mistakes or technical errors.
That leaves me with two sports that I feel I know very well, Aussie Rules Football and Cricket. As I will now demonstrate, the fact that I know these two sports very well, from both playing and watching a great deal of it, does not stop me from making errors when assessing & discussing team selections.
I'll start with Aussie Rules Football in relation to my club; the Richmond Football Club. It's no secret that our start to the year was less than ideal. Some said that it was woeful, others were questioning the ability of the coach and players. Some were steadfast in their faith in the club. I tended to float at the “it's a disaster” end of the pool and as such I cast my critical eye over the team's selection and performance.
It's not that I wasn't aware of Grimes' ability. I remember thinking how well he was playing right before his last major injury. His returns at the beginning of the season weren't terrible but nor were they inspiring. Then he was hit by injury again.
After he missed three matches through injury Grimes came back in to the side and to my mind had minimal impact. I likened him to a Librarian in that he looked meek, mild mannered and out of place surrounded by the muscle bound athletes. I know with players in his role you can't just look at the statistics on kicks, handballs and marks so I was basing my thoughts on the vibe from simply watching the games, and the vibe I was getting was that he wasn't ready.
Basically he looked to me to be just out of touch and in need of some confidence. With the side losing, my thoughts were that surely the best place for getting confidence and touch would be in the reserves. Bring in someone else who's got match fitness and is raring to go. If that meant Dea or Astbury so be it. If it meant bringing in a smaller player and having Batchelor play taller than that would be fine too. Hardwick and his match committee saw something that I did not, and persisted with the skinny, awkwardly moving former Number 2 pick from the 2010 Pre-season Draft.
His impact on the last few games has been considerable. It can't simply be measured in disposals. He backs into packs, putting his body on the line to take a mark. He finds space when we need him to, and closes down space when opposition players least want him to. He's a hard worker who has improved his disposal skills and he's presence has surely helped Richmond turn the tide. I was wrong in thinking Richmond would be better served with him building confidence in the reserves.
Injuries have been cruel to Grimes. Since he arrived at the club he has only played 52 games and each long term injury seemed to coincide with his best form. Here's hoping that this time he can truly get a good crack at the game, because he really helps to make the back-line competitive.
While I stopped playing football at the age of eighteen I have continued playing cricket right up to the age of 36, and I am not done yet. When the Australian Test squad for the tour of the West Indies and the Ashes was announced and I read the name of Adam Voges I was really happy for the Western Australian to be given a go. I thought though, that with the aging side we have, adding another guy in his mid thirties who realistically will only have a few years in the side was a bit of a selection error. Surely there has to be a young gun cricketer with a decent shield season behind him that could be used in the West Indies with an eye for building the future of the team.
Come the second day of the first Test it was pretty obvious that the selectors had made the right call. While probably in the best form of his life, and with an excellent Sheffield Shield season and some 4 day county cricket as his build up, Voges showed everyone what the selectors had seen – the capacity to score hundreds. It doesn't matter how old you are, if you can still consistently score runs then there is now reason not to play at the highest level.
There will come a time when changes will need to be made. We already know that Rogers won't be playing on beyond the Ashes campaign, and Haddin is drawing to a close without a doubt. How long will Michael Clarke's body allow him to keep going? Mitch Johnson's revival has been awesome but he's not a young man either. How about Shane Watson? He's place in the side has been under pressure for a long time now and the pressure will continue to mount as he ages. If two or three of these players do retire or are moved on, then the experience of Voges will be a boon for young skipper to be Smith should Clarke no longer be playing.
While I still would have liked to see a player like Peter Handscomb get a chance against a relatively weak opponent, the selection of Voges was the right call. Quite frankly he deserved his chance, and keeping an eye on the future should never mean ignoring the best candidate for the present. If Voges gets two years as a Test cricketer, then it's two years he will cherish and hopefully two years where some young cricketers can benefit from his experience.