Gladiatorial battles for selection in the ‘Sheffield Colosseum’ can only serve help Australian cricket claw its way back from the abyss and unearth new, toughened talent.
Mate v mate. Enemy v friend. Brother v brother. With as many as seven spots up for grabs for the Third Test before a ball was bowled, this round of Shield cricket has seen a return to days of old where performances under pressure are worth their weight in gold.
Selectors lurk in the stands with thumbs poised, Ceasar-esque, waiting for players to put up or shut up.
Joe Burns out for four searching down leg for the comfort of bat on ball like a child searches for the caress of their blankie. Thumb down. Game over.
Peter Handscomb tears apart a test level New South Wales attack and raises his bat more than the Australian team has this summer on the way to a double ton. Thumb up. Green light.
Nathan Lyon limps his way to a very mediocre return of a combined 0/173 off 46 overs in a head-to-head fight with Steve O’Keefe (3/113 off 40), and can’t buy a wicket in over 600 first-class balls. The thumb waivers over the G.O.A.T, trending down before ‘SOK’ limps off with a calf injury. The thumb stalls and the lions are kept at bay for now, but surely the goat feels them breathing down his neck.
The drama of the weekend wasn’t lost on the public. Excitement was palpable, and you didn’t have to search hard to find articles analysing every microcosm of the matches and performances this round.
If you had asked the average punter last week what they thought of the Shield, most would have still lamented Seth Rollins’ betrayal. Now, every man and his pigeon have compiled their own eleven to save Australia’s national sport. Suddenly the Shield is sexy again.
Extra pressure hung in the air, suffocating some, elevating others, like Matthew Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Nick Maddinson, to the promised land.
Time will tell whether selecting on form is a viable long term strategy.
But for now the ‘Sheffield Colosseum’ can only be beneficial, helping prepare players for the fiery test arena and unearthing some hidden gems.
After all, diamonds are only created by pressure.