Jon Holland, the leading Sheffield Shield spinner of the past 18 months, says he finds ‘s selection policies hard to decipher and suspects the national selectors have drawn a line through his name after yet another Test snub.
Despite his efforts to improve following a disappointing first taste of Test cricket in 2016, the left-arm tweaker appears increasingly resigned to the likelihood he won’t add to those two appearances in Sri Lanka, with the selectors again opting to pick all-rounder Ashton Agar as a second spinner to complement Nathan Lyon for this week’s SCG Ashes Test.
Victorian Holland, 30, has starred in Shield cricket since Sri Lanka, where he took five wickets at 54.8 after being called up to replace an injured Steve O’Keefe.
Only South n seamer Chadd Sayers (62 wickets) took more Shield scalps last season than Holland (50), with Holland finishing the season with a bowling average of less than 21, as well as man of the match honours in the final which was played while Lyon, Agar, O’Keefe and leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson were completing their tour of India.
Lyon, Agar, and later O’Keefe were all favoured ahead of Holland for the Test tour of Bangladesh in August-September even though Holland had dominated a pre-tour practice match in Darwin. Holland hurt his knee and missed the start of this summer’s Shield season, but returned to take 11 wickets at 18.63 against weakened NSW and Western sides.
Agar, 24, impressed in Bangladesh, averaging 32.50 with the bat and taking seven wickets at 23.14 in what were his first Test appearances since 2013. He too has had an injury-interrupted summer, limited to one Shield appearance, in which he took 4-119 on a flat wicket against the Bushrangers, while being bowled for a duck, by Holland. Agar took 16 wickets at 27.81 in last season’s Shield, but averaged just 19.16 with the bat.
Holland said he wasn’t sure why the selectors had preferred Agar. “Maybe they are looking to play him as an all-rounder, instead of Mitch Marsh,” Holland told The Age.
“If it was purely from bowling, nothing against Ash, he’s young and his bowling’s improving, but I think my numbers stack up pretty well against his, especially in the last two seasons.
“If it was purely as the next spin bowler, then it’d be disappointing to be overlooked, but that’s cricket. The selectors obviously think he’s got more to offer than I do, and that’s the way it goes.”
While disappointed, Holland said he wasn’t surprised by his non-selection for the fifth Ashes rubber. But he conceded that the selectors had likely decided he was no longer in the mix.
“I probably thought if I wasn’t going to get picked this time they probably have [drawn a line through my name],” he said.
“I would have loved another crack at it. It’s pretty disappointing.
“After Sri Lanka and not being as prepared as I would have liked and disappointed with the way I bowled, I’ve worked pretty hard and got the wickets on the board. Another opportunity would have been great but I guess it’s not going to be.”
He also said he hadn’t been given clarity from the selectors as to why he continues to be overlooked, although acknowledged communication was a two-way street.
“I haven’t really spoken to any of the selectors. I haven’t got much feedback, but that might be my fault for not contacting them,” Holland said.
Holland added that he was confused by some of ‘s recent selections, including the call to promote Tim Paine to Test wicketkeeper even though he wasn’t Tasmania’s gloveman at the time.
“Shield cricket is the level below Test cricket for us, and you’d think that’s where they select the team from but then they pick someone that hasn’t even played Shield cricket or kept,” Holland said.
“Nothing against Tim, he’s a good cricketer and he’s done well for the n team, but it’s hard to figure out how they do select the teams.”
Leggies Swepson and Fawad Ahmed are the leading spin wicket-takers this Shield season, both taking 16 scalps, with Swepson’s average slightly better than Ahmed’s (36.62 to 38.37).
Having not completely lost hope of an international return Holland says he will continue to seek improvement and success with Victoria and the Melbourne Renegades, a side he has been unable to crack so far this season due to the strong form of fellow spinners Brad Hogg, Mohammad Nabi and Tom Cooper.