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  • Writer's pictureSportFM

Early departure puts spotlight on Hazlewood future

Mitch Swepson, paternity pending, went home early.

David Warner, concussed, went home early.

Pat Cummins, family illness, went home early.

Ashton Agar, unwanted, went home early.

Josh Hazlewood, unfit, went home early.

Of all these departures from Australia’s disastrous India tour, the Hazlewood one provides the worst indictment of the leadership and management stumbles plaguing the national team.

Warner couldn’t help getting hit in the head, Swepson will return for another two weeks of net bowling, Agar will attempt to find his lost mojo in State ranks and Cummins, escaping the suffocating bubble briefly, is likely to benefit from being away more than he would have by staying in the team’s gilded cage.

But Hazlewood?

Unfit again, a status that has become increasingly common, the paceman was selected and then travelled to India while battling an Achilles tear.

Whether it was selectors George Bailey, Tony Dodemaide and Andrew McDonald, the medical staff or Hazlewood himself who insisted he would be right to play, Australia have got things appallingly wrong with him.

And that is an indictment of Cricket Australia’s entire leadership structure, because if the board and senior management can’t make the right decisions on personnel and approach, what hope those charged with executing the plans?

Hazlewood’s inclusion on the tour while carrying a typically long-term and slow-healing injury now sits alongside the treatment of Agar, the omission of Travis Head, the Matt Renshaw call-up and the madness of playing manic sweep shots on Delhi’s unreliable surface as the worst decisions of what is quickly becoming Australia’s worst series of the 21st century.

And it is only halfway through!

Imagine the potential for more career-ending fiascos in the next three weeks.

There is a compelling school of thought that the catalyst for Justin Langer’s demise as coach harks back to the 2019 Ashes tour when he was not convinced that Hazlewood had recovered from a hamstring injury and refused to pick him for the first Test.

The fall-out from that decision landed in August 2021 when a cohort of highly influential NSW cricket figures started to agitate for Langer’s removal.

They succeeded several months later.

But if Langer was worried about Hazlewood’s fitness four years ago, what would he think now?

Hazlewood has managed to play just one Test in each of his past four series, and obviously none on this tour, as his lack of durability has been exposed.

Four Tests out of a possible 21 and just 10 wickets in the past 15 months – at an average of 77.40 – are a telling indication of which way his career is trending.

At 32, you would suspect he would be already the subject of consideration media speculation about his future but for his State of origin.

There is little question over Hazlewood’s impact at the peak of his powers.

A quick who made the ball bound and swerve from a length, often to graze the outside edge, he was the epitome of what Jason Gillespie used to do a fast-bowling generation earlier.

His 222 wickets put him 13th on Australia’s overall list, and of all the bowlers with 100 wickets, his average (25.83) is 16th, his strike rate (57.03) is 14th and his economy rate (45.30) is 22nd.

But he has taken just three wickets after turning 31, none after turning 32 and the clock is ticking against him.

Geoff Lawson, Brett Lee and Merv Hughes were all outstanding Australian fast bowlers whose Test careers ended when they were 32.

Unless Hazlewood can soon discover the fitness formula absent in recent months, there is every likelihood he will join them.



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