There’s plenty of stories of talented cricketers missing out on their shot at glory because somebody was already ahead of them in the pecking order.
While Stuart MacGill’s time spent on the sidelines cursing the good name of Shane Warne is the one we all remember, it was Australia’s batting stocks during the Golden Age of cricket in the 90s and 00s that were particularly hard done by.
Here’s just a few of the blokes that spent most of their time playing Sheffield Shield cricket rather than representing their country.
If only we had this sort of depth now.
Michael Di Venuto (TAS)
Batting avg: 45.90
High score: 254*
*AT the very least Di Venuto represented Australia at ODI level.
Debuting for Tasmania as a 19-year-old, he fast established himself as a dominant batsman with brutal stroke play and eventually earned a call up to the national ODI team in 1997.
Averaging just 26.77 in his nine matches, the Tasmanian battled to keep his opening spot due to patchy performances and the rising star of Adam Gilchrist.
Di Venuto has since been Australia’s batting coach and currently works for Surrey County.
Jamie Cox (TAS)
Batting avg: 42.69
High score: 250
*THE go-to man whenever somebody talks about the most talented Australian batsman never to wear the Baggy Green.
Starting his first grade cricket career by breaking the Tasmanian partnership record with Dene Hills as a 17-year-old, Cox made his first-class debut before he was even allowed to drive a car.
Cox averaged more than 50 for eight consecutive seasons with the Tigers, but couldn’t crack the Australian teams at either Test or ODI level.
Cox is now the general manager of football performance at the St Kilda Football Club.
Jamie Siddons (SA)
Batting avg: 44.91
High score: 245
*IT’S an unspoken rule that you can’t mention Jamie Cox, without alos mentioning Jamie Siddons.
Third in all-time Sheffield Shield run-scoring behind teammate Darren Lehmann and the aforementioned Cox, Siddons only represented Australia once – in an ODI in 1988 where he scored 32.
The man with the bald-bonce and a knack for scoring big is also the subject of one of the great sledges in cricketing folklore. With Steve Waugh taking an eternity to take guard in a one-dayer at state level, Siddons quipped from the slips “for Christ’s sake, it’s not a Test match”, only for Waugh to reply “of course it isn’t, you’re here.”
According to Siddons, however, the story has a fair bit of Queensland’s cricket mascot about it.
“I don’t remember it ever happening,” Siddons said. “And wicketkeeper Tim Nielsen, who stood beside me when I was at slip most of my career, can’t remember it happening either. Sorry. It’s a good line – even witty – but it didn’t ever happen.”
Dene Hills (TAS)
Batting avg: 40.07
High score: 265
*COX’s partner in crime for the Taswegians, the pair were both from around Burnie and spent much of early lives together smashing the other states around Bellerive.
A defensive batsman (or real Test opener, as some would have you believe), Hills won the Sheffield Shield cricketer of the year award in the 1997-98 season on the back of 1220 runs, guiding the Tigers to the final.
Now a batting coach in England, Hills finished his career never getting the chance to represent Australia.
David Hussey (VIC)
Batting avg: 52.50
High score: 275
*A BATTING average over 50 at first-class level and no Baggy Green to show for it.
While the younger brother of Michael “Mr Cricket” Hussey did earn 69 matches for the Aussies at ODI level – averaging 32 – his style and temperament would be a welcome sight in today’s Test team.
Finishing his first-class career with 14,280 runs to his name, Hussey is the only batsman outside of India to average more than 52 at that level and not earn a Test call-up.
Stuart Law (QLD)
Batting avg: 50.52
High score: 263
*THE Queensland great has one Test to his name but no average – because they couldn’t get him out.
Scoring 54 not out in his one and only Test innings as a replacement for the injured Steve Waugh against Sri Lanka in 1995, Law didn’t got anymore use out of his Baggy Green from that point on.
Wedged between teammate Jimmy Maher and the little known Donald Bradman at 16th on the Sheffield Shield runs list, Law did play a fair bit of ODI, averaging a disappointing 26.89 in 54 innings.
Martin Love (QLD)
Batting avg: 49.85
High score: 300*
*ANOTHER Queenslander hard done by New South Wales’ dominance in the Test squad, Love finally earned a Test call-up in 2002 after smashing it at Shield level since the early 90s.
Replacing the injured Damien Martyn, Love battled in his first seven innings before making 100 not out against Bangladesh in what would be his last Test appearance.
Finished with an average of 46.60 in the Baggy Green and also bowed out of Shield with an unbeaten 104.
Brad Hodge (VIC)
Batting avg: 48.81
High score: 302*
*THE fifth highest run-scorer in Sheffield Shield history behind Lehmann, Cox, Siddons and Michael Bevan, Hodge averaged 45.34 for Victoria after scoring 10,747 runs.
Like Love, Hodge finally got his Baggy Green while battling Damien Martyn for a spot, making a stunning 203 not out in just his fifth innings.
Poor form at Shield level saw him left out of the Test team in the 2006-07 summer and while he returned briefly in 2008, he finished with just six Tests at an average of 55.88.