Following on from my previous piece on ‘The Missing Class‘, I did a bit more research into Callum Ferguson versus Michael Clarke in seeing how similar their careers are to the point where Clarke made his Test debut.
Michael Clarke began his journey in the 99/00 season making his First Class debut. By November 2002, Clarke was already in Australian colours representing Australia A against England XI where he made 50.
In January 2003, Clarke would make his ODI debut against the English. Later in the year he would make 131 against the Indian touring side, the same country he would later make his test debut and maiden test hundred against.
Clarke’s Test debut came in October 2004 where his ODI average was 40.91 after 34 matches while his First Class record read 48 matches for 3065 runs at an average of 37.84 with 11 50’s and 11 100’s.
Now let’s take a look at Callum Ferguson’s journey. His First Class career started a week after Clarke made his Test debut. 5 years later the selectors saw his potential and promoted him to the ODI side.
Later in the year Ferguson made his first appearance for the Australian A side in 4 day cricket against Pakistan A where he had a poor series with the pick of his innings being a 60.
In 2010, the year of the Ashes, Ferguson’s name was being floated about for the First Ashes Test especially after his 129 against Western Australia. The then coach Tim Nielsen said “I think he’s a big chance, runs do the talking, don’t they? I think he’s done a tremendous job. He’s gone from strength to strength over the last couple of years. He had a real breakthrough season two years ago then unfortunately hurt his knee. He’s come back from injury and made runs whenever he’s been given the opportunity.”
At the time he had scored 3034 First Class runs at 35.69 with 5 100’s and 19 50’s from 50 matches with an ODI average of 46.08 from 26 matches.
There are a number of similarities between the two, the number of matches is almost identical, the average and number of runs are very similar and both had outstanding starts to their ODI career. Where the similarity ends is with the conversion rate, by this point Clarke had over double the hundreds which Ferguson had including a hundred for Australia A which always weighs more on the selection table. Ferguson also has the added advantage of batting at the Adelaide Oval compared to Clarke who played a lot of his games at the SCG.
These slight difference and a different selection panel were enough to let one player debut with a sub 40 FC average while the other was left to carry on plying his trade. One will never know where Ferguson would be now had he made his debut in the 2010 Ashes series.
Shaun Marsh is another who has followed a relatively similar path to these two players. Marsh made his Test debut last year on the back of 3232 runs at 36.31 with 17 50’s and 5 100’s from 56 matches which is almost identical to Ferguson’s stats right down to the hundreds and fifties.
The difference is the selectors pulled the trigger with Marsh and were instantly rewarded with a Clarke like debut from Marsh making 141 which was backed up with a 81 in his next match and a gritty 40 against South Africa. After which we saw the much publicized horror show against the Indians.
While the numbers are similar when comparing Clarke to Ferguson and Marsh the conversion rate is substantially different and Clarke was 23 when he made his Test debut whereas Ferguson would have been 26 if he had debuted in the Ashes while Marsh was 28.
The Michael Clarke story is a motivating one for players with sub-par First Class records, however at present I don’t see anyone that fits his mould, if anything they are more in the Shaun Marsh mould for the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. Peter Forrest is the latest to go down this path, but whose footsteps will he be following?