HYDERABAD: Australia’s latest Test sensation Moises Henriques is days away from cashing in on his successful ascent to Michael Clarke’s side – the NSW all-rounder is to be upgraded to a full Cricket Australia contract.
The 26-year-old’s standout debut with the bat – scoring 68 and then 81 not out – was a silver lining in the eight-wicket defeat to India in the first Test in Chennai, belying his inexperience at the highest level as he emerged as a potentially key figure on this tour and back-to-back Ashes series later this year.
After landing a place in the extended squad to the subcontinent, Henriques was not necessarily expected to feature in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series but having impressed when given a chance, he is set for an immediate windfall.
By playing in the second Test, which begins on Saturday at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, he will accrue the points required to qualify for an upgrade to a national contract. The CA minimum retainer is $230,000.
The qualification system allows players not already centrally contracted to be fully rewarded for international appearances on top of the performance payments of $14,000 a Test, $5600 for a one-day international and $4200 for a Twenty20 international. The magic number for an upgrade is 12 points – five for each Test, two for an ODI and one for a T20 match for Australia. Henriques, having played three matches in the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka in the summer, has a tally of 11.
The salary boost will temper annoyance at being fined 10 per cent of his match fee in Chennai by the International Cricket Council match referee Chris Broad for breaching the body’s clothing regulations. A logo on the chin strap of Henriques’ helmet was the offender, the ICC said in announcing the sanction on Wednesday.
In the first Test, only Clarke was able to combat India’s spin bowlers as effectively as Henriques, suggesting he could bat further up the order than No.7. But the captain was quick to water down expectations on the Portuguese-born newcomer despite being highly impressed by his debut.
”He could bat three if we wanted him to,” Clarke said. ”We don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He played really well in his first Test match. Now it’s about consistency.”
Henriques was not as successful with the ball on a Chennai wicket that made life difficult for seamers but with Shane Watson playing as a batsman only in India, his presence adds balance that would otherwise be missing. National selectors have had their eye on him since he began the domestic season with a boom, principally an unbeaten 161 for NSW in a Sheffield Shield match at Bankstown Oval last September.
While Australia were beaten in Chennai, the inclusion of Henriques proved a shrewd move.
”I just think the maturity he showed was amazing,” Australia head coach Mickey Arthur said. ”I thought he was outstanding in this Test match. That was very, very pleasing because it gives you that third or fourth seamer and it gives you another batsman. Let’s hope he goes from strength to strength.”
Henriques’s Test breakthrough comes more than seven years after his hyped debut as an 18-year-old for NSW, and four years after he first played for Australia in the shorter formats.
His first state coach, Trevor Bayliss, recalls the St George product being a supreme athlete as a teenager, and compared him before his first senior match to Mark Waugh.
”He was obviously a guy that had a lot of ability that you thought one day could play for Australia,” said Bayliss, who still works with Henriques as coach of T20 Champions League winners the Sydney Sixers.
”For one reason or another it’s just taken him a little longer than I’m sure he would have hoped.
”I think it’s maybe a realisation from his point of view that, number one, he does feel comfortable at that level now and, two, he’s in his mid-20s now, and you don’t want to hit 30 having never had the opportunity to play to your potential. Between those two things that’s got him knuckled down. With just that little bit of extra experience as well – he’s got four or five years [of first-class cricket] under his belt now – the results are on the board.”
Meanwhile, injured seamer Jackson Bird would not return to India after having scans on a lower back complaint in Melbourne. Bird, who did not feature in the first Test, left the subcontinent on Monday. A replacement was yet to be announced.
“Initial tests performed in Melbourne have confirmed that Jackson Bird has a bone stress injury of the low back,” team doctor Peter Brukner said.
“He will undergo further tests tomorrow (Thursday). He will not be re-joining the team in India.”
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