Footscray coach Stan Nell is staggered that batsman Dean Russ has barely had a look-in for Victoria in first-class cricket.
After admiring Russ from afar, Nell has had a front-row view of his brilliance since taking over as coach of the Bulldogs this season.
Russ, Nell believes, may have become a victim of the modern day trend of selectors trying to find the next big thing instead of picking players on form.
Another season, another summer of dominance from Russ – but still no indication of an imminent call-up.
“My view about ‘Russy’ is that he’s a first-class cricketer playing club cricket – that’s my assessment,” Nell said.
“Selection now is not as clear-cut as it used to be. For 150 years that cricket has been played, selection was based on performance, but we seem to have gone away from that a little bit.
“I can understand the philosophy of identifying players young and exposing them.
“But when you get a player like ‘Russy’ going the way he is – and the way he’s been going for the last three years – you’ve really got to scratch your head and ask how come he’s not playing first-class cricket.”
With Victoria sitting on top of the Sheffield Shield ladder, Russ provided a little reminder to state selectors of his ability with 85 off 116 balls in Footscray’s four-wicket Premier Cricket loss to Essendon in a one-day game at Windy Hill on Saturday.
It was a knock produced in tough conditions, on a rain-affected track and against a top-shelf bowling unit.
It came a week after Russ had smashed 107 against Kingston Hawthorn. That was Russ’ third century of the summer following tons against Prahran and Ringwood before Christmas. Oh, he also scored 91 against Carlton back in round one.
Russ is also a handy part-time bowler with nine wickets at 28.
Nell believes Russ is still in his sweet spot as a batsman and will be for some time.
“Those results are not surprising to me,” Nell said. “He’s probably in the middle of his best batting years now.
“The next two years, he’ll be able to produce some really amazing results as a batsman in Premier Cricket.
“How could you not talk him up and like his cricket?”
Footscray did well to push towards 6-193 off its 42 overs after play was delayed due to a wet pitch.
Bulldogs captain Dylan Kight added 33 and his brother, Jordan, made 28, but Russ was the anchor of the innings.
“The batting was excellent under the conditions, which were really difficult,” Nell said. “And Essendon have got a fairly mature bowling side. They batted really well to put up that total.”
Footscray’s use of the new ball was unsightly.
Essendon raced to 50 in no time and never looked back.
The only speed bump came in the form of Bulldog left-arm orthodox spinner Siddesh Dixit, who continued his stellar form with 2-31 off nine overs.
“Unfortunately, when it came to the fielding side of it, the bowlers didn’t open up too well,” Nell said.
“It was a disappointing start with the ball and we never really recovered from that.
“We’ve got a good pace bowling unit, they’re a mature unit and I would’ve expected better of them on the day.
“I know Dylan has spoken with the boys and I’ll certainly have a chat with them, but we’ll move on to the next game now.”
If Footscray is to keep its slim finals hopes alive, it must beat ninth-placed Camberwell Magpies in a two-day game at Merv Hughes Oval that starts on Saturday.