Of the 450 Australians to be presented with a baggy green, 71 played just a solitary Test.
Of those 71, few have a harsher exit from the main stage than left-arm leggie Beau Casson, who became Test player No. 401 at Bridgetown in 2008.
But let’s wind back to the start.
Casson debuted for Western Australia in 2002 at the age of just 19, in the same match as two other famous Western Australians, Adam Voges and Luke Ronchi. Brad Hogg and six other West Aussies were out on national duty and it opened the door for the next generation of players.Embed from Getty Images
But it wasn’t as if Casson was picked from obscurity for the opportunity, he’d certainly shown plenty of promise through the junior ranks.
Beau had played three Under-19 Tests against Sri Lanka in 2001 and from 60 overs had taken eight wickets at an average of 17.37. His best bowling of 5-52 came at the picturesque St Peter’s College in Adelaide in his very first outing for a major representative side.
The reason he only bowled 60 overs in three ‘Tests’ was because he was competing for time at the crease with fellow tweakers Nathan Hauritz, Aaron O’Brien and a promising young leg-spinner named Cameron White.
It was later that year that Casson was picked in the 14-man squad for the 2002 Under-19 World Cup, a tournament that Australia won with Casson in the XI for the final.
To see the full squad from that tournament, which included names like White (as captain), Cosgrove, Doherty, Marsh and Bailey, click here.
(He) finished the innings with 6-64… it would be the best figures of his career.
When Beau made his first class debut alongside Ronchi and Voges a short while later, he couldn’t manage to take a wicket. But in the follow-up fixture against South Australia, he had a huge impact.
The Redbacks won the toss and elected to bat, and after a scorching start, openers David Fitzgerald and Shane Deitz reached 114 for no loss. Then Casson began to deliver. He removed both openers in quick time and finished the innings with 6-64, helping to bowl the Redbacks out for 226 on the opening day of the match.
In just his second match, it would be the best figures of Beau’s first-class career.Embed from Getty Images
The Warriors would have Casson’s services for 24 matches across four seasons, where his numbers were quite respectable, given he wasn’t a regular or playing on a big turner. 71 wickets at 39.38 was his final tally for the Western Australian state, and a move to New South Wales beckoned.
It was in the off-season of 2006 that Casson hoped his transfer to the Blues would be completed, but there was some controversy and angst over the move.
Coming off a career-best 25 wicket season, the WACA was desperate to keep Casson and was unhappy with the way Cricket NSW had been dealing with Casson behind their backs.
However, Cricket Australia cleared any wrongdoing and Beau joined the star-studded NSW squad. The NSW squad for the 2006-07 season included, along with Casson, Stuart MacGill, Jason Krezja, Aaron O’Brien, Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Hauritz.Embed from Getty Images
Considering, it was surprising that Casson played seven matches in his first season for the Blues, but just seven wickets at an average of 72 was far from an ideal return.
Then things started to click.
Casson’s sole Test match came on the back of a career best Sheffield Shield season in 2007-08. Shane Warne had retired, which meant for the summer, Stuart MacGill was Australia’s number one spinner. And Beau Casson had as a result, become NSW’s number one as well.
The season for Casson read 29 wickets at an average of 35.13, figures not to be sneezed at. And crucially it was at the business end of the season that the mollydooker’s best performances came.
NSW needed a win in their final Pura Cup match (as it was known then) and the Blues’ leggie stood up with both the bat and the ball.
First, he carved out a fine innings of 99, before heartbreakingly edging behind off the bowling of Paul Rofe. Unfortunately, Casson would never reach triple figures in first-class cricket.
Disappointments aside, on the final day of the match, he claimed 4-48 and ensured that the Pura Cup final would be held at the SCG.
State stars can really make a name for themselves in the famous five-day final of the Australian first class season. Phil Hughes scored a ton and Peter Siddle took nine wickets in this final in question, and both would go on to have fine Test careers.
But the first to debut from the match was Beau Casson, an unlikely hero whose exploits on the final day helped NSW over the line.
Bizarrely, Casson did not bowl at all in Victoria’s first innings (71 overs), as MacGill had returned and Michael Clarke was used for a handful of overs.
It was in the final innings of the season, on the fifth day of the match, that Beau made himself counted. He took four final day wickets (4-126 from 29.3) and effected the run-out of Siddle, to help his side to the title.Embed from Getty Images
Three months later, he’d have a baggy green cap on his head.
Fast forward to the West Indies, where Casson had earned a spot on the tour as understudy to Stuart MacGill.
Casson was carrying the drinks in the second Test against the West Indies, and with MacGill doing enough with the ball, a debut was looking unlikely.
Then came the shock. Knee and wrist issues forced the wily MacGill into a hasty retirement. But he was comforted in the fact his preferred successor was on tour and ready to jump in.
“The reason that New South Wales chased Beau so hard was because we think he can bowl and we think he can win games,” MacGill said. “He proved that this year.”
Casson’s debut went very well, at least compared to the majority of spinners that would follow him in the wake of MacGill’s (and ultimately Warne’s) retirement.
A wicketless first innings didn’t matter too much as superb second innings hundreds to Simon Katich and Phil Jacques meant the West Indies had to score a world record 475 runs to win.
The wrist spinner played his role almost perfectly, taking the important wickets of Xavier Marshall (85) and Dwayne Bravo (69) and helping to wrap up the tail with the wicket of Sulieman Benn.Embed from Getty Images
“Officially getting the nod to say I was playing the third Test was probably the greatest memory I have,” Casson said.
“But singing the song after the game was even more special to me.”
“You hear about David Boon, Justin Langer, all those sorts of players leading the team song, and then to be able to have the song sung by Huss and be in that celebration was a huge highlight for me.”
“It was an incredible thrill.”
3-86 from 25 was a great return and would’ve surely had the young man from Subiaco dreaming of bigger things.
As Cricket Australia announced the contracted players list for the 2008-09 season, Casson was the only specialist spinner included.
But incredibly, Casson would not be selected for Australia’s next series against India in India, and would not even be included in the touring party. The selectors opted to gamble on Jason Krezja and Bryce McGain, who would later injure his shoulder and be replaced by Cameron White.
And so it was back to the state grind for Casson.
But things didn’t pick up the way he’d left them on the state scene.
Following his Test rejection, the then 26-year-old would take only 13 more first class wickets in his career.
Just seven wickets in eight games at an average of 91 in 2008-09 dropped him right back into the pack. He then only played one Shield match for NSW in 2009-10 and just one again in 2010-11. Although the latter was not due entirely to poor form.
Casson’s ability to play was severely hampered during the 2010-11 season, as trouble with his congenital heart condition, Tetralogy of Fallot, became apparent. It made it extremely difficult for Casson to lower his heart rate after it had risen, but it was something he had dealt with well since his teenage years.
Following a collapse during a grade game in Sydney, he had surgery in November 2010 to help correct the condition, setting him back again and missing a chunk of the season.
It was somewhat of a miracle that the selectors picked him for the opening match of the 2011-12 season in Adelaide, but that’s where the good news would end.
Shortly after lunch on day one, Casson was taken to hospital after feeling ‘unwell’ in the field and blacked out in the change rooms. Tetralogy of Fallot was impacting his career again and doctors warned it might be life threatening if he continued to play. It made the decision to retire a lot more straightforward.
“Cricket has taken me places that I would only have dreamed of and for that I am very grateful,” Casson said as he announced his retirement.Embed from Getty Images
“It’s always been a challenge for me through my whole career with a congenital heart condition. It’s always something I’ve been incredibly diligent about,” Casson said.
Thankfully, Cason’s wrist spin knowledge hasn’t been lost on the game. He has been an assistant coach with New South Wales and Sydney Thunder since 2015 and in April this year began working the USA men’s and women’s cricket teams as they slog it out in ICC qualification events.
“I’ve learned a lot being a leg-spinner and playing cricket – it brings you a hell of a lot of life skills, and I think I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of those,” Casson said.
Beau is an ambassador for Heart Kids NSW, where he hopes to inspire other kids with heart conditions to achieve their dreams.
An Under-19 World Cup winner, a Pura Cup winner and a Test match winner. A helluva a career cruelly cut short. But a legendary leggie nonetheless.Embed from Getty Images