What to do with the Australian batting line-up
There were very few low lights from the Border-Gavaskar series, one of them being the performance of the top three. A major part of the problem was the number three averaging less than three runs.
This resulted in 2/46, 4/27, 3/37, 3/84 and 3/40, amazingly two of those resulted in a 600 run total and a clean sweep. These scores were not too surprising considering this was the first time this top three had batted together.
Ideally, one would like players to come straight in and perform in every game, however this is not how cricket works. An opening pair must be stuck with and given time to settle.
In Warner and Cowan the signs have been there, in particular the Perth match where the pair surpassed India’s total in only the forth session of the match.
Warner produced a couple of starts to go with his 180 and also was last man standing in the Hobart loss. Cowan has made a couple of fifties in his four Test matches including being unlucky in his debut innings. Both have shown enough to be persisted with.
Shaun Marsh made his Test debut as a replacement and took this opportunity to jump ahead of Khawaja. It was cruel twist of fate for Khawaja, who was forced to move down the order and watch Marsh score his maiden test hundred.
However, as there is taking your opportunity, there is also losing your opportunity and in one series he has done everything possible to lose his spot.
The return of Shane Watson is 99.4 percent certain to be in place of Marsh. Where he ends up will be of more interest. Most people believe he should be in the top the four spots.
At opener he would break up the Warner and Cowan combo and it seems rather silly to be moving two specialist openers for a make shift opener.
On paper Watson would make the ideal number three, he has the ability to come in early and also 1/200 and keep the momentum going. He has a pull shot which the commentators on Channel Nine mentioned is a key attribute.
The only thing going against this move is the fact Clarke wants to use Watson’s bowling more than occasionally and with the new openers still settling, he could find himself in very early.
The other option is moving Ponting back to three and Watson at four. The problem with this move is when Ponting retires another number three needs to be groomed and given Hussey wants to remain in the side, there will be no young Ponting at six to step into the role when Hussey and Ponting go.
Before this series I was one calling for either Ponting or Hussey to go. You would think with three scores under 100 in the past 18 months and 47 all out, that the side was full of youngsters not a side that contained Ponting, Clarke and Hussey.
However, Ponting has responded to all this talk in resounding fashion with 544 at 109 and that is the way you save a career!
One reason for retaining Ponting and Hussey for the time being is if Haddin is dropped alongside Ponting or Hussey then the middle order begins to look unstable and couple that with the unstable top order and you can expect a few more sub 100 scores to pop up and all the momentum built from the clean-sweep against India goes down the drain.
The phasing out period must begin at some point and the West Indies tour represents the ideal opportunity to try a new wicket keeper.
With the career best form of Clarke, return to form for Ponting and solid form by Hussey at six, there is enough stability in the middle order for a new keeper to be brought in to replace the under performing Haddin.
How the future will pan out after that remains to be seen. Ponting has indicated he wants to go on to the Ashes and Hussey seems to have a similar mindset.
If either wish to do so they must retain their current form. The team cannot afford another two year form slump from either man.
It will obviously be a risk having the same batsmen which failed in the previous English Ashes campaign however as long as they maintain their form, there will be no reason to drop either of them.
One issue from this will be if either of them begin to falter during the Ashes. Unless the rotation system has been implemented for the batsmen or injury strikes, none of the replacement batsmen would be test match harden.
My top seven for the Caribbean tour:
Wade has the early advantage should the keeping spot be vacated however his slip up in the Big Bash League semi could prove costly.
However, he will have the chance to impress the selectors during the two T20 against India and perhaps a couple of CBS matches. Nevill in the meantime will have the chance to bang the house down in Shield cricket and really make the selectors take notice.
These are interesting times ahead and unlike the bowling department, young batsmen aren’t flying out the window at the moment. Hopefully in a year’s time more of them will be putting their hand up but until then the Hussey and Ponting show will continue.