Picking the Australian XI for Sri Lanka 2012
Australia national cricket team's players look on as England players celebrate. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS
It is an unusual feeling for an Australian cricket side to go into a World Championship without any idea who will be in the team.
Unusual, but perhaps something we will have to get used to. Here’s a provisional eleven, designed for the slower pitches of Sri Lanka.
1 and 2 – Watson and Warner.
This is a no-brainer. Warner is an elite T20 batsman, and Watson can be brutal. The lower Watson bats, the less effective he is. His bowling, as always, is a bonus. Changes of pace and an ability to swing the ball will allow him to be effective on the slower pitches.
3 - No batsman has managed to claim the spot as their own since the beginning of T20 internationals. If the West Indies’ series is anything to go by, it appears that Mike Hussey or George Bailey will fill the hole, depending on which opener is dismissed first. While they’re both capable of playing the part, both batsmen are probably needed elsewhere. To that end, Matthew Wade should be at three He needs time to play himself in, and the lower he bats, the more likely he’ll have to start against spin, which he struggles with. The IPL showed as that each team needs a batsman to pace the innings, and Wade has enough shots to do this. Come the end of the end of the innings, Wade can clear the boundary with enough regularity to make a difference.
4 – While White will have plenty of detractors, concerns over his T20 ability are unfounded. A poor 2011/12 BBL cost him his Australian spot, but prior to this, his T20 scores had been solid. He was the best performed Australian batsmen at the IPL, and has continued playing T20 in the off-season.
The reason he’s here at four instead of the others is that it is his most effective T20 position. Yes, White can launch a big ball, which you need at the end of the innings, but he needs time to play himself in. There’s a fair chance he may only score a dozen from his first 20 balls, but the next 20 he may add another 50. Arguably the best batsmen in the last BBL, Travis Birt, is built the same way. It is imperative that batsmen such as these have time to play themselves in, because if they do, they can post massive totals.
5 and 6 – These are largely interchangeable positions. Perhaps it is better to have David Hussey at five the only reason being that Bailey can launch from ball one, whereas Hussey needs a little bit of time. Either way, both play games based around hustle and finding the boundary, rather than power games. The danger for Bailey in batting at six however, is that the lower he goes, the easier it is to fail. A couple of single figure scores at the end of an innings will increase the external pressure on him. Hopefully he remembers to use David Hussey’s canny off-spin, which remains largely underused at international level.
7 – As I suggested earlier, Mike Hussey was needed elsewhere, and that is at seven. Hussey is the ultimate Mr. Fix-It, and earlier in his ODI and T20 careers, provided late-order impetus that was desperately needed. At the World Cup, Hussey can either play the game saver or put the icing on the cake. He has the ability to clear the rope regularly, but more importantly can play high tempo innings without needing to play himself in.
8 – Hoggy’s resurgence is the stuff of cricketing fairytales. More importantly, his variety and experience will serve to take wickets and dry up runs. It is perhaps reflective of the state of cricket in Australia that the 41-year old will be the strike weapon in this side. The danger here is that this is too much pressure to put on a player so long out of the game, however, Hogg has played T20 in South Africa and India in the off season.
9 – Mitch Starc provided some stinging spells in the BBL, and has backed it up recently in the English T20 competition. While his pace may be nullified on slower wickets, he bowls full enough, with late swing, for the pitch not to play too much of a role. With the exception of Cummins, only Starc has the ability to rip through a top order in a couple of overs.
10 – Clint McKay has proven himself as a canny bowler, and his changes of pace and length will be vital on the slow pitches. While a successful limited overs bowler, McKay has not enjoyed great success at T20 level. He’s not expected to be the focal point of the attack, rather his role is to dry up scoring.
11 – Xavier Doherty owes his selection in this squad to his solid ODI form, and his Tasmanian captain. He is a defensive spinner and could provide a nice balance to Hogg. However, his domestic T20 record is poor (average 43, S/R 33), and arguably won’t be the difference in any game.
Glenn Maxwell – If any of the middle order drops form, Maxwell should slot in at seven. The key skill which separates Maxwell from the rest of the batsmen is his ability to play a brutal, high-scoring innings. Added to this, he can do it from ball one. Given the lack of six-hitting firepower in the lower order, he would be a valuable asset if Australia struggles to put up big totals. His fielding is very good, and his off-spin is better than part time, adding an extra dimension to the side.
Dan Christian – Christian’s T20 ability is vastly overrated. His batting has suffered in part because he comes in with few overs remaining, and needs time to adjust to conditions. As a bowler, he is a wicket taker, but will leak runs. Hopefully, his box of tricks approach to bowling will stand him in good stead on the slower pitches.
Ben Hilfenhaus – Hilfenhaus has a surprisingly good T20 record, and is in this squad to strike early. He was good in the BBL, and okay in the IPL, but he will never run through a side. His figures suffer because he is a death bowler, which Australia are desperately lacking, but he is very hittable at times.
Pat Cummins – If Cummins consistently swung the ball, he would be ahead of Starc in this side. However, raw pace probably won’t blast out batsmen on sub-continent wickets. That being said, he could easily be in this side. Someone has to miss out.
Roar expert Glenn Mitchell's video review of Day 3 of the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval
Watch Ashes Day 2 Video Highlights - Produced by The Roar
Video produced by Matt Watson for The Roar.