Who is next in line to replace Ponting?

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    Outscoring the opponent - one of Ponting's many records. AAP Picture

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    Australia’s selectors won’t know whether to be relieved or concerned following the announcement that everyone expected but, at the same time, few saw coming when it arrived.

    The selection panel didn’t want to force Australia’s best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman to retire from Test cricket. They’d much rather he took the road more travelled and realise that his time had come.

    While they got the desired outcome, with Ponting boldly declaring the decision was his and his alone, it would’ve come just a little too soon.

    Generation next was supposed to earn the call-up on the back of a solid Sheffield Shield season. They were meant to bang the door down through pure weight of runs over a sustained period of time.

    They had to prove they were back, prove they had matured and prove they either deserved a baggy green cap or had earned the right to put one back in its exalted position.

    We all know that Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson can score plenty of runs in a short space of time, but what about their mental toughness over a long period?

    Hughes and Khawaja have displayed that type of quality before. In the 2009/10 Sheffield Shield season they both averaged over 50. But since then, they’ve been in and out of the Test side, lost form before finding it again and packed up and moved interstate in search of a fresh beginning.

    Those beginnings have got off to promising starts and Ponting’s decision to walk away from the Test arena has thrust them both back into contention for national selection.

    Hughes moved from New South Wales to South Australia with a seemingly re-jigged technique which looks strangely likely the one that piloted him towards 17 Tests for Australia with three centuries, three half centuries and 1072 runs at an average of 34.58.

    Today is his 24th birthday and his celebrations will no doubt be made all the sweeter by the fact that at a time when there is a vacancy in the Test squad, he is the leading run scorer in shield cricket.

    The left-hander has one century and three half centuries for the Redbacks from five games and is averaging 51.80.

    Is Hughes the man for the impending moment?

    The opener could be a square peg in a round hole. Shane Watson, fitness permitting, will be batting at number three, but I don’t see any reason why Hughes couldn’t slot in at number four.

    Given Australia’s penchant for top order collapses he might not even have to wait too long to face the new ball.

    State teammate Callum Ferguson is also starting to rediscover the touch that, three years ago, had him earmarked as one of Australia’s best young talents.

    The then-24 year old was going through the initiation process of international limited overs cricket before he slipped while fielding in the final of the 2009 Champions Trophy against New Zealand. He’d end up having a knee reconstruction and many wondered if he’d ever be the same player.

    Now 28, he has started to show his class once again.

    Ferguson is second, behind Hughes, on the Sheffield Shield run scorers list with 463 at 42.09. That tally includes one century and one half century. He also has two scores in the 40s that could’ve translated into bigger innings.

    In his favour, he is a specialist middle order batsman. Round peg meet round hole.

    But his story is the type of premature elevation the selectors were trying to avoid.

    Ferguson is batting well and if his form keeps tracking this way he’ll be hard to deny, but for now it would be a gamble.

    Usman Khawaja, has amassed a similar tally to Ferguson for his new state. He has one century and three half centuries for Queensland, the same as Hughes.

    Khawaja was the heir to the throne not so long ago. The 25 year old has a technique that would make a training manual look sloppy.

    He played six Tests and while he looked solid, his average was just 29.22 with one half century. Grass grew quicker than he scored.

    He appears to have learnt the same lesson as Ed Cowan.

    Cowan recently said that you could get away with not scoring for long periods of time in domestic cricket before eventually breaking out of the slumber, but in Test cricket not scoring creates pressure unlike any a cricketer has felt before. Pressure will generally translate into a contemplative walk back to the pavilion.

    Khawaja has been far more aggressive in his stroke play this season and with a new found determination to punish the bad ball his selection wouldn’t be a shock.

    Tasmania’s Alex Doolan is also one to keep an eye on.

    He turned 27 yesterday and while the average cricket fan could trip over him in the street without realising who it was, the selectors have noticed his potential.

    He was picked for Australia A against South Africa before the Test series started and made an unbeaten 161.

    Add to that one century and two half centuries for a total of 409 runs at an average of 58.42 and you have a contender.

    Those runs have also been accumulated from just eight innings, which is three less than Ferguson and Khawaja and two fewer than Hughes.

    Then there’s Rob Quiney.

    Remember him?

    He’s the Victorian who scored the best nine in the history of any sport which uses numbers as a measurement of success.

    The excitement around that nine on debut for Australia in Brisbane wasn’t his fault. He looked genuinely comfortable at the crease and bigger things were expected at the next time of asking. The only problem was that a pair in the second Test in Adelaide and a fit again Watson meant he was given his marching orders.

    This is one the selectors will agonise over.

    Do they shun a man with a Test average of three? Or do they continue to show the belief that was so prominent a month ago?

    These aren’t lollies they’re handing out. These are baggy green caps and they should mean something.

    His shield form this season has been terrible, but last season he was the leading run scorer and the season before that he was second on the list.

    To say the domestic talent pool is dry isn’t fair.

    Hughes, Khawaja, Ferguson, Quiney and Doolan are clearly talents.

    The only problem is that the selectors have been forced to go to the well a little earlier than expected.

    The road back from the well takes in a visit from Sri Lanka, a tour of India and back to back Ashes series.

    This selection is crucial.

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    The Crowd Says (69)

    • November 30th 2012 @ 2:39am
      Johnno said | November 30th 2012 @ 2:39am | ! Report

      Steve Smith also has lots of potential. Remember him?

      He has now decided to give up on his leg spin bowling and try to be the next Warne, and is focusing on his batting now. He is a class player and I think we will see him back sooner rather than later. Shaun Marsh has really fallen off the radar after starting so promisingly.
      Micheal Klinger was making a stack of runs but has fallen off the radar, and Chris Rogers is making a lot of runs, but the selectors seemed to have marked a never return for Chris Rogers it seems. Henriques still has all rounders potential and him, Andrew Mcdonald, John Hastings, all 3 can bat at 6 and do fine. Cossy Cosgrove still is on the scene and has a heap of talent.
      Aoran Finch is not bad, I like Finchy he has some potential.

      • Roar Guru

        November 30th 2012 @ 8:13am
        DingoGray said | November 30th 2012 @ 8:13am | ! Report

        Having posted this at 2:39 am you were clearly under the influence of Alcohol or Drugs or even both!

        1st you mention Steve Smith as a likely replacement for Ricky Ponting and then you throw in names like Andrew McDonald & John Hastings! I can see McDonald getting a run under some whacked up theory but to consider Hastings capable of replacing Ponting as a out and out batsmen, you need to be institutionalised

        And you mention Aaron Finch. If you look at his one day form then you could be forgiven, but his 4 day form is deplorable!

        You Mexicans have always been a whacky lot.
        Man get off the gear!!!!!!!!!

        • November 30th 2012 @ 12:23pm
          Johnno said | November 30th 2012 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

          DingoGray you really don’t get it do you i’m glad your not a talent scout or on the selection panel.
          Steve Smith has been one of our most talented cricketer went to the cricket academy here in OZ. I mentioned him as one of many , Mcdonald is a good all roudner and we need one. He played a big part in tying up an need when we won the series in 2009 in STH Africa not leaking runs. Hastings batting has come on leaps and bounds, and once again we need an all rounding option as watt may assume punter’s role, as his bowling fades with age an injury. And Finch can play and has potential .

          • Roar Guru

            November 30th 2012 @ 1:02pm
            DingoGray said | November 30th 2012 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

            Again Johnno,

            you want to replace a bloke who has scored 13k in Test runs with a couple of potentially talented all rounders….

            Your having a laugh!

            Now if Shane Watson was announcing his retirement, all the blokes you have mentioned would be perfect candidates to take Watto’s spot in the team….

            But no this is the Ricky T Ponting……Bits and pieces cricketers like Steve Smith, Andrew McDonald & John Hastings don’t cut the muster!!!!!!!

            • November 30th 2012 @ 10:49pm
              Bearfax said | November 30th 2012 @ 10:49pm | ! Report

              Seem to forget DingoGray that when Ponting first came into test cricket, he, after a promising start was dumped and for a while was averaging in the 30s. But he was young enough to develop just as Smith, Khawaja, Hughes and Burns will. Smith is a good batsman and like Steve Waugh, who also had a very slow start to his test career, and like him he has decided to concentrate on his batting and his recent scores are evidence of an improving first class average. Our trouble with selectors is they pick 30 year old batsmen with 30-40 batting averages and expect miracles. Trouble is by 30 you’ve just about reached your peak.

    • November 30th 2012 @ 5:12am
      AndyMack said | November 30th 2012 @ 5:12am | ! Report

      sorry, but the fact everyone is jumping on Doolan as a test prospect (age 27, FC ave under 40) shows how quick we are to jump on the newest thing to roll into town. 1 good innings and he is the saviour. please!!!!

      i’m still shaking my head at the fact UTK is not in the side, behind the likes of Cowen and Quiney (seriously??), he needs to be given the spot at #4.

      And as much as I like Ferguson, his FC ave of 36 is nowhere near good enough. He prob should be first picked on 20/20 and ODI cricket though. Another year or two on that scene, with some solid FC form and I will reconsider.

    • November 30th 2012 @ 8:10am
      jameswm said | November 30th 2012 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      I think it’s Hughes or Khawaja. They should bat at 3, Clarke 4, and Huss/Watto at 5/6.

      At least we can put Watto down the order a bit so he can rest after bowling.

      • Roar Pro

        November 30th 2012 @ 9:56am
        boes said | November 30th 2012 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        I agree – its the perfect opportunity to shuffle the order, and move Watson down. Its very likely that he will continue to miss test matches so establishing an alternative to Watson at number 3 could help stabilise the top order.

      • November 30th 2012 @ 10:23am
        Bakkies said | November 30th 2012 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        The problem is just not the order. Hussey is late 30s and won’t have much time left, so we have to line up another replacement. Sadly it looks like his kid brother Dave has lost his chance to make the test side.

        • November 30th 2012 @ 11:48am
          Talisman said | November 30th 2012 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          All these players mentioned are in mid to late twenties or in their thirties. Where is the next David Hookes? Don’t the various cricket bodies actively seek out talented young players? If they do where are they?

          • November 30th 2012 @ 12:17pm
            jameswm said | November 30th 2012 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

            Hughes is about 23, Khawaja maybe 25-26.

            Who are you talking about? Nothing wrong with blooding people of that age.

            By thet logic, you’d have never debuted Hussey, who played his first test at age 30 and has become one of our best batsmen ever.

          • November 30th 2012 @ 10:57pm
            JVGO said | November 30th 2012 @ 10:57pm | ! Report

            Hughes is as good as Hookes at the same age. We are seeing the birth of a very good test team of the future under a very good leader. Enjoy it. I thought they bowled well ioday and am expecting another good effort tomorrow. Honestly the way this team has performed against an experienced number one test team in the world is the stuff of legend and will be talked about for a very long time. This is comparable to Steve Waugh’s efforts to finally conquer the WIndies after a decades domnance.

    • November 30th 2012 @ 9:08am
      josh said | November 30th 2012 @ 9:08am | ! Report

      Khawaja.

    • November 30th 2012 @ 9:37am
      Red Kev said | November 30th 2012 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      It has to be Hughes or Khawaja, they’re the only two with the class to be genuine long term top order players for Australia.

      • November 30th 2012 @ 9:42am
        The Kebab Connoisseur said | November 30th 2012 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        Get out of it. Hughes has proven to be a dud at the top level. Khawaja got in for mysterious reasons in the first place and did not grasp his opportunities.

        Who else do you have up in NSW?

        Actually why doesn’t NSW just enter it’s own test team and let the rest of us play as Australia!

        • November 30th 2012 @ 10:11am
          Christo the Daddyo said | November 30th 2012 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          OK, and with this line up:

          Warner
          Hughes
          Khawaja
          Clarke
          Henriques
          Smith
          Haddin/Nevill
          Starc
          Hazelwood
          O’Keefe
          Bollinger

          …we’d probably win too!

          • November 30th 2012 @ 10:36am
            Disco said | November 30th 2012 @ 10:36am | ! Report

            And throw in Copeland, Cummins, Hastings and Bird too.

            Christian or Forrest not so much.

          • November 30th 2012 @ 10:43am
            MrKistic said | November 30th 2012 @ 10:43am | ! Report

            You may not be paying quite enough attention to your beloved state Christo, Hughes and Khawaja don’t live there no more.

            • November 30th 2012 @ 12:04pm
              Matt F said | November 30th 2012 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

              I’m pretty sure his team is based on their origins rather than current sides, otherwise Watson would be included. Besides if entered our own Test team then Khawaja and Hughes, among many others, wouldn’t be playing for the other states

          • November 30th 2012 @ 12:11pm
            Matt F said | November 30th 2012 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            If we’re basing it on origins then Nevill’s out as he’s a Victorian. We get Cowan, Christian, Cooper, Krejza (actually Tasmania can keep him) Forrest, Hastings and Bird though! We could take back Aaron O’Brien as well if we’re really desperate!

            • November 30th 2012 @ 12:16pm
              Disco said | November 30th 2012 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

              And Michael Hogan as well.

              Nathon Lyon’s from Canberra. But I reckon O’Keefe’s better anyway.

          • November 30th 2012 @ 12:25pm
            jameswm said | November 30th 2012 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

            So if we include people with NSW origins, it looks like this (without Watto)

            Warner
            Cowan
            Khawaja
            Clarke
            Hughes (could be the test top 5 within 12-18 months)
            Christian/Cooper/PJ Forrest at 6 – if you go with immigrant Watson there’s your test top 6
            Haddin/Nevill
            Krejza/SOK as spinner. almost Lyon if you include ACT
            Starc
            Bird
            Cummins

            Helluva team. The only non-NSW players you must have are Pattinson and Watto, who’s playing for NSW now anyway.

            Missing out:
            Hastings, about to play a test
            Hazlewood, about to play a test
            Hogan, good bowler

          • November 30th 2012 @ 12:54pm
            rl said | November 30th 2012 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

            you blokes are getting mixed up with the ARU selection policy 😉

        • November 30th 2012 @ 10:44am
          Pope Paul VII said | November 30th 2012 @ 10:44am | ! Report

          He averaged 60 for 2 years. Baffling. The real mystery is why he was dropped.

        • November 30th 2012 @ 12:19pm
          jameswm said | November 30th 2012 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          have a look at his name – Red does not refer to his skin colour you know.

          Khawaja got in from being the standout Shield batsman over a 2-year period.

          Hughes was a young prodigy, and did well till opponents worked him out and he was listening to too many people.

          These two are the best performed over the last 2-3 years, and both are scoring runs this season. Hughes had big technical issues, but he is now still at the crease. If you don’t use Shield form as a guide, then how do you pick the replacement?

          • November 30th 2012 @ 1:04pm
            Red Kev said | November 30th 2012 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

            That’s right, Red stands for commie!

            • November 30th 2012 @ 1:20pm
              jameswm said | November 30th 2012 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

              Qlders are about as commie as an Afrikaaner farmer.

            • November 30th 2012 @ 2:20pm
              soapit` said | November 30th 2012 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

              i never fully understood your name until now.

    • November 30th 2012 @ 9:37am
      Jamie said | November 30th 2012 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Burns. Or Mark Cosgrove

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