If Australia’s to regain the Ashes next year, Michael Clarke must bat three in a major revamp of the batting order, with Mike Hussey at four and Shane Watson at five.
And there’s no better time to start than against Sri Lanka in the three Test series starting at Bellerive Oval on December 14.
It seems the national selectors have inked in opening batsmen David Warner and Ed Cowan for the long haul and while they are not a Bill Lawry-Bobby Simpson, Mark Taylor-Michael Slater, or a Matt Hayden-Justin Langer combination, they are the best available.
And both are left handers, which tends to be one of the best ways to put a dent in opposition new ball bowlers.
But three, four and five in the order have been vulnerable, and after the 309-run hammering by the South Africans and the immediate post-Ponting period, now is the time to revamp.
Traditionally the best batsmen in an Australian team have been one, two and three. Since World War II, baggy green captains have filled those berths with Don Bradman, Lindsay Hassett, Simpson, Lawry, Ian Chappell and when he retired his brother Greg, then Taylor, and Ricky Ponting.
There are always exceptions to any rule, with Richie Benaud and Ian Johnson spinners who batted in the late order, and Allan Border and Steve Waugh very effective in the four, five and six berths throughout their spectacular careers.
So world number one ranked Clarke at three, with the next best Australian batsmen Hussey and Watson to follow. The batting order will take on a formidable look rather being brittle.
Which will decide what type of batsmen the selectors will turn to to replace the retired Ponting – a number six, with Matthew Wade at seven
The five-man panel has already shown its hand with Usman Khawaja named captain of the Chairman’s XI to play against Sri Lanka in a three-dayer at Manuka this week.
Yet Phillip Hughes is better-performed this season. He’s either only regarded as an opening batsman, or out of favour.
There’s no grey with the 24-year-old who has scored three Test, and 20 first class, tons in his career – far more than any other genuine contender to replace Ponting.
Khawaja is nearly 26, with 11 first class hundreds, and bolter Alex Doolan (27), who pushed his claims with an impressive and unbeaten 161 against the South Africans for Australia A has five first class tons to his name.
Whichever way the selectors move to replace Ponting for December 14, it must be Clarke three, Hussey four, Watson five.