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Six months out, here’s my Ashes squad

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Peter Siddle may have lost some pace, but that could still be of benefit. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

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    There are still four Tests to be played, half a first-class season remaining here at home and 194 days until next year’s Ashes series begins.

    So when you’re on holidays and it’s 40 degrees in Perth, what better way to spend an hour than gazing into a crystal ball and trying to frame a squad to tour the Old Dart.

    Let’s start by assuming that the National Selection Panel goes with a 17-man touring party and let’s begin with the batting.

    There are some obvious must-picks starting with skipper Michael Clarke who has taken his personal game to a new level since being elevated to the captaincy.

    In his 20 matches at the helm he has scored eight centuries and averaged 71.4.

    And aside from his form with the willow he has proven to be an innovative and aggressive skipper who is willing to gamble with declarations and the use of his various bowling options.

    Interestingly, whilst his 1595 runs in the calendar year is a new Australian record, the second most prolific batsmen in world cricket through 2012 has been his England counterpart Alastair Cook, who amassed 1249 runs.

    The form of both will have a large bearing on the outcome of the series.

    Age proved a factor for Ricky Ponting this summer, but not so Michael Hussey, who at 37, has scored three centuries.

    He is the anchor of the middle order and his ability to bat with the tail will again be crucial.

    While some people are still unconvinced by David Warner’s place at the top of the order long term, there is no debating that he is the best of the current openers in Australia.

    On the small English grounds he could prove a major thorn in the English side.

    I would also be imploring him to work on his part-time leg-spinners as much as possible given England’s historic struggle with wrist-spinners.

    Shane Watson will definitely be chosen to tour but what role he fills is still largely undecided.

    It was stated by CA’s high performance manager Pat Howard a few weeks ago that to be selected he had to be able to bat and bowl.

    Perhaps it is time though to ask him to focus entirely on his batting given his predilection to breaking down with ball in hand.

    For mine, he would be best suited to opening alongside Warner for it is where he has produced his best and most consistent performances.

    If he is still chosen as an all-rounder, Ed Cowan is likely to get the nod to remain at the top of the order despite a rather lacklustre showing through his first nine Tests – 474 runs at just 31.6.

    He will turn 31 during the campaign and given his first-class career average is just 40.1 his longevity in the line-up has to be questioned.

    His next four Test outings may decide his fate, either way, pre-Ashes.

    Usman Khawaja deserves another opportunity, as highlighted by his selection once again as cover for Clarke for the SCG Test.

    At 26 and with a first-class career average of 43, he is one of the more successful fringe players in the country.

    The fact he has already tasted the pressure of the Test arena will also be in his favour.

    Phil Hughes will also get the nod and will be desperate to atone for his last tour where he was cast into the international wilderness.

    He has made slight technical adjustments to his game and seems to be heading in the right direction, running between the wickets aside.

    The selectors know what he can do when on song – two centuries in his second Test versus South Africa is testament to that – and he will be very much in the mix for the number three slot.

    A large problem confronting the selectors is the current dearth of batsmen in Sheffield Shield ranks who are demanding consideration.

    On that basis, I would take Alex Doolan, who has had a fine season, boasting a first-class average of 81.4, including a knock of 161no for Australia ‘A’ against the world number one Proteas.

    As the second all-rounder, I would lean in favour of Andrew McDonald.

    A ‘veteran’ of four Tests he is a true all-rounder with a first-class average of 39.8 with the bat, including 11 centuries, and 201 wickets at 28.6.

    His high-arm action and ability to swing the ball could be handy, if required, in England.

    At 25, and still learning his game, I would leave Moises Henriques at home in favour of McDonald, a more seasoned campaigner.

    In a similar vein, I would choose Brad Haddin as the second ‘keeper.

    He has displayed fine form with the bat for New South Wales this season, averaging 67.4.

    If Matthew Wade fails to perform behind the stumps it is imperative that an experienced man takes his place, hence for mine, no Tim Paine or Chris Hartley.

    A lack of quality spin options in Australia at present sees Nathan Lyon chosen as the only specialist.

    Now, to the quicks.

    The major problem here is fitness and injury concerns.

    With that in mind, one of either James Pattinson or Pat Cummins is worth the risk.

    Given Cummins has hardly bowled a red ball in anger since his Test debut two years ago, it has to be Pattinson.

    From seven Tests, his 31 wickets at 22.1 proves he is a potential match winner.

    Warhorse Peter Siddle is a certainty, so too in my mind are Mitchell Starc and Jackson Bird.

    Starc could be a massive handful with his left-arm in-swing and Bird has shown over the last two seasons, and one Test, that he has the makings of a long term member of the Australian attack.

    Don’t be surprised if he is Australia’s most successful Ashes tourist.

    That leaves the fifth pace position.

    Mitchell Johnson will get the nod of approval despite his disastrous showing last time around.

    In two Tests this summer he has shown what he is capable of – 102 runs at 51, 12 wickets at 20, a man-of-the-match at the MCG and two Sri Lankan broken hands.

    But, he will be given little margin for error.

    If he plays early in the series, bleeds runs and lacks penetration, he will be quickly discarded.

    So there you have it.

    It is a somewhat dicey prospect choosing a squad this far out especially with the Australian rooms often looking like a triage ward.

    But, if I get it horribly wrong (read – probably will!), I will just blame the fact that my crystal ball had a crack in it!

    So, my 17 – Clarke, Watson, Hussey, Cowan, Warner, Hughes, Khawaja, Doolan, McDonald, Wade, Haddin, Lyon, Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Johnson.

    Over to you Roarers!

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (138)

    • December 29th 2012 @ 2:00am
      Jason said | December 29th 2012 @ 2:00am | ! Report

      It’s all really crystal ball stuff until the India tour. There is plenty of time between now and selection time for someone to play themselves in or out of form.

      But, I don’t see Doolan or McDonald getting on the plane. Maxwell seems to be the next project for the NSP so he might go as the back up all rounder/ second spinner. The young gun batsman is hard to pick as no one is really in form. Bailey might go (although he’s not young) because he will at least be solid. I’d love Joe Burns to hit a couple of tons at the end of the Shield season though and really demand a spot.

      Overall though, that batting is underwhelming. If Watson is injured or marked NTPTFAA, David Hussey could be an left field selection – he has enormous English experience and it’s not like we wouldn’t be taking a stack of youngsters anyway. He will need to show some Shield form though.

      Also, no point having 36 year old Haddin as a bag carrier. Better off with Paine (if fit) or more likely Neville.

      The bowling looks pretty close though. I actually don’t think Johnson will go if one of Cummins or Hazlewood are fit. Johnson isn’t in the first choice pace line up so again, the selectors might prefer to take one of the others for the experience and tell Johnson to stay fit for when the inevitable injuries arise.

      I do worry about not having a second spinner though. The tracks are more likely to be spin friendly given they have Swann and Monty. If Lyon is our only choice, he will be targetted by the likes of KP and Prior early in the series to try to knock his confidence. If he loses form we are massively exposed. Maxwell might be OK as a backup because spin bowling isn’t the only string in his bow. But I really don’t see anyone else close to putting their hand up.

      • Columnist

        December 29th 2012 @ 2:12am
        Glenn Mitchell said | December 29th 2012 @ 2:12am | ! Report

        David Hussey I think has very little chance of selection given his age and a first-class average of 17 this season. He will go down however, as one of the most unlucky players to have not worn a baggy green given his fine overall record but alas, time has passed him by.

        • December 29th 2012 @ 10:17am
          Jason said | December 29th 2012 @ 10:17am | ! Report

          Well I’m not saying that David Hussey will go but given that he knows the conditions and can play spin and can bowl a few overs, a good second half of the Shield season (or even in the limited overs stuff) might get him a touring gig. Age shouldn’t be an issue as he is younger than his brother!

        • Roar Guru

          December 29th 2012 @ 2:02pm
          Argyle said | December 29th 2012 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

          Similar to Jamie Siddons or did he get a cap?

          • Columnist

            December 29th 2012 @ 8:54pm
            Glenn Mitchell said | December 29th 2012 @ 8:54pm | ! Report

            Siddons played one ODI and was 12th man for a Test. Fine record in first-class arena. One of the more unlucky players not to have worn the baggy green.

            • January 8th 2013 @ 6:41pm
              Dan Ced said | January 8th 2013 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

              I’d almost call that standard Redbacks treatment, but I’m biased, and they gave Blewett and Gilly a couple of chances. I think Boof was a bit hard done by.

              I think Klinger has been pretty unlucky since he joined the Redbacks not to get in one of the AUS sides. I hope he is in their thoughts for T20 selection with his very solid Big Bash campaign so far.

        • Roar Rookie

          December 29th 2012 @ 11:24pm
          Behold said | December 29th 2012 @ 11:24pm | ! Report

          David Hussey is a proven non performer on the international stage. A dominant force for Victory but the comparison between his State level contribution and his international ones is embarrassing.

        • Roar Rookie

          December 29th 2012 @ 11:24pm
          Behold said | December 29th 2012 @ 11:24pm | ! Report

          David Hussey is a proven non performer on the international stage. A dominant force for Victory but the comparison between his State level contribution and his international ones is embarrassing.

    • Roar Guru

      December 29th 2012 @ 2:07am
      langou said | December 29th 2012 @ 2:07am | ! Report

      First thing I would say is that we need more than one spinner. Going into a test match on a dry turner with four quicks because your one spinner got injured the day before the test is not on.

      Personaly I am looking forward to the Indian series as much as the Ashes and imagine we will be playing two spinners in those Tests so we should have more of an idea by then on who the second spinner will be.

      • Columnist

        December 29th 2012 @ 2:39am
        Glenn Mitchell said | December 29th 2012 @ 2:39am | ! Report

        I am not too sure how many dry turners there will be during the series. Panesar had success in India but he was very much a horses for courses selection and I don’t see the courses being the same back home for him. I don’t think England will field anyone other than Swann too often in the spin department.

        • Roar Rookie

          December 30th 2012 @ 1:08am
          Behold said | December 30th 2012 @ 1:08am | ! Report

          They may consider putting out a few dry wickets, with Australia being fairly weak against spin and our spinner not really scaring anyone at present. If Holland has recovered he is the most likely but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Zampa or Boyce doesn’t get a trip to India and then a trip to England. SO’K has a decent record in first class cricket but I am not sure if the selectors even have him on their radar after he was dropped from the t20 squad 18-24 months ago.

      • December 29th 2012 @ 11:23am
        SIdeline Commentator said | December 29th 2012 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        Remember that both Warner and Clarkey can give it a tweak, providing their backs hold up.

    • Roar Guru

      December 29th 2012 @ 2:16am
      TheGenuineTailender said | December 29th 2012 @ 2:16am | ! Report

      What’s the harm in picking a bigger squad. Say up to 20 players? I doubt it would happen but I’d like to see Beer, Johnson, Paine etc.

    • Roar Guru

      December 29th 2012 @ 2:16am
      TheGenuineTailender said | December 29th 2012 @ 2:16am | ! Report

      What’s the harm in picking a bigger squad. Say up to 20 players? I doubt it would happen but I’d like to see Beer, Johnson, Paine etc.

      • Columnist

        December 29th 2012 @ 11:27am
        Glenn Mitchell said | December 29th 2012 @ 11:27am | ! Report

        Unlike tours of old there are not many first-class matches played on Ashes tours. With a squad of 20 many of the players would merely be sitting around with no cricket at all.

        • Roar Guru

          December 29th 2012 @ 12:05pm
          sheek said | December 29th 2012 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

          Glenn/TGT,

          Why not 20 players indeed!

          When the first English team under HH Stephenson toured Australia in 1861/62, they selected just 12 players with the captain doubling as manager for 14 matches varying from two to four days.

          The bodyline tour of 1932/33 saw England bring out 17 players, plus manager, assistant manager & scorer, for a 28 match tour of Ceylon, Australia & New Zealand, featuring five tests in Australia & two in NZ.

          This was indeed the standard for most of the 20th century, with both England & Australia sending 17 players & 3 officials (more often than not) to each other’s country for an Ashes tour.

          However, today in the early 21st century bigger is better & quantity has replaced quality across the board.

          Twenty players & twelve assistants, especially with the pace bowlers rotation system & medical staff to assess them, is by no means out of keeping with modern trends.

          🙂 😉 🙂

    • December 29th 2012 @ 7:03am
      Bazza said | December 29th 2012 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      Off topic but will CA learn anything from this home season to date. The lesson has been that specialist coaches are a waste of time and a costly experiment. (in particular fast bowler coaches) What has been proven is a player having a mentor to assist him through difficult times. I mean ‘mentor’ in the true sense of what mentoring is about, not some Human Resource enforced scheme authorised by a High Performance Manager. Mentoring is about two people having, firstly, a ‘connection’ followed by a willingness by the mentor having the desire to help the ‘player’ and then the player ‘wanting’ to be helped by the the mentor. In years well gone by mentoring was a ‘natural’ occurrence, then along came Human Resource gurus who thought enforcing the idea onto people would work. All that did was prove HR gurus were dills. Example…Mitchell Johnson and DK Lillee.

    • December 29th 2012 @ 7:36am
      LK said | December 29th 2012 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      Why does Watson get a free pass? There is talk in the media this morning of Watson giving up bowling to save his test career, but his stats as a batsman aren’t good enough. If Watson does become a specialist batsman does he slot straight into the team? You have questioned Cowan’s place in the squad, he is the same age as Watson, is less injury prone and is a specialist opener. I don’t get it.

      • December 29th 2012 @ 9:47am
        Crispy said | December 29th 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Maybe Watson should give up batting and concentrate on his bowling. When he is bowling well he is a handful – I see him being particularly effective bowling stump to stump and potentially reverse swinging it, filling a Terry Alderman role. I agree that his batting isn’t up to scratch in test matches, a conversion rate of 2 centuries from 21 half centuries isn’t good enough. He should be spending less time in the gym too, actually concentrate on the muscles he needs to play cricket, not star in Brut advertisements.

        • January 2nd 2013 @ 6:40pm
          Bob said | January 2nd 2013 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

          Perhaps Watson could give up T20 and ODI cricket. that would certainly improve his test performances. Best thing the captain ever did was to stop playing T20.

      • December 29th 2012 @ 11:25am
        SIdeline Commentator said | December 29th 2012 @ 11:25am | ! Report

        I agree LK, Cowan out, Watson as full time opener. He couldn’t be a full time bowler, his leg’ would fall off or something.

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