How will our Ashes squad shape up?

Lisa Sthalekar Columnist

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    The Sydney Test is a special occasion for the players and spectators. The Australians have retained the Warne-Muralidaran trophy and I’m looking forward to watching them send off Hussey on a winning note, something that they weren’t able to do with Ponting.

    Invariably, the excitement which builds with the Tests being played at this time of year leads to everyone starting to speculate over the most important series the Australians play – the Ashes.

    So I thought I would join in the fun and speculate on the likely 13 to make the trip.

    But first, let’s look back for a moment at the 2010/2011 squad that played against the Poms:

    • Ponting – Retired
    • Clarke – Will lead the new squad
    • Katich – Retired
    • Watson – Will play a key all-rounder role
    • Hussey – A shock retirement
    • North – Has missed his chance at this level
    • Haddin – Not currently seen as the number one Test keeper
    • Doherty – Now seen more as an ODI specialist
    • Smith – Hasn’t been seen in the Test team for some time after coming back to domestic cricket with a big thud. Also, now viewed as more of a T20 ODI player
    • Johnson – Has fought hard to be back in the mix; might be part of the touring party
    • Hilfenhaus – Will be there unless injuries continue. Has struggled in Ashes years
    • Siddle – Has grown into the back bone of the Australian pacemen; will be the leader amongst the young group
    • Bollinger – On his way out, even though he is performing well in domestic cricket

    In my view, most of this squad won’t be considered this time around and I can only see three players that pick themselves. So it’ll be a young side full of enthusiasm.

    If I was selecting the squad in batting order, it would look something like this:

    1. Warner – Not yet the mould of a traditional Test opener, so even though he doesn’t have the consistency, he does have the capacity to win you a match. That X-factor is hard to leave out.
    2. Cowan – has proved that he is vital cog in the batting line-up and provides the perfect opening partner to Warner as he is the stable, more reliable player.
    3. Hughes – since the retirement of the great Ricky Ponting, Hughes has been given a chance. He has just come off a successful English summer and would be used to the conditions that he would face in July/August 2013. The question is – will his performances hold up through the Test series in India? That will determine his place in the team.
    4. Clarke – should slot into this position due to his wonderful performance over the last calendar year and would provide some stability to the top order as that seems to be an area of weakness based on our last series against South Africa.
    5. Watson – with the revelation of him wanting to remain a Test player, and being seen as just a batsman, he will work extremely hard and his experience might get him over the line with such a young batting line up.
    6. Johnson – the No. 6 position should be held for the genuine all-rounder, and at the moment, that seems to be Johnson. His effort with the ball has recently been effective.
    7. Wade – is now seen as the number one wicket-keeper and has done a relatively good job behind the stumps. He also adds to the batting as an explosive hitter.

    The next three spots become harder due to the amount of fast bowlers that have been injured this season.

    This Boxing Day Test will see our seventh fast bowler used this summer.

    The combination that I would like to see for the Ashes is:

    8. Siddle – the spearhead and work-horse of the team.
    9. Starc – showed in the last Test what he is capable of if he gets it right and gives a point of difference as the only left-arm quicky.
    10. Pattison – has performed extremely well when fit and will be part of this Australian side for years to come.
    11. Lyon – despite some criticism over his last few Tests, Lyon is still a relatively young spinner who has only played close to 50 First-Class matches. He will continue to develop his art and get better in assisting Australia finishing teams off.

    Of course, an Ashes series means a long tour.

    So Australia will take a larger squad than it usually carries at home and other players that will be considered will be Hilfenhaus, Cummins, and Hazelwood, with a possible dark-horse in Faulkener, who has impressed at the domestic level.

    It would be remiss of me not to mention newcomer Bird, who performed extremely well on debut and has already encouraged comparisons with Glenn McGrath, something that this Australian team has missed since his departure.

    He will put a lot of pressure on Hifenhaus to hold his spot.

    The back-up keeper will be Neville, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Khawaja is taken along to be part of the set-up.

    So how will they go?

    With the loss of Ponting and now Hussey, it exposes a very young batting line up.

    There is some stability with our bowling line up, and at the end of the day, in order to win a Test match, you have to bowl out a team twice.

    Australia can call upon a number of fast bowlers to do the job.

    A lot can happen in the next six months. If Cricket Australia can reduce the amount of injuries amongst their young fast bowling brigade, Australia will be in a very good place to win.

    But cricket is a funny game.