Batting questions remain unanswered

Alec Swann Columnist

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    Matthew Wade has been named to tour India. Is he good enough? (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

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    When Ricky Ponting called it a day after the Perth Test, he left the obvious question of who was going to replace him.

    Phil Hughes was the immediate answer and that seemingly solved the dilemma of the identity of the sixth batsman in the Australian line-up.

    Fast forward to the current day and no progress has been made on this issue, and if you add the unexpected retirement of Mike Hussey to the mix, there is some serious head-scratching to be done.

    Two of the three main men gone and hardly a queue lining up to take their place does not a healthy scenario make. If I were an Indian or English bowler, I would be licking my lips in anticipation of what I was about to face.

    Take Michael Clarke and probably David Warner, who is consistently debunking the myth that he is a short format cowboy, out of the equation and you are looking at an exceptionally callow top order.

    Ed Cowan has the temperament to succeed at the top level but not the game to do so. Phil Hughes, while showing some promise, is yet to be given an examination by a Test attack worthy of the name and then there is, er, nobody.

    I would include Shane Watson in this but he’s filling in another medical insurance claim form and when he does play nobody seems too sure where he fits in.

    And while Matthew Wade is a good, solid performer and took his chance at Sydney, he is not a number six at this level.

    Those in charge missed a golden opportunity to give someone a run out at the SCG and the outcome is that the waters have been muddied even further.

    That this situation came about because of the ridiculous rotation of the seam bowlers makes it even more ironic.

    ‘We’re worried about our bowling line-up despite the fact that there is a far bigger issue staring us in the face’ is so lacking in any kind of thought that it is almost funny.

    Leaving Mitchell Starc out at Melbourne with the softener that he would play in Sydney had backfire written all over it and that, with the Sri Lankans offering next to no resistance, is what came to pass.

    This in turn, saw Wade move up to six and all four seamers given the chance to boost their averages. But in both India and England, Australia will need more depth in the batting if they are to prosper.

    Watson has to return even if he can’t bowl. He was making a decent fist of opening the batting and if he is one of the best six players then he should play. If that means he replaces Cowan, the order would look stronger for it.

    That leaves the middle order to sort out. Usman Khawaji looks a cert, but who else comes in is a guess I’m in no position to put forward.

    Wade could stay at six but, similar to the South Africans, that would necessitate a specialist batsman a place further down the order.

    The upshot is somebody is going to be awarded a gilt-edged opportunity somewhere down the line. For Australia’s sake I hope the hierarchy know who that is.

    Just a final thought on Mike Hussey’s retirement. I was fortunate to play alongside him for a season at Northamptonshire and he obviously had the makings of the cricketer he turned out to be.

    He is a fantastic player and a great bloke and it was good to see him go out at the very top.

    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.

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