Australian cricket’s future is now
Since the abysmal 3-1 loss in the most recent Ashes series, the Australian selectors have been selecting with an eye to the future.
But how far into the future are we looking? If a player can perform until the end of the next Australian summer in 2014, surely they are a realistic option.
With a series recently passed against the number one team in Test cricket, a tour of India approaching and back-to-back Ashes, the future is right now.
So what needs to be done?
Perhaps the biggest reason England has had such Ashes success since 2005 is not because they have simply been better.
No team in Test cricket prepares and bowls to plans as well as England. Flaws in technique have been perfectly exploited, contributing to Ponting’s fall from grace, Hughes’ dropping and below par performances from Clarke.
In Australia recently we have seen the selection of players who simply weren’t good enough, such as Rob Quiney, Steve Smith, Ed Cowan and nearly Glenn Maxwell.
It’s time to select a team which has the experience and techniques to combat a well oiled England attack.
Chris Rogers should be monitored closely. With an average of 49.6, 56 first-class hundreds and a wealth of county runs, he is more than capable of improving the opening partnership.
Filling the hole left by Mr. Cricket poses a bigger issue.
I normally would jump in to bat for Dave Hussey, but his first-class season has been less than impressive. He’s still capable of making runs, as he has shown in one-day competitions, and will get a chance to show what he is capable of in the ODIs to come.
Usman Khawaja has the technique to handle the Ashes, but needs a string of high scores and runs on the board. Alex Doolan has the potential, but similarly to Khawaja, lacks the sustained run scoring.
Shane Watson must remain an all-rounder. Averaging 24 as an opener in 2011 and 31.5 in 2012 does not justify a place as a specialist batsman.
Without his bowling his place should be vulnerable to a recovering Andrew McDonald or Moises Henriques, or even a bowler given the fragile bodies of our current pacemen. If a bowler goes down in the first innings of a Test, our prospects to win that game will be slim.
The luxury of picking five bowlers may be available given the handy abilities with the bat of Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc.
Michael Clarke must move to four to take greater responsibility in our middle order. To continue salvaging our innings from three wickets down, as commonly occurred against South Africa, is too precarious, and the loss of Mike Hussey may reduce the support he’ll receive in these situations.
While our batting poses some big questions, our bowling looks strong. We have a group of seven or so very capable Test bowlers.
The rotation policy, while not ideal, will get the players through demanding fixtures, with Siddle the ever-present backbone.
Nathan Lyon clearly has the backing of the dressing room and can build pressure at the other end for a pace bowler to do the damage. Since the retirements of Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill, only Jason Krejza has looked dangerous, and it’s unrealistic to expect to find such a bowler at this point.
My Ashes XI: Rogers, Warner, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Watson, Wade, Siddle, Lyon, with two of Johnson/Bird/Pattinson/Starc, in order of preference. Bowling selections would be based on form and freshness.