Australia depart for India in 16 days’ time, yet the make-up of the Test top six is far from settled. While there remain many questions about the batting, the most obvious one still revolves around who will replace Mike Hussey.
Worryingly, it’s also the question most removed from an answer.
As little as two weeks ago, the vast majority of Australia would have had Usman Khawaja pencilled in to fill ‘Mr Cricket’s’ spikes.
That appeared to have included the individuals who count the most – the selectors – as Uzzy was in the Test squad for Sydney, and then chosen in the One Day International team as well.
However two weeks is a long time in cricket, and the mixed messages from the national selection panel indicate Khawaja is no certainty to fill the vacant spot in the batting order.
If we’ve learnt anything about the cricket media, it’s that, generally, where there is smoke, there is fire. Keeping that in mind, one simply cannot ignore the growing whispers that Khawaja may not earn a spot in the Australia Test team.
Combine those whispers with the fact Khawaja was axed from the 50 over team after just one game, and you begin to feel the metaphorical smoke is coming from an inferno.
That’s not to say Khawaja definitively won’t earn a recall, but it’s clear his selection is far from a fait accompli.
Who else is in the mix? It might take up less space to list who’s not in contention.
It seems like almost everyone has a different opinion on who should replace Mike Hussey, and the suggestions have ranged from wise to ridiculous.
Further increasing his ‘strange’ credentials, Shane Warne even nominated veteran Brad Hodge as a potential candidate. It was yet further evidence Warne doesn’t quite understand the definition of ‘retired’.
Though it seems he’s not alone, as Hodge announced yesterday he’s contemplating a return to first class cricket in a bid to make the Ashes tour. Yes, I’m serious. Evidently, so is he.
Proving all those annoying and intrusive gambling ads have infiltrated my brain, I thought I’d list some of the candidates and their odds of Test selection.
Despite all the chit chat, and his 50 over axing – sorry, ‘informed player management’ – Khawaja is surely still the favourite. It’s all been said before, but Uzzy has a good technique, a great temperament and looks every bit a Test batsman.
Australia’s T20 skipper has fans in high places, and I don’t just mean Cricket Australia. The Fox Sports commentators, particularly Greg Blewett, constantly push Bailey’s chances, and the media can be extremely influential in such matters. Bailey is a big chance.
Maxwell is an unbelievable fielder, but I don’t think two of his core cricket skills – batting and bowling – are up to Test standard yet. However, the selectors are enamoured with all-rounders, and the fact Maxwell is a spinning one has him in the frame for India.
At 35 years of age, it appeared as though the junior Hussey’s Test chances had passed him by. Yet ironically, with Australia losing the experience of Ricky Ponting and older brother Mike, David’s negative has become a positive: the Test team could do with a veteran in the middle order. And considering Hussey is one of the best players of spin in the country, it would be a shrewd move to include him on a tour of India.
‘Mr Sheen’ was in the team just four Tests ago, so you’d have to believe he’s still in the selectors’ minds. With Shane Watson making himself available as a batsman only, and Quiney’s bowling (bizarrely) rated, a recall may not be out of the question as a pseudo all-rounder.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched nearly enough of Doolan to have a solid opinion on him. What I do know is he scored an unbeaten 161 for Australia A against South Africa, which means he’s in the selectors’ minds, and he performed when given his representative chance. That should, and does, matter.
The fact he’s injured and a wicket-keeper is far outweighed by how respected he is by people that matter. He’s a legitimate chance to be selected as a specialist batsman.
Unquestionably talented, highly rated by influential people, and with a tremendous Big Bash tournament, Marsh has come back into reckoning for international honours. Yet one would hope his terrible Sheffield Shield season also comes into consideration.
Talented, no doubt, and his T2O selection is proof he has not been forgotten. But if the selectors want experience, there are better candidates. Conversely, if they’re seeking potential, Voges, surpringly, is now 33 years old.
Elegant and stylish, ‘Fergy’ is a joy to watch when in-form. He still lacks the big scores and gaudy average that absolutely demand selection, but I have no doubt he’s up to Test cricket. However, he does seem to have fallen down the pecking order.
I’m an unabashed fan of Burns. I think he has a good technique, excellent footwork, all the shots, and oozes class. I’d love to see the selectors take a chance on him, or at least get him around the Australia set-up, but I think he’s at fairly long odds to replace ‘The Huss’ outright.
Peter Roebuck once stated North was a ‘worse starter than pea soup’, such was his propensity to lose his wicket early. However, North does have five Test centuries to his name, so if the selectors want experience, he’s a definite option.
Klinger’s temperament, technique and maturity are made for Test cricket, but as a career opener, I don’t think he’s seriously considered as a middle order option, nor is he a spring chicken.
You’d have to travel far and wide to find a bigger Brad Hodge fan than me. To say he was treated unfairly by Australian selectors is an understatement on par with saying Miranda Kerr is not ugly. But Hodge is 38 years of age. It’s just not going to happen.
So, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.