Last week Australian selectors named a 17-man squad for the India tour. It was a controversial few days with some of us feeling almost personally aggrieved for those who we think have unfairly missed out.
Imagine for a second that an unfortunate (yet ultimately harmless) illness hit our squad of 17 and our selectors. Then imagine that we of The Roar were pulled together to decide which 11 had to represent Australia in the first Test out of those left at home.
Now given the mystery illness above, I am going to give myself and you the advantage of being able to pick players who are currently injured, but not those recently retired like Huss and Punter.
I have pulled together a squad, called the ‘nexts’, based around three key factors.
First, form in the current Sheffield Shield. Second, form in first class cricket for the last three years. And finally, I will keep one eye on the future when the selections are close.
Unlike our selectors, I haven’t looked at form in T20 when thinking of who will perform in five-day matches.
On reviewing the form over this season and also over the last three seasons, there were only three openers I considered good enough: Chris Rogers, Rob Quiney and Mark Cosgrove.
Mark Cosgrove is a batsmen who I admit I have always had a soft spot for. He has averaged over 43 in the last two and seasons of Shield cricket and has put on almost 400 runs at an ave of 37 this season, playing on difficult Hobart seamers. This is a fantastic effort.
He scores runs at a career average of 44 at a strike rate of 66 runs per 100 balls. He might not be that fit but it hasn’t stopped him scoring and he has even started rolling the arm over this year with a decent medium pace.
At only 28, he has 10 years left in him from a Test cricket point of view. He is my first opener picked in the next 11.
Chris Rogers had the unfortunate luck of being in his prime when we had a glut of decent batsmen. He is considered a little old now, even though we don’t have many decent batsmen around.
But in my 11, Rogers demands a spot. He has scored two hundreds and 500 runs at an average of almost 50 to be second to Phil Hughes this year.
He has a career average of a tick under 50 and has averaged almost 40 in his last couple of seasons.
Only his age and his recent form presented any challenge, but he claims a deserved second opening place as the steady hand with Cosgrove.
Rob Quiney was the almost man for Australia this year and again fills that role in my eleven. He had a great couple of seasons before this one, averaging nearly 45, earning himself a Test spot.
However, he has barley scored a run this year in first class or Test cricket. With a first class average of only 35, he just misses out on an opening position.
Next 11 Openers – Mark Cosgrove, Chris Rogers
The dearth of reasonable batting candidates continued in the middle order and luckily I have good depth further down to complement it.
Young Joe Burns from Queensland has shown form over the last couple of years and has potential but has again struggled this year.
He is only 23, but has a first class average of 42. Despite this year’s drop in form, he has done enough to get himself a spot in my 11.
Alex Doolan has potential and is in good form, so he wins a spot. He is the man of the moment, and was surprisingly left out of the India squad. He has averaged almost 40 over the previous two and a half seasons.
He has made almost 400 runs at 58 this year, showing his form and potential. At 27, he is still young enough to contribute at the top level for 10 years.
Callum Ferguson, as everyone knows, has been there or thereabouts without ever actually laying down a claim to a permanent position.
He is a year older than Doolan, but has significantly more experience. While he won’t be the world’s best you do feel he has probably got himself close with consistency if not outright quality, scoring nearly 500 runs this year.
Peter Nevill also has been in good form the last couple of years. This year he has played purely as a batsman, allowing him extra focus without the distraction of the keeping duties.
He has averaged 39 this season, with a career average of 38.
Rob Quiney has had a couple of good years, but his terrible form this year means he will be fighting it out with Ferguson and Nevill for the final spot in the top five.
I considered all five of those players for three positions as the number six role was the easiest for me. Seeing as I allowed myself to pick injured players, I selected Andrew McDonald as the side’s all-rounder.
McDonald has been the unluckiest player in the Australian set-up over the past few years. He would definitely be in the squad to take on India if he was fit.
He has averaged over 55 with the bat in the past two years, including a hundred and a fifty in his only two innings this year.
On his batting alone he would make the side but with his miserly bowling, which has brought him 200 wickets at 28 in first class cricket, he is a genuine number six and captain of the next 11.
Selections – Joe Burns, Alex Doolan, Callum Ferguson and Andrew McDonald
I wanted a keeper to bring both keeping skills and batting ability. Chris Hartley is the best keeper in Australia but his batting is questionable.
Peter Nevill as above has the batting ability but as the second keeper for his state is he really the second-best keeper in Australia?
Brad Haddin is 35 but is in form this year, and has strong career statistics. Tim Paine was the next in line two years ago, but injuries have ruined his progress. Has he has he shown enough to make my team? Unfortunately not.
Brad Haddin has the experience, the current and career form. He would be my choice for the nexts.
Selection – Brad Haddin
Steve O’Keefe has the best bowling in Shield cricket by a mile over his career and has averaged 27 when the rest struggle to get under 40.
He also averages 31 with the bat in first-class cricket, has captained his state for the last couple of years and Australia in T20. He provides the spin option for the next 11 and provides a great number eight batsman in a team that will bat deep.
Australia’s strength is fast bowling at the moment. Given that I have chosen only one spinner in my next 11, three quicks will be needed, in addition to McDonald.
Doug Bollinger is 32-years-old and time is passing him by. Unfortunately for Doug, fatness or fitness are always problems.
Doug did well at Test level, with a record of 50 wickets at 28, but he has struggled with his economy rate. His first class average of 28 plus meant he just missed out.
Ryan Harris has shown himself to be a real star over the last few years, one Test at a time.
Even if Harris is fit, his body is unlikely to last the match. With the dusty pitches of India, that just isn’t good enough.
Trent Copeland is a real workhorse. He puts the ball on the spot but with McDonald bowling a similar pace and similar style, unfortunately Trent does not bring enough to the team.
The same goes for Clint McKay, who is a great ODI cricketer but doesn’t take wickets often enough in Test cricket. Tasmanians James Faulkner and Luke Butterworth miss out for similar reasons.
Josh Hazelwood has a lot of potential, but unfortunately he hasn’t actually managed to perform well enough. A first class average of over 30 and a strike rate of 60 isn’t up to scratch.
Pat Cummins is deemed to be one of he saviours of Australian cricket. He is very quick but he has only managed four first class games in which he has averaged 34 and a strike rate of 67, even including that one amazing afternoon in Sth Africa.
I need more than one spell in two years to pick him.
Nathan Coulter-Nile has the eye of selectors and has regularly made Australia A teams . He has a good strike rate under 50 but given he is based at the WACA, he should have taken more than one five wicket spell to make this team. His economy rate isn’t good enough.
With these nine out of the way we are down to four quicks, three of which will make the next 11 and one who will fall to the chasing pack of 10.
These four might be a surprise to many and perhaps they are not the most fashionable, but to me they are the ones who have delivered and for that they get my attention.
Ben Hilfenhaus was abandoned after a summer where he was a little down on his best. However Hilf was Australia’s opening bowler for the first two Tests against Sth Africa, rested in Perth and was then injured.
He was Australia’s leading Test wicket taker in 2012 with 37 wickets at 21, significantly better than anyone else. With 100 Test wickets he is the workhorse to lead the next 11 and hopefully force his way back into form and the Ashes.
If picked in the next 11, Ben Cutting would also be the best number nine in Test cricket. He has averaged over 30 with the bat in the last couple of years.
He has taken 22 wickets at 18 this year in the Shield. He has a great strike rate of 45 in first class cricket and has been on the edge of the Australian team including making the ODI side.
With Australia short of batsmen then a genuine fast bowler who can average 35 with the bat deserves a spot.
Allistair McDermott is the forgotten youngster of Australian cricket. Perhaps because his father was the bowling coach, perhaps because he wasn’t from NSW, but I don’t know he was forgotten.
He has 53 wickets in first class cricket from only 12 matches. He has the best strike rate in Australia at 43 (outside Jackson Bird) a first class average of 20 (again only behind Bird) and a good economy rate for a 20-year-old. He has 11 wickets this year at 23.
The only issue is lack of a guaranteed full time spot at Queensland, but numbers don’t lie and he is a champion in the making, like his father.
In many ways, John Hastings is a surprise in my top four. He was a surprise in Perth when he got a run with the Test side but was quickly discarded after one match against the world’s best batting line-up.
A good economy rate, an average of only 23 and a strike rate right on 50 for his career, with 25 wickets at 18 and a strike rate of 42.
Hastings is in form now and has been for years. He also has a first class batting average of 25 and while I don’t think a player should be picked if he can’t make it on skill, this ability is a great benefit.
Selections – Hifenhaus, Cutting, McDermott.
My Next 11 is:
(Hastings 12th man, just)
So you have my list and my reasons why. What is your next 11?