With one eye on the Ashes, Australia must change Test lineup
Australian captain Ricky Ponting (centre) and wicket keeper Brad Haddin (right). AAP Image/Dave Huntv
The tour of India has only gone from bad to worse, and like all armchair experts I have opinions on what we should or shouldn’t have done.
I think everyone in Australia, except for the selectors that is, believes Steven O’Keefe should have been on tour.
I also think players such as Moises Henriques, Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell should have stayed home.
However we can’t change the past, so let’s look to the future.
It is often said bowlers win matches. But batsmen save matches and regardless of how good the bowlers are they need defendable totals.
Therefore in Test cricket we need to select a top six that can score runs, not select blokes such as Moises Henriques to strengthen our bowling.
Likewise in Test cricket the four bowlers should be selected on the merits of their bowling alone, not because they can bat a bit.
Players such as Cameron White and Glenn Maxwell being selected at number eight is ridiculous.
Players who bat a bit and bowl a bit play a very important role in limited overs cricket, but in my opinion have no place in Test cricket.
Using this logic the side I would select for the third Test is:
Shane Watson: He has to open. It would be handy if he would start bowling again, but he should only bowl eight to twelve overs a day.
David Warner: At the moment he is our second best batsman. I think the selectors should look to the future and also give him the vice-captaincy.
Ed Cowan: The start of his Test career hasn’t been brilliant but at moment there aren’t many other options. I have only seen a little bit of the current tour but even though Cowan hasn’t made a big score at least he has looked capable.
Michael Clarke: I think he is best suited to number four. He likes batting in the middle order and number four means there are two specialist batsmen below him.
Phil Hughes: He has been poor this tour but given he was dominating domestic cricket there doesn’t appear to be a better option. I know it seems ludicrous to select an opener at number five, however I believe he is good enough to make the transition.
Usman Khawaja: He has to be in the side. We need a genuine batsman at number six, not a keeper or someone only selected because they can bowl a bit as well.
Matt Wade: Has improved his wicketkeeping and as always is solid with the bat.
James Pattinson: He is Australia’s number one bowler. I believe he is now the spearhead of the attack, meaning Siddle may not be a walkup start for much longer.
Peter Siddle: I would keep him in the side for the final two Tests as he can keep it tight allowing Pattison and the spinners more freedom.
Xavier Doherty: As I stated earlier, I think O’Keefe should have toured instead of him.
But he performed solidly in the second Test, keeping it tight and cleaning the tail up quickly, something that has been an issue for Australia in recent years.
Nathan Lyon: I can’t understand why he was dropped. If the selectors were worried about his technique then why was he selected for the tour?
He is currently our best spinning option in Test cricket and therefore should be selected for every Test he is available for.
This side may not win the third Test, however I don’t think we have a better side available in India. This would also provide the core of my Ashes squad.
Of these eleven players I would select nine of them for the first Ashes Test. I would stick with the listed top seven, as there is no benefit in continually chopping and changing the batting order.
I would also have Pattinson and Lyon in the side for the first Ashes Test. For mine this is a no-brainer as they Australia’s best fast and spin bowlers respectively.
The other two bowlers I would select for the first Ashes Test would be Pat Cumming and Jackson Bird. I believe these bowlers give Australia the best chance of taking twenty wickets while keeping the bowling tight.
Therefore my side for the first Ashes Test would be; Watson, Warner, Cowan, Clarke, Hughes, Khawaja, Wade, Pattison, Cummins, Lyon, Bird.
I believe we should take the traditional number of sixteen players on the touring party. The five extra players I would take are; Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Adam Vodges, Brad Haddin and Steven O’Keefe.
Siddle and Starc select themselves given their past performances.
Vodges is an aggressive middle order player who I selected on the back of his outstanding domestic form. He showed in the ODIs he is more than capable of replicating this for on the international scene.
I think Haddin has to tour. Hughes is handy with the gloves but if Wade was ruled out before a Test started Australia would be far better off with a specialist wicketkeeper touring.
I selected O’Keefe as the backup spinner just ahead of Nathan Hauritz.
Hauritz has the advantage of Test experience but if at any stage the selectors want to play two spinners they need someone who turns the ball in the opposite direction to Lyon.
If the selectors were worried about injuries or not selecting the correct sixteen players, then I think they should mimic Andy Flower’s ploy of taking a backup sixteen players, rather picking a large main touring party.
If they were to go down this road they could select a backup sixteen such as: Shaun Marsh, Chris Rodgers, Alex Doolan, George Bailey, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, Andrew McDonald, Tim Paine, John Hastings, Ben Cutting, Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris, Michael Beer, Nathan Hauritz.
By making the right decisions now and putting the right plans in place we will optimise our chance of winning the Ashes.
Selecting the correct side for the third Test in India will not only gives Australia the best chance of salvaging some respectability in India, but also sets us up with the best chance of starting the Ashes on a positive note.
The selectors need to decide which six batsmen are most likely score runs and which four bowlers are most likely to take twenty wickets.
Let’s hope the selectors make the right decisions and plans now to optimise our chances on winning back the Ashes while being competitive in the final two Tests in India.