Exclusive: Australian XI for first Test named by Channel Nine

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Bald Archy entry 'Simply Marvellous' a portrait of cricket commentator Richie Benaud by James Brennan. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

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The much anticipated announcement of the Australian Test side to take on England in the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge has been made, with no real surprises in the XI named.

The new National Selection Panel, comprising Nine Network managing director Jeffrey Browne, Nine Network head of sport Steve Crawley and Nine Network legend Ozzie Ostrich made the announcement this morning, flanked by Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland, who said that the team named met with CA’s approval.

The relationship between the Nine Network and Cricket Australia has come under fire in recent days since the completion of the new $450 million broadcast deal.

However, Sutherland emphatically denied that Cricket Australia has tried to unduly pressure Nine over its programming schedule.

“While it is true that there was heated discussion around my preference that Millionaire Hot Seat to be shifted from its current 5.30pm timeslot and run at 7.00pm after the evening news, I respect the right of Nine to ultimately schedule programs without interference from CA,” said Sutherland.

Cricket Australia high performance manager Pat Howard, who had previously been quoted as being “extremely upset” when Miss Murphy was eliminated from The Voice prior to the final, also said that while Cricket Australia did not expect to be the final decision-maker on who ultimately won The Voice, it wanted to protect its investment and ensure that the people at home saw the best singers every time.

For its part Nine boss Browne said that he was comfortable that both sides had enjoyed robust discussion and understood each other’s needs, and he was confident that the side he’d selected for the first Test would meet with widespread public approval.

“This side is a blend of experience, ability and promise for the future, and contains players central to the ongoing success of Nine as the leading free-to-air television network in the country,” said Browne.

The squad named is (in likely batting order, with Browne’s comments attached):

Karl Stefanovic, RH opening batsman: “A sure bet to get the innings started each morning. Has resurrected his career after once reporting for duty worse for wear, Andrew Symonds style.”

Mark Taylor, LH opening batsman: “Tubby promised that if we put him back on the park he’d stop doing those Fujitsu ads. That was good enough for me.”

Michael Clarke (c), RH batsman: “Subject to fitness testing following a back injury. Also has a non-consort clause barring him from personal relationships with rival network reality TV stars.”

Paul Gallen, RH batsman: “Let’s face it, Gallen is the hottest ticket in town right now. Joe Root might have dealt with Warner ok, but he’ll now be changing his undies five times a day.”

Shane Watson, RH batsman: “Obviously there is still a question mark over him scoring runs at this level, but the ratings go through the roof when he bats, as if the nation tunes in hoping to see him fail.”

Laurie Oakes, RH batsman: “Admittedly not as agile in the field as he once was, but can be guaranteed to keep the heat on the Englishmen.”

Ian Healy, wicketkeeper: “We were of the view that Matthew Wade has not made the most of advances in stump microphone technology, to provide better insight to viewers. Healy is the benchmark and we will be expecting a return to high quality, profanity-laced, audible sledging.”

Joe Previtera, RH bowler: “Previously better known as a Nine cameraman but whose bowling continues to improve. A shrewd cricket brain who was the first to realise that Scott Muller couldn’t bowl or throw.”

Andrew Johns, RH bowler: “What I love about Joey is that no matter how many experts and cricket followers around the globe tell Joey that our team is “off,” he’ll still have $100 on the nose for us. The ultimate team man.”

Scotty Cam, RH bowler: “Great bloke to have around the dressing room. Appeals to a wide demographic, the mums just love him to death.”

Joel Madden, RH spin bowler: “Subject to fast-tracking of naturalisation papers, perfect timing coming straight off a strong showing in The Voice. What I like most about Joel is that he sets an example to the younger players on how to relax in his own room at night rather than head out to nightspots and into potential trouble.”

Asked to comment on players who had missed selection, Browne said that while there may be a number of worthy cricketers who missed out this time, the selectors had to take into account all factors.

“For example,” Browne said, “take Usman Khawaja. I’m sorry but the kid just doesn’t rate.”

Sutherland and Howard confirmed that the side selected meets all criteria under the ‘Informed Player Management’ protocol.

Further, in anticipation that this side gets wiped off the park in the first Test, coach Mickey Arthur has already prepared and distributed the homework task, to ensure that all players have ample time to complete it, and that no player crosses a line in the sand.

In closing, Sutherland acknowledged that the $450m rights deal signalled changing times in sport and media in Australia.

“Kerry Packer was of course well known for pulling crap like Doug Mulray and Mick Molloy off the air if they were having a bad night, and so it isn’t much of a stretch for Nine to demand the same thing of our players.

For example the run rate is too slow and viewers start to switch channels we might look at putting up re-runs of Survivor: Jersey Shore.”

“We’re comfortable that in 2013 we’re squarely in the entertainment business now, and that silly old romantics like Richie Benaud and Gideon Haigh who yearn for old-style Test cricket, can instead sit at home and watch re-runs of Bodyline,” said Sutherland.

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