My cricketing Christmas wishlist for 2017

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    It’s been a hell of a ride in 2016, both in cricket and elsewhere. Let’s hope 2017 is just as exciting. Here is my wishlist for Australian cricket for next year.

    Australia revive cancelled Test tour of Bangladesh

    It’s now more than ten years since Australia and Bangladesh squared off in a Test match.

    After 16 years in the Test format, Bangladesh have only had four matches against Australia, whose scheduled tour of Bangladesh last year was cancelled due to security concerns.

    Cricket Australia was warned by the Australian Government that it had changed its travel advice for the country due to intelligence that “militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh”.

    Cricket Australia then sent a delegation of senior staff to Bangladesh to analyse the security concerns and meet with the BCB, before deciding the tour was too risky.

    It was the correct decision by Cricket Australia to protect the safety of their players. They may also have inadvertently safeguarded the team’s win-loss record. Given how abysmal Australia were in Sri Lanka earlier this year it’s fair to assume they would have struggled in Bangladesh.

    It’s since been reported that Australia hope to revive the tour in 2017. That would be a great outcome for both teams. Bangladesh deserve the chance to play the high-profile Test teams more often, while Australia’s players would benefit from the chance to hone their skills in Asia.

    Glenn Maxwell TALL

    Glenn Maxwell returns to ODIs to dominate the Champions Trophy

    When Maxwell is at his best the Australian ODI team is extraordinarily intimidating. His ballistic batting is capable of turning what looks like a good total of 300 into a monster score of 350. His dynamic fielding creates wickets and saves up to 20 runs a match.

    And his underrated off spin adds terrific balance to the Australian attack, allowing them the option of fielding four specialist quicks on suitable pitches.

    This is just what Australia did during their triumphant World Cup campaign last year. Frontline spinner Xavier Doherty played just one match in that tournament, with Maxwell providing the lead spin option.

    The all-rounder did a solid job with the ball, taking six wickets at 36. But it was his phenomenal batting which caught the eye – Maxwell made 324 runs at an average of 65 with the jaw-dropping strike rate of 182.

    That helped him earn a spot in the World Cup Team of the Tournament. Maxwell is a big game player, having also earned Team of the Tournament selection at the 2014 World T20. If he can return to peak touch for the Champions Trophy then Australia will be nigh-on unstoppable.

    Nathan Lyon and Peter Nevill laughing

    Nathan Lyon finally works out how to bowl in Asia

    In Western conditions Nathan Lyon is a quality Test spinner, capable of being effective across all five days of a Test.

    It’s a different tale in Asia, though, where Lyon is clearly unsure what tactics to adopt. The off spinner has averaged 45 in his 11 Tests in Asia, despite the conditions there favouring spin over pace.

    Australia’s three-Test series in Sri Lanka earlier this year summed up Lyon’s travails in Asia. He altered his approach several times across that series in search of greater effectiveness. Lyon started the series bowling mostly in the mid-80kmh range, operating with enticing loop and heavy overspin as he’s done with success in Australia.

    As the series wore on, Lyon bowled flatter and faster to the point that, in the final Test, his average speed was above 90kmh, a good 10kmh faster than Sri Lanka’s rampant finger spinners. Australia’s batting in Asia has been a disgrace for years now. They have also, however, badly lacked a spinner capable of even tying down the home batsmen. They will be praying that Lyon finally takes this step during their upcoming four-Test tour of India.

    Matt Renshaw locks down the Test opener’s spot

    Elite Test openers are the most precious of batting gems. Just as rare are quality young Test batsmen who put an extremely lofty price on their wicket.

    In this era of fast-forwarded cricket few emerging batsmen have either the ability or the inclination to scrap their way to a valuable knock in difficult circumstances.

    For every old-school, grinding young batsman like England’s Haseeb Hameed and Australian rookie Matt Renshaw, we see half a dozen cavalier strokemakers.

    There is room for both styles of players in a Test line-up. The presence of a circumspect player like England’s Alastair Cook or New Zealand’s Kane Williamson in a team’s top order adds fine balance to a batting line-up.

    Australia have lacked this balance since the retirement of their top order rock Chris Rogers. In the infancy of his Test career Renshaw already had displayed vast reserves of patience. He shapes as the perfect foil to dashing opener David Warner.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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