Dear Trevor, Mark, Greg and Darren, I hope I’m not too late. No doubt you have received plenty of suggestions from past players and media pundits regarding the squad selection for the Indian tour.
It is every Australian cricket follower’s right to match their skills with the national selectors, so here is my squad to tour India. It is based on both what I would do and what I think the selectors will do.
David Warner, Matt Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Stephen O’Keefe, Shaun Marsh, James Faulkner, Adam Zampa, Jackson Bird, and Glenn Maxwell.
I think there will be two changes to the XI from Sydney to the first Test in Pune.
My first assumption is they will play two fast and two spin bowlers with a batting all-rounder at number six.
In my mind, there are only two genuine batting all-rounders in Australia capable of batting at Test level and having an impact with the ball. One is Moises Henriques and given he is currently not bowling due to injury, the other gets my nod and that is Mitch Marsh.
I select him to replace Hilton Cartwright. He has been getting some runs in the limited overs game and can bowl at 140km which will be more useful on Indian wickets than the pies being floated up by others at the moment.
The other change would be Peter Nevill replacing Matthew Wade as the keeper. We cannot risk chances being missed in the field and for that reason, Nevill has the best glovework. Being a right-handed batsman is also favourable in negating Ravi Ashwin’s off-spin and leaving Wade out reduces the number of left-handed bats in the team.
The five other positions in the squad are for plan B or even plan C if things get ugly as the series goes on.
Should they decide to play a sixth specialist batsman I would select Shaun Marsh. His experience in India and success on an early tour of Sri Lanka gives him the advantage even though it goes against the notion of promoting youth.
A third seamer may be used. To this end, I have chosen James Faulkner. The reluctance to push Pat Cummins (and rightly so) means there is a real lack of fast bowlers available. In Sri Lanka, apart from Starc, the rest of the bowlers were made to look inadequate until I saw Faulkner in the ODIs. He bowled his off-pace cutters, running his fingers over the ball and getting as much turn or movement as Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland had in the Tests.
It was here I thought Faulkner would be handy in India, as the batsmen have trouble picking up his change of pace. His batting would also be useful in the lower order and he has IPL experience.
They must take a third spinner and a leg spinner for variety. Here I pick Adam Zampa. He was a major wicket-taker in ODIs in 2016 and he would present a different option should Lyon and O’Keefe fail.
Jackson Bird will reprise his role from the recent SL tour and go as an extra fast bowling cover but in reality, he will be going on an all expenses paid holiday to India. I hope he takes some good reading material.
The last spot goes to Glenn Maxwell. The spare batsman. It’s hard to justify given he couldn’t make the XI for the ODIs against New Zealand and was also left out of Victoria’s Shield team early in the year.
Everyone’s view of him being a good player stems from his hitting and fast scoring in T20 cricket. I have put him in as Plan C. He is also a right-handed batsman and a good fielder, although I fear his bowling won’t be giving Virat Kohli and co any great nightmares.
So there we have it. I am really looking forward to this tour and my hope is Steve Smith’s men put up a good account of themselves. Cricket Australia seemingly has in place a strategy for this tour unlike their early summer efforts leading into the South Africa series.
The key word will be patience. To lose patience will be to lose the series. What did Mick Malthouse quote from Confucius, “the ox is slow but the earth is patient”?
They must go to India and embrace the culture, put a smile on their face and enjoy the moment. Be patient with their batting and bowling, things don’t happen very quickly in the Tests until there is a real rush on the last couple of days.
Kohli will be in their face and trying to break them as quickly as he can, but if the Aussies can have some wins early in the first Test, the Indians will fracture under the intense pressure their own crowds exert on them to perform.
The crowds also like to support their local players so if some one is down on form and not from their state, they will find themselves under enormous pressure.
Overall, I’m sure the squad announcement will be different to the above but they will still have the support of this cricket follower.