How cool is this!
Opinions about the Australian cricket team are like lawnmowers – most Australian males have one. Amateur selection panels will have reached fever pitch in pubs around Australian this past weekend.
It is clear from the 13-man named squad named for Brisbane on Friday that the selectors were not ready to make the tough decisions just yet. We should not be surprised, the Hilditch era has been marked by respect for incumbents, meaning Hussey and North get another chance.
In contrast, my team contains a few surprises including Ed Cowan, Steve Smith and Ryan Harris. The notable omissions are Hussey, North, Hauritz, Doherty and Siddle. My eleven and the reasons behind my selections are below.
While I have advocated for Ponting’s sacking as captain in the past, now is not the time. He retains the (c).
Oh, and for the record, on a bouncy Brisbane track, I like Australia in Brisbane.
Katich: Now a circumspect, mature batsmen who provides stability to the top of the order. After being dropped following the 2005 ashes, Katich has shown an iron will and come back stronger than ever. Not pretty but gets the job done.
He is also a possible future captain if Ponting loses this series and Michael Clarke really does have reputation issues in the dressing room.
Cowan: Most people will be looking at this name with some bemusement, not only because Cowan is a relative unknown but also because Watson has flourished in the opening position for the last couple of years. Watson opening was only ever meant to be a stop gap measure and now is the perfect time to put a specialist opener into this spot.
Watson could be one of the great all rounders we have ever produced but he will need some batting pressure taken off him to reach his full potential. Cowan for mine is the best young opener in the country (I outlined his credentials in a recent article) as Phil Hughes does not have the technique to cut it at the highest level against the new ball.
Ponting (c): First man picked. Second best batsmen of his generation. Last chance to prove himself as captain. If we lose the ashes at home Ponting’s already tainted legacy will be in tatters.
Ponting’s best moments as captain have all come with the bat in hand. If we are to win the Ashes this legendary number three needs to have the series of his illustrious career.
Clarke: Along with Katich and Ponting, the vice captain has become part of the backbone of our batting line up. While he has gone through a lean patch of late, this cricketing rockstar likes the big stage and there is none bigger than the ashes.
In his early career Clarke was prone to rash strokes when he got tied down but he seems to be much more at peace with slower paced innings these days. He is now an accumulator with a fine technique and a beautiful driver of the ball.
Watson: I will put my hand up here and admit that I thought Watto did not have the mental strength nor the stamina to prosper in test match cricket. His early career was plagued by constant injury but the last 24 months have been healthy and happy times.
Deserved the AB medal last year and will be key with bat and ball.
Smith: Fortune favours the brave. It looked like a big call to give Warne his debut at 23. Not to say that I am comparing him to the great man, at this stage all they have in common is blonde locks. This kid just looks like he has something about him – the mental x factor that marks champions.
He can also bat, so by picking him at number 6 you are effectively saying score some runs and if you can take some wickets as a leggy that is just a bonus. On the flip side we would not be picking anyone as a designated frontline spinner – the truth is we don’t have one.
Haddin: Despite having established himself since the retirement of Gilly, Haddin’s injuries have opened the door for Tim Paine who placed significant pressure on him with tidy keeping performances and some handy runs in India. Paine’s time will come, now is Haddin’s time to prove that like his predecessor he can turn games in a matter of an hour with sweet timing and myriad boundaries.
Johnson: Captains love genuine express bowlers because cricket is such a psychological game and they create fear. Johnson is deceptively quick often producing deliveries close to 150kmph and not just in the first hour of play. The problem is his radar. He was inaccurate as a youngster and inconsistency has been one the consistent themes of his career to date.
On the up side he is a genuine wicket taker and Ponting has gone to him when games are on the line. He needs to start well.
Harris: One of the bolters in this team. In many ways he nudges Peter Siddle out of this spot. Harris is accurate and deceptively quick. He can move the ball both ways and is as strong as an ox.
Hilfenhaus: My tip to be the key man with the ball in this series. The art of new ball outswing bowling is all but lost in modern cricket but Hilfenhous is a renaissance man in this sense. Ricky, please give him enough slips because he will take the edge plenty this summer.
Bollinger: In the mould of the old school fast bowler. Likes to hurt batsmen, likes to talk allot and gives 110 per cent for his captain every time he is given the ball.
Fast lefthanders are worth their weight in gold – we are lucky to have two and should not be worried about picking both.