Michael Hussey says Australia is better than the rankings suggest. His gritty century last week gives him another opportunity to prove this. Mitchell Johnson is finding form at the right moment and should keep away from his mother. Warne has dropped the “c” word in his column for the Sunday Telegraph in London.
Ponting will not be enamoured by the suggestion that he lacks gumption.
Nielsen, the current Australian manager, is involved in a slanging match with Duncan Fletcher, the former England coach. I have deliberately called Nielsen the manager because he is not fulfilling the role of coach. In fact he could be the assistant manager behind Steve Bernard.
Nielsen’s job, then, would be similar to the nondescript man that set up the easel for Monet and laid out the colours. He also does a good impersonation of a bowling machine.
The Marcel Marceau throwdown.
Irony of ironies is that Venkatesh Prasad, the sacked bowling coach for India, is in talks with Cricket Australia. Justin Langer has been the batting coach for the last few series. It beggars belief that Nielsen’s contract has been extended.
As for Warne, he can take his “cojones” and go home. It is easy to be brave behind a glass wall where makeup artists keep his head of hair spiked with Schwarzkopf’s version of Viagra.
Australia has brave players capable of winning the Ashes. But they are burdened with a weak chairman of selectors. Hauritz was a change that should have happened two series ago. For this we have Greg Chappell to thank.
He needs to cajole Hilditch and company to take the next step North.
Past history says England will struggle in Brisbane. Recent history suggests this is England’s best chance since 1986-7. There is a lot of history to be made starting this Thursday and Aussie fans will be hoping it is not of the Tiananmen Square variety.
It is to be hoped that the selectors will not prevaricate like Imelda Marcos over which of the 3000 shoes she was going to wear. There are only two decisions they have to make. Do they play Bollinger or Siddle? For mine Bollinger is the better option but I would not risk him so soon after his return from a stomach strain.
The other decision centers around North. Now that Doherty is in the 13, North’s spin is not required. Smith at 6 can be our next Dougie Walters. Unorthodox but prepared to attack. North seems to be continually playing for his spot and this puts pressure on the other batters.
His last ten innings has seen him score a 90 and 128 but also three ducks.
He has a batting and bowling average of 37 after 19 Tests and is not the match winner that a number 6 should be. He is more likely to save his career rather than win a match for Australia.
The decision for me is simple. The Australian way is to attack and play for a win. North is a conservative selection and the selectors have been sitting on their hands.
The playing XI for Brisbane should be: Watson, Katich, Ponting, Clarke, Hussey, Smith, Haddin, Johnson, Doherty, Hilfenhaus and Siddle.
Australia needs to play with freedom. Watson should be allowed to play his attacking game. Clarke is at his best when he is using his feet to the spinners. He must take the game to Swann and then we will see if he is only an ugly duckling.There has to be intent.
In the end the playing XI has to take responsibility for its own actions. The excuse that this is a team in transition does not hold water anymore. Players like Johnson and Haddin will have to assert themselves or face the axe.
In the end, I do not see this as a test of Ponting’s captaincy. I see this Ashes series as a test for Australian Cricket.
A number five ranking is a true reflection of where Australian cricket sits currently. It is no good Hussey saying they deserve to be higher. You only deserve what your performance suggests.
New Zealand has shown they deserve to be higher than 8th and Gayle’s West Indians have fired their own salvo at redemption. Pakistan is straining to be competitive in the desert.
The rest of the world believes Australia can be beaten at home. Dhoni and Sangakkara have proved that in the 50 overs game. Graeme Smith proved that in the Tests and India was an umpiring decision away from winning the series last time around.
The first mission is to prove Australia can beat England. Brisbane can be the road back or it may prove a deadend.Robert Frost took the “road less traveled” and “it made all the difference.”
And that road may well be what the selectors do with North.