The World Cup is not the place to “blood” players especially as the blood from this Australian summer is still warm. Adding tattoos are great when you are scoring runs or taking wickets. But without these vital statistics, the nakedness and inadequacies are all too apparent.
Okay, you lot in Jolimont Street, you can wake up now and try to forget the colonel from Kentucky and the rep from the brewery.
We have a World Cup to win.
The form of the Australian team in the last twelve months has been underwhelming in all forms, including the 50 over game. They scraped a 3-2 win over New Zealand and lost 3-2 to England in July 2010.
To compound matters, they lost to Sri Lanka for the first time in Australia.
Even though Australia is a fourth favourite with the bookmakers, they showed enough during Sunday’s win that they can take a fifth World Cup.
Ricky Ponting remains the man to lead our defence. He has earned the right to fail.
It is time to look beyond the statistics and see who scored what and against whom and under what pressure. Sometimes a loss is more instructive than a win.
Batsmen who have impressed in the last twelve months are Cameron White, David Hussey, Shane Watson and Michael Hussey.
Bowlers that have impressed and are currently fit (Harris is excluded due to injury, as is Mitchell Starc. McKay and Hastings are also injured)) include Bollinger, Nannes, Tait and Lee.
Watson doubles up in this category.
For those that discount Tait, just hark back to the look of disbelief on Strauss’s face when he was cleaned up last year. That delivery was timed at 161.1 kmh and only marginally “slower” than the 161.3 recorded by Akhtar.
Tait is the only one of his kind in the world and there is no batsman who is confident when the Wild Thing is not so wild.
Bollinger was expensive and is struggling to get above 135 kph. I think he has missed the plane.
Lee was economical in Melbourne and maintained his pace in the death overs. He is rusty but remains a proven performer. His fielding and late order batting place him well ahead of Bollinger.
The premier 50 overs all-rounder remains James Hopes and he rarely plays a bad game for Australia. Christian is a contender and could be the surprise packet if selected.
Of all the spinners, there is only room for Nathan Hauritz and the rest of the spinning duties will have to be borne by David Hussey and Steve Smith.
Nannes is seen as a Twenty20 specialist, as is O’Keefe, so they will not be part of the World Cup squad. Early wickets are a key in the sub-continent and Johnson, Lee, Tait and Siddle could be vital.
The omission of Siddle and Hauritz from Sunday’s game suggests they are on the plane to India. Johnson was also originally rested from this game and in spite of his idiosyncrasies will go to the World Cup. His football skills are sublime, as was evident in his runout of KP.
This brings me to my World Cup First XI in batting order:
The other four spots to Callum Ferguson, Siddle, Steve Smith and James Pattinson.
The history of the World Cup, especially in the sub-continent, suggests that one or two of the top six batsmen has to bowl at least five serviceable overs. Think Aravinda De Silva in 1996 and Steve Waugh in 1987.
Watson and David Hussey can fill this role.
In fact, I see the Hussey brothers and Shane Watson as the most important men in the Australian line-up. Michael got Australia back on course after Clarke had scratched around for 36 of 57 balls.
Michael Clarke has been out of form all summer and I do not believe he can turn it around in four weeks.
David Hussey got the first two wickets and stalled England, just as they were looking to run away from Australia.
Steven Smith did not harm his chances with the wickets of Bell and Morgan, and though he failed as a pinch hitter, he would have learnt from the pressure. In a largely sloppy fielding display, he was Australia’s best.
The most glaring omission I have made is Michael Clarke and I cannot see any justification for his inclusion.
He is badly out of form and needs to go away and come back a better player. His reluctance to bowl also limits Australia’s options. But if the selections run to form, then Clarke will be included and possibly at the cost of someone like David Hussey or Callum Ferguson.
Anointing captains in waiting is a dangerous practice and Cricket Australia may rue the day they marked Michael Clarke as the next captain.
Tim Paine misses out in my squad even though he is a better keeper. Haddin was untidy on Sunday, but his batting can win games for Australia and with more game time, Haddin’s work to the spinners will improve.
Michael Hussey will have to double as a keeper should Haddin get injured.
Brad Hodge, unfortunately, will not figure in the final squad and this will remain a dagger in Cricket Australia’s heart as long as the current regime is in power.
And our custodians will have to be consigned to the ignominy of perpetual ignorance.
Cricket Australia named its 15-man World Cup squad for the tournament to be held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from February 15. Victorian all-rounder John Hastings is the only surprise inclusion:
Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice captain), Doug Bollinger, Brad Haddin, John Hastings, Nathan Hauritz, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Tim Paine, Steve Smith, Shaun Tait, Shane Watson, Cameron White.