I am always of the belief that to be selected for the Test side, you need to put in performances at Sheffield Shield level.
The two players who have done well this season are Victorian opening batsman Chris Rogers and New South Wales captain and off spinner Steve O’Keefe.
Rogers is currently second on the leading runscorers behind Phil Hughes in Shield cricket this season. He has 496 runs at 49.60, which includes two centuries in seven matches.
There may be an argument that Rogers is 35 and that time has past him by. I disagree.
If you are 25 or 35, if you are doing the job, you should come under consideration.
Rogers (who averages close to 50 in first class cricket and has 57 centuries to his name), will give the side experience, especially following the retirement of Mike Hussey at the top.
If given the opportunity, and would give the Australian side a good short term fix, until young openers start to step up.
Rogers should replace Ed Cowan on the Indian tour. In my opinion, Cowan hasn’t done enough to warrant his spot for India.
Cowan has had a moderate summer with the bat where in the six Test matches against Sri Lanka and South Africa he scored 364 runs at 36.4, which included two fifties and a century.
Not too bad, but on the dust bowls that Indian pitches will provide, Cowan might struggle. He did found the going tough against Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath on the last day at the SCG, and in my opinion, is the key reason I have him omitted from India.
It may be a harsh call on Cowan, but the way he bats, not only does he come across as limited, but he also doesn’t show much intent.
When you go on tough tours like India, you need to show some intent. Think Matthew Hayden in 2001.
I’m not saying Cowan should bat like Dave Warner or Hayden in the past, instead he needs to show some aggression with his batting.
Otherwise I do get the feeling that low scores are just around the corner.
However I could be wrong on Ed Cowan, but that’s just an opinion.
Meanwhile, Steve O’Keefe deserves a shot at Test cricket. His first class career of 78 wickets at 27 in 27 matches is solid, but good enough to be given a chance.
In his recent outing, he took match figures of 8/102 against WA. O’Keefe is the leading wicket taker among the spinners/slow bowlers in Shield cricket this season where he has taken 17 wickets at 24 from six games.
The next best is former Test spinner Nathan Hauritz with eight wickets at 38.
Next was two-Test spinner Michael Beer with 8 wickets at 46, followed by the current spinner Nathan Lyon with seven wickets at 71 from five matches.
Whether the selectors think O’Keefe is the right option, I’m not sure.
There was an article from Geoff Lawson over the weekend in the Sydney Morning Herald where this caught my eye.
“Stephen O’Keefe, much ignored for two years since his all-round performance against England for Australia A, finds himself in contention. His opening-day success against Western Australia in the Shield game that began on Thursday was outstanding but no selector bothered to turn up.”
I do remember O’Keefe’s performances against England in that “A” game. He took 4/88, which included clean bowling Kevin Pietersen. But with the selectors not turning up, that worries me.
It looks like the selectors are pushing for Victorian off spin all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who has taken 27 wickets at 33 (average 42 with the bat) from 15 matches, and/or Tasmania’s Xavier Doherty who has captured 119 wickets at 44 from 51 matches.
It looks like taking wickets in ODIs and T20s has been deemed more important than taking wickets in Shield cricket.
Here is my squad for India:
I have picked Brad Haddin to be the reserve batsman and/or reserve wicket keeper. Haddin has done well for NSW this season where he has scored 347 runs at 57.83. Haddin is there for cover in the top six as a specialist batsman, or to replace Wade as keeper,.
This is especially if Wade continues to grass missed chances.
I’ll admit, it is an unusual squad.
Do we take five fast bowlers to India? Or do we pick four, and bring in a batsman like Alex Doolan or an all-rounder like Moises Henriques or Glenn Maxwell?
If there wasn’t a rotation policy in place for fast bowlers, then taking five fast bowlers would not be required, especially where Australia could play two spinners.
Also Watson has to bowl in India. He needs to bowl at least up to ten overs per innings minimum. If he is only going as a batsman alone, then he is threatening to weaken the side. Watson hasn’t done enough with the bat to justify selection.
One final thing. Will the selectors pick Usman Khawaja? Or will they bypass him, pick Watson as a batsman, and select Maxwell as the all-rounder at six or seven?
We shall see.