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How to save Australian cricket - introducing the 'Potential XI'

Dave Warner celebrates another big score. (AFP PHOTO / Peter Heeger)
Roar Pro
2nd November, 2014
24
1076 Reads

The second Test against Pakistan is all but over, and Australia have failed to perform again. On a ‘batsman’s paradise’ Australia could only manage 261 runs.

Pakistan certainly found spin and swing, and their pacemen snagged a few important wickets, even if it was to rubbish shots from the Aussie bats.

Many around the nation have been complaining about the pitch in Abu Dhabi, but Pakistan have proven that you can get wickets.

Should we keep saying that these wickets that don’t suit seamers are crap? Should it be the responsibility of the groundskeeper to prepare a wicket for Australian bowlers?

Or should Australian cricket find a way to play in the sub-continent? To me, the former reeks of the arrogance that leads one to call the winner of a domestic competition ‘world champions’, and as an enthusiastic harvester of rogue opium, I cannot abide that.

However, if one is to complain then one should offer a solution, otherwise it’s something best kept between yourself and your Twitter feed.

So with the luxury of more than 140 characters I have a proposal. The genesis of this idea is an on air conversation I had with Cat Jones and Geoff Lemon during the call of the third day of this Test (listen to day four here).

I suggested that perhaps we need to develop some of the grounds in the more sub-continental climates of Australia to match the conditions Australians struggle to play on and then schedule some shield games up there.

Not only does this give some experience in the conditions, but I would wager you would get bigger crowds at Shield games in Darwin, Cairns or Townsville than we do in Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide.

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After all, if you’ve ever been to those places you’ll understand there’s not a lot to do in a stinking hot city by the ocean if everything in said ocean seems to have evolved across millions of years for the express purpose of killing you.

This isn’t as stupid an idea as I first thought, given that Cricket Australia has spent truckloads of cash to import truckloads of dirt from India to replicate Indian pitches at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane.

Clearly, the ability of The Roar commentary team warp space and time à la “Quantum Leap” has been in a play, and Cricket Australia stole the spirit of my idea several years before I had it. For this uncharacteristic use of foresight, Cricket Australia are to be commended.

In addition to not understanding non-Australian wickets, several expert commentators have raised the point that there just isn’t the amount of tour games that there used to be.

If we look back to Bradman’s first tour of England in 1930, the Australian side played warm up games in Hobart and Launceston against Tasmania, in Colombo against Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and no doubt more than a few games on the rolling deck of the Nairana on the journey over.

Once in England they played games against any team with a name ending with ‘Shire’ and some small town universities called Oxford and Cambridge. That is 17 games. All before the first Test.

Indeed, by the first Test match at Trent Bridge, Bradman already had 1000 first class runs for the tour (and no doubt several thousand not-so-first-class runs due to the “six and out” rule when you hit it over the deck of the Nairana). Perhaps a few games against the Abu Dhabi under 15s was exactly what Australia needed this tour to find their feet.

But jokes aside, I appreciate that cricketers play a lot of cricket. I understand that the income generating, yet pointless T20 and one day games that float around a Test series like a cleaner shrimp in the mouth of a moray eel in a symbiotic trade off of cash for credibility are necessary to ensure first class cricketers don’t also have to be second class plumbers to put food on the table.

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This leaves precious little time for the First XI to front up for a game against the Sheik Zayad Stadium Janitorial Staff XI in order to come to grips with the local conditions.

So I propose a second solution. Not just for the problem of lack of proper preparation, but for that other favourite of the armchair pundit – team selection. Why not send a group off early consisting of those who are vying for selection in the Test team. A ‘Hopefuls XI’ if you will.

This will not only give more Australians an opportunity to play long form cricket in sub-continental conditions, but would provide a much more accurate form guide than a few domestic one day games or some shield cricket from last season.

The way I see it, the following players are walk up starts: David Warner, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Nathan Lyon and Mitch Johnson.

I would argue that Chris Rogers and Peter Siddle belong on that list, but I know they’re more contentious picks, so for the sake of this article I’ll leave them out.

That means we’re looking for an opener, a first drop, an all-rounder, a second paceman and either a third quick or second spinner. Or a team that looks like this:

1. Potential Opener
2. Potential Opener
3. Potential #3
4. Potential #3
5. Potential All Rounder
6. Potential All Rounder
7. An opportunity to give one of our keepers-in-waiting experience
8. Potential Spin
9. Potential Spin/Pace
10. Potential Pace
11. Potential Pace

In this way, selectors can audition every position with a question mark over it with the two or three most likely players, giving a more accurate form guide and exposing Australians to much needed experience.

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I would love to see The Roar commentariat give some options on this ‘Next Best XI’ so leave your team in the comments below. I’ll pass the team sheet around the box today and get back to you during tonight’s broadcast with the Commentary Team XI.