Funnily enough, Michael Clarke’s extremely long odds of leading the Australian side in the 2015 Cricket World Cup actually make the 15-man squad a little easier to name.
It’s always felt to me that the 15 would be split pretty evenly – seven batsmen, seven bowlers, and a wicketkeeper; Brad Haddin probably. Batting and bowling allrounders – think Mitch Marsh, James Faulkner, maybe Glenn Maxwell – would take up a spot in their respective dominant fields.
For what it’s worth, the squad used for the South African series was: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, Maxwell, Bailey (C), Matthew Wade (wk), Faulkner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Xavier Doherty, and Kane Richardson.
Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Johnson, and Clarke played earlier in the series too.
This squad gives a pretty strong hint to the World Cup squad, as will the squad for the Tri-Series with India and England, if indeed there are any differences at all. With the possible exception of someone like Ryan Harris, I can’t see anyone coming in for the World Cup who we haven’t yet seen in the coloured gear.
Warner, Finch, Watson, and Smith pick themselves. Mitchell Marsh will take up one of the batting spots too, and with Clarke now all but a scratching, Bailey goes from battling for the last spot to a locked-in certainty.
The announcement of Smith’s elevation to the Test captaincy came with yet more support for Bailey to lead the one-day side, and fair enough too. That might yet be the equivalent of ‘George has the full support of the board’, but even if Smith is suddenly elevated to the ODI captaincy as well, Bailey will still be an important lower-order batsman.
So six are set, and I need one more.
Though Matthew Wade played the South Africa series, it was made pretty clear that it was to freshen up Brad Haddin for a big summer. So short of a major injury, Haddin will be the World Cup ‘keeper, in what I expect will be his ODI swansong.
Interestingly, since Haddin’s return to the ODI side in January 2013, and though my perception was that he really hadn’t produced a lot, his returns have been in line with his career figures. Overall, he averages 31.35 with the bat, and in the last two years, he’s averaged 31.15.
The main difference in his second stint in the ODI side is that in 19 innings in this period, 16 of them have been batting no higher than no.6, and 14 of those have been at no.7. Wade averages less than 30.
Haddin’s made just the one 50 in this time, but has been not out six times. It’s not exactly banging down the selection doors, but at this late stage in the planning, I can’t see any changes being made.
In the same period, he’s managed 26 dismissals in 20 innings, or 1.3 dismissals per fielding innings. His overall average is 1.46 dismissals from 111 fielding innings. Wade has averaged 1.34 dismissals in 47 fielding innings.
There are a number of certainties here as well: Johnson, Starc, and Faulkner will absolutely be part of the planning, and I suspect we can throw Cummins in there as well, as they look to reintegrate him into the summer through white-ball cricket only.
Coulter-Nile picked up an injury during the South Africa, keeping him out of action since, and quite probably opening up a spot for Hazlewood, who did bowl very well against the Proteas.
The last two bowling spots come down to two questions, for me.
Does the loose ‘pick when fit’ selection policy around Ryan Harris extend to one-day cricket, and does Australia need one or two spinners to take the pace off as required?
Harris won’t have played a ODI match for nearly two years by the time the World Cup rolls around, but I can’t shake this nagging feeling that his line and length could be very useful indeed.
And the designated one-day spinner is far from settled. Since the UAE series, Australia have used Nathan Lyon, Cameron Boyce in the T20Is against South Africa, and then Doherty once in the five-match ODI series.
Doherty fills me with no confidence, and though Boyce might be useful in time, it would be a bit much to throw him into a World Cup as the first choice spinner.
It has to be Lyon, for mine, and I’d take a punt on Harris as well.
And then, to be a bit funky with the last batting spot, I’m going to go with Glenn Maxwell, who can then play as a pinch-hitter or bowling allrounder as required.
My 15-man squad: Bailey (C), Warner, Finch, Watson, Smith, M.Marsh, Maxwell, Haddin (wk), Johnson, Faulkner, Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, Harris, and Lyon.
Best XI: Warner, Finch, Watson, Smith, Bailey (c), M.Marsh, Haddin (wk), Faulkner, Johnson, Cummins, Lyon.