When I first travelled to New Delhi to watch Australia play cricket in 2013, just leaving my hotel to confront the onslaught of this relentless, illogical city felt like a small victory.
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The loss of the three banned players from Australia’s Test team options across the coming summer presents the Test selection panel with a real opportunity to plumb the quality of the new generation of just emerging players.
With the continued struggles of both Marsh brothers, in Dubai, perhaps it is time to stop trying to plug the dike, as failure follows failure, while very little changes.
Perhaps it is time for a Test selection quantum leap.
Two names among the coming crop of players, stand out – like braid on golden bats – among the generation next of potential test tyros in this country.
Will Pucovski and Josh Phillipe are both rare talents, while both have started the new shield season in peak form.
This is the chance for a pair of really visionary selections – for the future – choosing two precocious players now, some years before they might have, in the normal run of events, been able to press their claims, had we retained a better batting list of more experienced, higher quality players.
But “sandpapergate” ensured that our best two bats have fallen out of favour, and now must do their time.
Perhaps the only good thing about the whole sad, shameful episode in South Africa, is that – looking back – we may be saying, five years from now, that it cleared the way for the next two great Australian Test match players to emerge.
It’s a perfect summer in which to blood such younger men as they will be facing just an average Indian bowling side, a bowling unit that leaves behind so much of its threat – while dropping most of its spin-thick mojo – when made to work much harder for their wickets, away from their own, home-cooked dust bowls.
It’s a perfect summer to make such picks, also, as old man time is tapping hard at the shoulder of the senior Marsh.
At 35 – and with too many gluts of single scores clustered in-between his too few centuries, for a man of such talent – Shaun Marsh has had his many chances: now the years have passed him by.
It would be a grave mistake to let the older Marsh come home, to play again – on flat Adelaide and Perth wickets, against a tame attack – there to strike a couple of cheaper hundreds, with conditions all in his favour.
He would be taking our team future, blind, into the same “no future here” cul de sac of easy old-man-hundreds of the kind which Adam Voges reaped – on flat tracks, facing very average bowling only for his fading eyes to be found out, a season after, by the genuine threat and pace of a world class South African bowling unit.
We cannot afford to waste another summer of team building opportunities, pursuing another stop-gap, short-term-fix, Adam Voges course, with Marsh.
We have six Test matches to be played across the coming summer on guaranteed ‘five days play’ corporate tracks, primed for a new broadcaster, a combination that will roll conditions all in the batsman’s favour.
What a wonderful chance the selectors have, right now, to be truly visionary, in blooding new batsmen.
They could be braver not only in their team-building planning for the Ashes series that awaits – after a coming summer of shining opportunity – but also for the many great years which, I can see, now lie ahead, for this newly emerging test team.
My batting list for the first India test would read; Matt Renshaw, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head, Pucovski or Phillipe, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
If Khawaja stays lame, I would pick both of the bright young stars of our new Test team’s bright batting future.
Play them both, in that very first test, on December 6.
Bring them in, now – while they remain so young, in such great form, and still feel immortal – and while they still have so many years in which to learn, at the very best place to learn: tempered in the cauldron, out in the fire of the Test arena.
Article written by Paul Healy