As the Australians prepared for the first of four Tests against India starting Thursday, coach Justin Langer said the final composition of the batting lineup rests between debutant Marcus Harris, and Peter Handscomb on the comeback trail.
That comment means Aaron Finch, and Mitchell Marsh, are definite starters – how many more chances must the younger Marsh get?
Of the 14 in the baggy green squad, only veteran paceman Peter Siddle, who is mighty lucky to be there at all, and another debutant in quick Chris Tremain, will definitely miss out.
But how can Harris be under the microscope when he should have been recognised long ago?
In 2010, Harris became the youngest at 18 to crack a Sheffield Shield 150, and five years later was man-of-the-match in the Shield final with 81 and 158.
He moved to Victoria in 2016 with Langer’s parting comment of being a “mediocre” player ringing in his ears, and he’s thrived.
Not only has he scored 501 runs to average 71.57 in this Sheffield Shield season, but his unbeaten 250 against NSW were more runs than the Blues could score in either dig – 159 and 179 – in the innings victory.
Harris must open, there’s no conjecture, and Finch should be his opening partner despite the fact he’s having trouble coping with all three formats.
But he’s a big match performer, who also should have been recognised long ago.
That leaves Usman Khawaja at three, followed by Shaun Marsh, Handscomb, Travis Head, the skipper Paine, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood.
That leaves Mitchell Marsh to carry the drinks with a batting average of just 26.01, and bowling average of 42.45 from 30 Tests the justification.
Langer is acknowledged as fiercely supportive of anything Western Australian, but now he’s national coach that must take a back seat when it boils down to what’s best for Australia.
And for good measure Mitchell Marsh has been a party to the pathetic Test record since the ‘Sandpaper-gate’ in Cape Town last March.
Australia lost the last Test in Johannesburg by 492 runs, followed by an honourable draw against Pakistan in Dubai with overall scores of 18-564 compared to 16-663, and lost the second Test at Abu Dhabi by 373 runs.
But the Indians haven’t been too crash hot either.
This year the world’s number one Test side has been beaten 2-1 in South Africa, 4-1 in England, and saved some face with a 2-0 win in the Caribbean over a very ordinary side.
Come Thursday they will be facing one of the world’s best attacks in Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, and Lyon.
Hopefully the long-range weather forecast of a stinking hot summer doesn’t eventuate, as it’s doubtful the pace trio can survive 200-plus overs apiece in the four-Test series if Mother Nature is going to sap them with heat.
But despite the Australians poor record of late, they are still in with a chance if the selected batsmen get the basics right of paying every ball on its merits, and rip into the Indian’s long, and strong, batting lineup.
Importantly, we are in for a fascinating summer that’s important to get the fans back talking and watching cricket, rather than turning away in disgust.