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This second-string XI dispels the myth that Australia has no white-ball depth

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Roar Guru
19th July, 2021
21

Last week was not a great one for the Aussie T20 squad, beaten pretty comprehensively in the West Indies.

At the same time an England ODI squad was putting Pakistan to the sword. On its own, this would hardly rate a mention, but it was news because the England team was composed of mostly second-string players and a lot of debutants.

The media in Australia jumped all over this and continue to do so. Louis Cameron posted a story on the Cricket Australia website where he bemoaned the lack of depth in short-form cricket.

He wrote: “Consider that a second-string England ODI side swept Pakistan this month”, which is almost the same words as a number of other pundits used in recent days when comparing England’s series win with Australia’s series loss.

Aaron Finch after being dismissed

(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

For the record, I fail to see the comparison between an England 50-over team, playing at home, which still had plenty of experience playing ODIs, versus an Australian T20 team, playing in July in the West Indies, but anyway…

The big issue for many people is whether Australia has an issue with depth in short-form cricket, so I’ve put together my second-string XI. My team is one I’d want playing in the 50-over format, though I’m confident it would not be disgraced if it had to play T20 cricket.

I’ve assumed the following players would be in our best ODI XI.
Dave Warner
Aaron Finch
Marnus Labuschagne
Steve Smith
Glenn Maxwell
Mitch Marsh
Alex Carey
Mitchell Starc
Pat Cummins
Adam Zampa
Josh Hazlewood

I’ve also given them a 12th man, Marcus Stoinis, mostly because he seems to play a lot of short-form cricket for Australia and I presume he is a Justin Langer favourite.

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My second-string XI is as follows.
Daniel Hughes
Josh Philippe
Usman Khawaja
Travis Head
Josh Inglis
Cameron Green
Sean Abbott
Ashton Agar
Michael Neser
Jhye Richardson
Mitchell Swepson

Ashton Agar

(Photo by Mark Brake – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

The other player making up my squad is James Pattinson.

The first thing I want in any short-format squad is versatility. That is, where possible, I want guys who can both bat and bowl, or in the case of Inglis and Philippe, bat and keep.

This side bats down to number ten and it’s a handy side when the number nine has both a first-class hundred and a List A hundred to his name, while the player batting ten has a strike rate of 86.

The versatility doesn’t stop with the ability to bat. This side contains six genuine bowlers, four quicks, a left-arm leggie and a right-arm leggie. Travis Head is also not the worst with the ball and he could easily come on for a few overs mid-innings and give away only five or six runs per over.

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If this side were playing in Perth or Brisbane, James Pattinson would come in, most likely at the expense of Ashton Agar and the team would lose little in terms of batting, but gain plenty in terms of raw pace and aggression.

I’m not fussed about silly things like age. Daniel Hughes is 32 and is one of the best one-day openers not to have played for Australia.

He averages 56.88 and strikes at 87.25. He also knows how to bat long, scoring six hundreds (with a top score of 152) and seven fifties in 30 List A games. He’s the sort of player teams can and do build big totals around.

Josh Philippe is a young, exciting hitter who has a real future at the top of the order in white-ball cricket. He’s not had the greatest start to his international career, but with the right coach (Ricky Ponting) to mentor him, he’s the future of the game when Warner and Finch call it quits.

Josh Philippe bats

(Photo by Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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The other piece of silliness I don’t understand is why Usman Khawaja is not mentioned more often in both white-ball formats. He’s a very capable ODI player as an average of 42 and a strike rate of 84 would suggest. He’s also shown he can score quickly with a strike rate around 130 in the T20 format.

Khawaja would also captain this team. I like what I’ve seen of his captaincy for Queensland and I am sure he’d be able to step up if asked.

Travis Head is another who is rarely in the conversation when white-ball teams are discussed. Again, I have no idea why, when he strikes at better than 90 in ODI cricket and over 130 in T20s.

Josh Inglis will play for Australia in all three formats, hopefully sooner rather than later.

He is both a very good wicketkeeper and an excellent hitter, striking at 110 in ODI cricket and better than 150 in T20s. More importantly, he averages better than 30 in both formats, which suggests he’s going to be a regular contributor to the team, rather than a hit-or-miss player, who scores well one match, then nothing for a few games.

Cameron Green has a great future as a finisher in ODI, which is why he’s in the order below Inglis. That said, either could easily move up to three or four if the top order got this side away to a flyer.

Green has an excellent technique, which means he can either bat steadily if required, or hit, as we saw after he scored his maiden Test 50.

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The nice thing about this batting line-up is the versatility. In white-ball cricket, players need to be capable of batting higher or lower in the order, depending on the circumstances of the game.

In a similar vein, guys need to be able to bat steadily or hit and with this line-up, there are plenty of batsmen who can do both.

One final point: this is a very good fielding side with lots of good catchers for the early overs, a pair of excellent wicketkeepers and some very good throwing arms.

This XII suggests to me the issue in Australia is not about the depth of playing talent, but about who is or is not being considered for selection.

There are three players – Hughes, Khawaja and Head – all good enough to play at least ODI cricket for Australia. Khawaja’s been on the outer since the last ODI World Cup in 2019, Head for even longer and Hughes has not played at all.

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Bear in mind too the players who have been left out: Jason Behrendorff, Riley Meredith, Moises Henriques, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Peter Handscomb, Billy Stanlake and Nathan Lyon.

This is a strong, well-rounded team that would take some beating if it came up against international opposition.

It puts to bed the myth that Australian white-ball cricket lacks depth.

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