In India, the winner of the Ranji Trophy plays a Rest of India XI in a five-dayer. If that idea was implemented in Australia as a permanent one-off five-dayer before the Sheffield Shield, how would that look?
As Queensland are the current champions of the Sheffield Shield, I have come up with teams for a Queensland-Rest of Australia XI clash.
Usman Khawaja (captain), Bryce Street, Marnus Labuschagne, Matthew Renshaw, Joe Burns, Jimmy Peirson (wicketkeeper), Jack Wildermuth, Michael Neser, Mitchell Swepson, Mark Steketee, Xavier Bartlett.
Opening the batting, I have chosen Usman Khawaja and Bryce Street. Khawaja seems the most comfortable as an opener in all formats of the game. He gets the freedom to set the tempo and some of his best innings of all time have come opening the batting.
Bryce Street is someone I see playing for Australia in the future, although he has to score at a strike rate over 40 to be in contention instead of scoring at a SR of 30-35. However, he is very good at blunting the new ball and that would be his job in this Queensland XI.
Rounding up the top four is Marnus Labuschagne and Matthew Renshaw. Labuschagne’s century in last season’s Shield final was one of the best hundreds I have seen in the Sheffield Shield. There are very few batsmen in Australia better than Labuschagne when facing the red cherry nowadays.
Matthew Renshaw had a productive 2020-21 Shield season and for Australia’s sake, he needs to continue this run-scoring fest to put pressure on the Aussie selectors.
At No.5 is Joe Burns. I feel Burns is suited to the middle order in all formats. In red-ball cricket, Burns looks a million bucks when facing an older ball compared to inconsistencies when opening up in first class cricket.
My keeper and No.6 is Jimmy Peirson. Peirson is developing into a handy wicketkeeper-batsman and runs in the early parts of the Shield may give him a case for being Tim Paine’s understudy for the Ashes.
Queensland like to play with five frontline bowlers, so I have gone with five bowlers in their XI as well. The four seamers are: Jack Wildermuth, Michael Neser, Xavier Bartlett and Mark Steketee.
Wildermuth, Neser and Steketee have been brilliant for Queensland in Shield cricket over the past few years, bowling tight lines and producing match-winning spells. Bartlett has only nine first class games to his belt, but he has shown good promise so far and has a long career ahead of him in Queensland colours.
Choosing the lone spinner was easy – none other than Mitchell Swepson.
Ultimately, the XI is very similar to the one from the 2020-21 Sheffield Shield final, with Steketee in this XI over Brendan Doggett, who has moved to South Australia.
When selecting the Rest of Australia XI, I did not include most of the Australian Test regulars, rather going mostly with Test hopefuls in most of the spots.
Rest of Australia XI
Marcus Harris, Will Pucovski, Shaun Marsh (captain), Cameron Green, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Josh Inglis (wicketkeeper), James Pattinson, Trent Copeland, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird.
It was tight between choosing Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris, but Harris has blossomed into an exceptional batsman for Victoria.
While he still needs to convert his starts at international level, Harris is in line to open in the Ashes if Will Pucovski misses out through injury, which makes perfect sense for Harris to open in the RoA XI. Pucovski is a hot prospect of Australian cricket and is a shoo-in to partner Harris.
I wanted some experience in the RoA XI, thus going ahead with Shaun Marsh at No.3 alongside being the skipper. He has been a great player for Western Australia and would stabilise an exciting top six.
At No.4 is Cameron Green. The leading run scorer of the 2020-21 Sheffield Shield season, Green has been a great find for Western Australia. He has aced it at domestic level and now he has rightfully earned the right to a prolonged chance at Test level for Australia. Easily good enough to bat in the top four at most first class teams.
To finish off the top six is Travis Head and Nic Maddinson. Both batsmen have been outstanding with the bat over the past few seasons and if Maddinson can reignite his 2018-early 2020 form for Victoria, he is in with a real chance of batting at No.5 against Afghanistan and for the Ashes.
I went ahead with Inglis as the keeper over Carey due to his glovework being rated higher than Carey and the strides Inglis has made in all formats over the past year. A serious prospect who will not be able to play much red-ball cricket before the Ashes, Inglis should take over from Tim Paine with the gloves once the Tasmanian calls it quits from Test cricket.
The bowling attack was easy to choose. James Pattinson, Jackson Bird and Trent Copeland have been the best seamers outside of Queensland in Shield cricket over the past decade.
And Nathan Lyon as spinner? Queensland’s batsmen have it tough ahead of them.
While this idea is unlikely to happen this season, I do believe the winners of the last Sheffield Shield versus the rest of Australia in a first class game should be implemented as a pre-season game before the Marsh Cup and Sheffield Shield begins from next year.