For a team that could be number one in the world again come December, Australia’s team is far from settled.
The batting is fragile and inconsistent, with the only batsman really locked in at this stage are the skipper Clarke, Watson and Warner.
The top three is far from settled. Cowan needs some test runs early in the season to keep the wolves at bay. The team desperately needs him to fire as he offers a contrast to the swashbuckling style of Warner and Watson.
Warner, while having a great first season in test cricket, is yet to prove himself against the best. He will get that opportunity in the next eighteen months. His biggest test will come against the classy England new ball attack in their conditions.
Watson to my mind is not an opener or a number three. He should be at six where he can be best used as an all rounder, a bit like Jacques Kallis but not as good with either bat or ball. A strong character is needed at the top of the order and he does not really exude that in the way Warner or even Cowan does and the way Ricky did in the past.
There are plenty of calls for Ricky Ponting & Mike Hussey to retire or be dropped. They will retire at the end of the Ashes out here next summer but until then, unless they don’t make runs for a number of matches in a row, must stay in the side in their current positions in the batting line up. I will come to the reasons why I say this shortly.
Clarke is in the form of his life and our best batsman right now. Number five is his spot and he has to stay there. The only possible move for him is up to three if Watson was to slide further down the order, however he has tried to move up the order a couple of times before and it hasn’t worked.
The reason why Ponting and Hussey should not retire or be dropped is that there is nobody knocking down the door to replace them. Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh have all been tried and failed. Hughes and Khawaja will get another chance at some stage, however this would be better served post the Ashes.
Hughes has had a great season in English County Cricket and could be the back up batsman on tour. I am not convinced he is an opener and he certainly shouldn’t open with Warner or Watson. He could come back into the side and bat at three. Much for him will depend on how successful his move to Adelaide turns out.
A look through the stats for last season’s Sheffield Shield will tell you that there isn’t much coming through. The only batsman to make over 900 runs for the season were Cowan and Western Australia’s Liam Davis. There’s always the usual names brought up such as George Bailey, Callum Ferguson, David Hussey and Rob Quiney but these players have not been selected before so why would they be picked now.
They seem to like Peter Forrest and he averaged 58 in Shield cricket last season. He looks more suited to the longer form of the game and I believe the selectors did him a disservice by picking him for the one day team.
This brings us back to Ponting and Hussey. You don’t replace someone because they are old, you replace them when someone else is better.
We have a three way tussle for the wicketkeeper spot between Haddin, Wade and Paine. Haddin is past it and it’s time to move on to a younger player who is a better keeper and better batsman. Wade must stay with Paine as the reserve. A century in difficult conditions in his last test along with good keeping should be enough for him to stay and make Paine the unfortunate victim of circumstances with regards to his injuries.
My bet is however that they will go back to Haddin for the Gabba test against the South Africans.
Nathan Lyon has done nothing wrong and has become a good test spinner for Australia. He has the spot locked up at the moment and would only be dropped where four quicks are to be played. Michael Beer also offers variety with his left arm orthodox and is the second spinner.
The fast bowling stocks are plentiful at the moment. Any of Harris, Hilfenhaus, Siddle, Pattinson, Cummins or Starc would make a good attack. Add to that promising youngsters such as Jackson Bird, Ben Cutting, Josh Hazlewood and Allister McDermott and the future is bright.
One name missed off the list is Mitchell Johnson. In my opinion he is too inconsistent and has had his chance.
With all that said my side for the start of the next series would be as follows.
1. David Warner
2. Ed Cowan
3. Shane Watson
4. Ricky Ponting
5. Micheal Clarke
6. Mike Hussey
7. Matthew Wade
8. James Pattinson
9. Ryan Harris
10. Ben Hifenhuas
11. Nathan Lyon
Let me know what you think.