Almanac Cricket: What next for Australia?

WHAT NEXT FOR AUSTRALIA?

 

With the six Test series now done and dusted for the Australia XI what can SPD Smith and his merry men expect for the next series against India?

 

A reflection of what has occurred over the last three months might have some answers but only some.

 

Go back to mid-November and Australian cricket had reached rock bottom. You only had to read what The Knackers wrote in that time to realize “how low can you go”.

 

From James Sutherland to Frank D the security man it looked like a 21st century French Revolution. The only one to lose his head was chairman of selectors Rod Marsh and he went before the guillotine fell.  Many wanted to see the High Performance boss Pat Howard to go but he escaped by eating cake.

 

SPD Smith had had enough by the end of the Hobart debacle and said so.  It was to be the coming-of-age of the tyro skipper.  He had carried the side but decided that some of the other culprits needed to lift that weight.

 

“I want men about me who can rise to the occasion” would have been his silent prayer.

 

By the end of the sixth test  21 players had come and gone through the turnstiles but we (the aficionados) are still none the wiser as to who will go to India for the four test series against Kohli’s Killers.

 

If the selectors and Cricket Australia read and heard the comments of the media they would probably think it would be much better to cancel the tour and put some more money into the coffers of the BBL.

 

I don’t think too much should be written into the performance of the team since the Hobart Tsunami. South Africa and Lollygate and a Pakistani team that yearns for home were not great opponents overall in those four tests.  Particularly when two of them were Pinky Games and their opponents where a bit behind the eight-ball in that format.

 

However let us analyze the players and them a report card for their school work over the past 3 months:-

  • A-   STEVE SMITH  when given the reins took control of the sinking ship and led by example. Still relies too much on Starc and Hazlewood to get the team out of trouble but is looking more positive with each new challenge

   DAVID WARNER played some of the greatest innings ever seen but also played a couple of shockers.  Who will forget Hobart?  Can win a game by himself.

 

  • B-  USMAN KHAWAJA rightfully cemented his place in the team despite a couple of easy dismissals. Has the ability to look so casual that people forget what an outstanding stroke maker he is.

A+  JOSH HAZLEWOOD came of age with an outstanding series of “McGrath-like” performances. So hard to get away and a perfect foil for Starc.

 

B  MITCHELL STARC  started the series as the number 1 strike bowler but was worn out by the end. Smith put a heavy load on him. Still performed admirably.

 

C  NATHAN LYON used sparingly by Smith (was it his choice?) but still is the number one spinner in the country. Very expensive at times.

 

The above six players played in all Test matches.

 

A+ PETER HANDSCOMB the find of the series. Batted superbly and fielded brilliantly in many positions. Hope the selectors do not give him the gloves.  Outstanding in every aspect.

 

B MATTHEW RENSHAW  a perfect foil for Warner. Only 20 years of age and still learning the game. Great slipper. Will keep getting better with more experience.

 

C+ JACKSON BIRD backed up the opening attack very well when given the chance. Costly error by selectors in not playing him in Hobart. Outstanding in the field in the final match.

 

  • MATTHEW WADE when given the chance did not secure his position as number 1 keeper. Missed too many chances. Batting lacked opportunities but still did not impress.

C  PETER NEVILL a victim of poor selection because he did not make runs. Much better keeper than Wade and deserved better

 

D MITCH MARSH selectors were hoping that he would fill the number 6 spot with both bat and ball  but failed again. Looks promising but goes no further

 

D NIC MADDINSON did not make the most of his opportunities but was the victim of circumstances on some occasions. Will be back.

 

C HILTON CARTWRIGHT a surprise selection as an all-rounder showed promise with the bat but was not given a chance by Smith to show his ability with the ball.

 

C SHAUN MARSH once again injury cost him his place in the team. Unlucky not to force his way back but still capable of being in the best team

 

D JOE BURNS lucky to be selected after a poor tour of Sri Lanka. Failed again and has dropped well back in the pack for selection.

 

C PETER SIDDLE the veteran fast bowler injured himself in the first test after a promising start and has failed to appear since.  His future appears limited although the desire is there.

 

D JOE MENNIE a surprise selection in Hobart that failed.

 

D CAMERON FERGUSON a long-awaited selection for the stylish Croweater but he did not perform and was pushed aside for younger players.

 

C STEVE O’KEEFE came in for the Sydney test after an injury ridden season.  Bowled well in taking four wickets.

 

Given my rationale that C+ means a certainty for India then only eight players have reached those criteria. Selectors will be burning the candle at both ends to pick the “right” team.

 

The certainties are:-  Smith, Warner, Khawaja, Hazlewood, Starc, Handscomb, Renshaw and Bird.

 

If there are 15 to be selected I would add the following although it won’t be the case as I believe they should pick some-one from left field for this tour. Having been there under the Arthur Clarke led team this is a tough tour and you must do your homework before hand not when you get there.

 

So my final 15 are:

S.Smith (Capt)

D.Warner  (VC)

U.Khawaja

J.Hazlewood

M.Starc

P.Handscomb

M.Renshaw

J.Bird

P.Nevill

S.Marsh

N.Lyon

P.Cummins

S.O’Keefe  or  A.Zampa  although I would pick A.Fawad (the only spinner capable of beating the bat)

T.Head

H.Cartwright

 

Whoever the 15 finally are there are sure to be a couple of surprises.

 

 

About Bob Utber

At 75 years of age, 'Citrus Bob' Utber is doing what he wanted to do as a 14-year old: writing, talking and watching sport. How good is that!?! He lives in Mildura with his wife and 'furry kids'; a labradoodle "Freddy Flintoff" and a groodle named "Chloe on Flinders".

Comments

  1. Peter Warrington says:

    Thanks Bob pretty balanced analysis.

    It was amazing to hear Lehmann throw doubt on Renshaw’s selection. FFS he just cruised to 180 in the last test. Yet talking Maxwell up?! I don’t get it…

    (They should pick Watto. just for the romance. Has a ton, opening, in first innings of a series, in India. Ask Michael Clarke, he watched every ball closely. From the stands.)

    Agree with you on Fawad but they sat him in the stands for 7 away tests in places where we used to field multiple leggies. Like Theoden King, I wish for it but don’t see it.

    In terms of the revolving door at 6 etc, I think that’s sometimes a symptom of stability elsewhere. After WSC, G chappell, Border and Hughes played every home test up to end of 83-4, which was 28 tests. I think we used something like 9 different versions for the other slot – Hookes, Toohey, I Chappell, Walters, Yallop, Wellham, Dyson, Hookes and then Yallop again. (and this excludes the away selections, which saw Yallop and Hookes exchanging being dropped in 1980; T Chappell, Kent and Wellhem get a crack in 81; poor Greg ritchie who scored that great ton in Pakistan in 82).

    I think, perversely, that while Khawaja and Smith and Warner and now Handscomb make hay, they will feel a relative freedom to experiment and be fickle with the other slot.

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