Australia’s All-Rounder Obsession: The alternative options
Australia is on the search for yet another star all-rounder, or at least that is what the recent selection of Hilton Cartwright to bat at 6 suggests. However, despite a solid debut, Cartwright’s selection has left fans confused about Cricket Australia’s obsession with selecting an all-rounder to fill the batting order. Cartwright became the 6th all-rounder to debut for Australia in the last 4 years (7 if Agar is included) with Shane Watson a regular in the side, despite constant speculation of his worth, during this time. Having tried so many without any desired success the question must now be asked: should Australia give up on its quest for a star all-rounder?
Although Cartwright’s performance on debut with the bat was sound, a mere 4 overs across 2 innings does not bode well for his long-term future in the side as an all-rounder. Should his batting begin to fail him the Australian selectors should look to add a specialist into the side. This could be a batsman to shore up the order or a 5th bowler to add to the attack. Here are the players who should be considered for the position. (With Jackson Bird and Stephen O’Keefe already battling for a spot in the side they have been excluded from the list).
The addition of a specialist batsman to the side provides a security the test team has lacked in recent years. Given Australia’s tendency to fall victim to batting collapses, here are 5 batsman who could potentially solidify the lineup coming in at 6.
Bailey has had a tough time on the international circuit of late, however, his Sheffield Shield form has been sensational. Averaging above 60 for the Shield season and having experience around the Australian side, Bailey could be the mature head needed to help guide the young batsman beginning their time in the side.
Burns is young but also experienced in the Test arena and while preferring to be an opener he has batted down the order for Australia before. Despite being in a form slump lately, Burns averages almost 40 in Test cricket and is a proven performer at the top level. He also fits the age demographic of the current Test side.
Perhaps one of the brightest young cricketers in the country it is a mystery to most how Head is still yet to make his Test debut. Despite an average in the mid 30’s Head is in form and capable of making big scores. Alongside his batting talent, he is also a very handy part time spinner and has recently worked his way into the side for the shorter forms of the game giving him international experience to support his claim.
Despite making a name for himself in the Big Bash, Lynn has an outstanding record in Shield cricket as well which often goes unrecognised. Averaging a touch under 45 in his first-class career he is a proven performer in the longest form of the game and is capable to playing the role of a late order hitter should the situation arise. With one of the best Shield records in the country his performance speaks for itself.
Turner has burst onto the Shield scene in 2016 scoring 429 runs at an average of above 70. The bright young talent has scored 2 centuries in his 4 matches bringing his first class average up close to 40. Ashton’s hopes of making the team rely on him continuing his form through this season and perhaps even into next.
Given Australia’s desire for the wicket keeper to also be a specialist batsman, it is not necessarily out of the question to move the keeper up to 6 and include an extra bowler into the Test XI. This selection option has even more merit, given the strengthened batting order since the inclusions of Renshaw and Hanscomb. Here are the 5 bowlers that Australia could consider to replace Cartwright.
Cummins return from injury has been slow and stunted, but his form in the Big Bash has excited fans across the country. Cummins has pace and an ability to take critical wickets. Having proven he can play at that level in his one Test and shown significant improvement with the bat, a Cummins inclusion could be a good one for both the bat and ball.
Despite being out of form since his return from injury, there is no doubt that Pattinson is one of the most dangerous bowlers in world cricket. A genuine wicket taker with pace and a strong Test record behind him when Pattinson is switched on there isn’t a batsman in the world who would want to face him.
Sayers was on the verge of making his debut for Australia this summer through consistent strong performances but was pipped for a spot on each occasion. Able to swing the ball a long way and slow down the run rate, Sayers bowling style would perfectly complement the control of Hazlewood and erratic nature of Starc in the Test arena. The leading wicket taker in Shield cricket, Sayers is in fantastic form that would surely be carried into the Test arena.
Swepson is a mostly unknown young spinner with an ability to take wickets without going for too many runs. Although largely inexperienced he has maintained a solid average of 32 in his 14 matches. His legspin bowling will compliment Nathan Lyon’s offspin and provides captain Steve Smith with multiple different options to mix up the attack and unsettle the batsman.
Tremain is another player who has performed strongly in the current Shield season to push for selection. Although not commonly talked about as a potential Test player, Tremain has bowled himself to 27 wickets in the shield season (second in the competition) at an average of 17.5. With form on his side, his slower pace could disrupt opposition batsman from the lightning pace of the rest of Australia’s attack.