Fifth Test – Preview: Hughes or Khawaja – the selection Hokey Pokey

(to the tune of the Hokey Pokey)

You put Phil Hughes in

You take Khawaja out

You put Mitch Starc in

Hope he swings it all about

You switch the batting order

and you turn around

And that’s what it’s all about


The song remains the same, just who will play in the Australian test team. There’s a sad irony in the Almanac being able to run a competition to name the Australian batting order and having so many alternative suggestions proposed.

In the late 80s and through the 90s, we laughed at the England selection folly, with so many changes, unknown players coming in for a game or two to then be discarded, clearly unprepared or out of their depth for Test Cricket compared with seasoned Australian pros who in the lead up to a match didn’t have to worry about whether or not they’d play.

If Australia named an unchanged side for the Fifth Test, you wouldn’t be surprised. If Wade played as a batsman, or replaced Haddin, we wouldn’t fall down shocked.

Hughes or Khawaja, does it really matter? It’s like Melbourne debating whether they play Jack Watts forward or back. It’s the old Cold War line of two bald men arguing over a comb.

To be honest, if Simon Katich strode out to open tomorrow night, we’d do a major double take, but then settle in to some justification about why it wasn’t such a bad call.

Despite poor performances in the Tests occasionally forcing some changes, the limited 4 and 2 day cricket outside of the Tests hasn’t given players major opportunities to prove their worth.

And when we have had that chance, opportunities haven’t been taken. No 50s in the recent 2 day practice match, and Faulkner and Wade will have to satisfy themselves that they showed form but won’t be near selection.

Whether Australia is seeking to gain some sort of weird last minute surprise or advantage by keeping the final 11 so under wraps in the lead up to a game remains to be seen. They tried it with Agar and it worked for an innings, but I seriously doubt that England either fears the various Australian options or hasn’t got some research on them.

And as to research, I imagine the days of John Buchanan’s detailed dossiers on opposing players are long gone with Andy Flower. The file on Watson probably reads, “Pitch in line when bowling to him. When batting, see him off for a few overs then he’ll break down”.

Hughes will probably come back for his 5th or 6th recall; the number has ceased to matter. He holds no fear for the English bowlers. Whether it is Khawaja or Hughes, Swann proved in the last Test he can dispense with bowling deliveries that actually turn and still pick up wickets.

What do to? Do you have a dress rehearsal for the 1st Test in October in Brisbane? Do you see how Faulkner goes? Do you change keepers? Do you decide that Rogers was only an English summer option? Do you tire of Watson, as he can’t bowl and isn’t showing batting form?

It takes mental preparation and ongoing mental fortitude to play Test cricket. Not knowing the morning of a Test if you are going to play or not cannot be good for your nerves or preparation. If it was based on a last minute pitch inspection, I could understand it. But it smacks of desperation.

So who plays tomorrow night? Who knows. The players probably don’t.

And that’s what it’s all about (sadly)

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. I would play Agar at 6 or 7 as an all rounder – seriously. It is an investment in the future, and he will score more runs and take more wickets than Watto today. Agar has a better technique than Smith, and a better temperament than Khawaja.
    I keep warming to Hughes at 3, but can you really be a test batsman with no footwork unable to play spin? He looks good against the quicks and then they just put Swann on. I can’t have Hughes because his weaknesses make him too vulnerable. The answer at 3 is …………………………………………..

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Sean, stay with Khawaja at 3 for stability?

  3. Andrew

    It’s a dilema isn’t it. I think the team needs to be settled, give people a go. When Steve Waugh started, we had a poor team and stuck with him for a while when he didn’t perform to expectations, rest is history. I think there’s definately a feeling with many in this side that every innings they are playing for their careers, and so panic sets in, as did with Hughes facing the spinners in India. They can’t perform when that hangs over them.

    Success breeds stability of course. If the Poms were losing Bairstow would be long gone and questions would be asked about Trott.

    On the other hand, I think Khawaja may have run out of chances. He’s probably only a Number 3 so can’t bat lower and his performmaces just don’t add up. I don’t see a burgeoning batsmen capable of mastering an attack just about to break free. Will he do better at home? Perhaps. In reality, a dead rubber and although 4-0 would suck, it’s probably where we are, so do you experiment or keep at it?

    It’s telling that if you drop Khawaja, you just bring in the bloke we dropped in the first place. Revolving doors

    So to answer your question, couldn’t hurt to give him another chance, and makes the same amount of sense to drop him. Who knows.


  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Whatever happens in the 5th Test there will be several changes before the Gabba Test where Boof can get his own team for the first time. I’d give Khawaja another shot in this game but just can’t see him making it. Time to give Doolan a go at 3.

    Miss those days Sean of the 90’s when we had a very settled, predictable top 6. With half a dozen others banging the door down with prolific Shield form. Hard to believe we’ve come to this.

  5. Luke

    Didn’t see Faulkner coming in but very pleased to see it happen.

    Yes, 1st Test team at Gabba will be very interesting.

    Seems our current options at 3 are Usman, Hughes and Watto, none that fill you with confidence.

    Trouble is there’s little if any Shiled form to base Gabba selection on. Aust A performances in SA now much more important.


  6. Sean,
    As much as I hate a keeper propping @6, the message is clear – no batsman deserves a cap so, thus, Faulkner (on the back of solid, disciplined 1st class form) gets promoted. Caps must be earned. With the squad selected, I’d open Warner and Watson and bat Rogers at 3 – he’s made thousands there at County level.
    Rogers is such a shock – sober character, sound technique, patient, experienced, 20000 1st class runs – who’d’ve thought? Didn’t even audition on a 2nd XI South African road! He and Harris have grit and determination – there’s not necessarily “another (pay) day” in the future, as the Mitch’s seem to assume!
    and…for the record, I’m tired of the Watto bashing. If he doesn’t measure up, drop him – but my old man used to bang on about Davo and I saw Botham cameos, all the while yearning for a “genuine” all-rounder. He’s the best we’ve had in my time.

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