More headaches for the Australian selectors (whoever they are these days)

 

Here we are on the verge of another Test series and selection issues are probably clouding the thinking of Michael Clarke and other important decision-makers in the Australian set-up. Khawaja or Marsh, Siddle or Copeland, one or two spinners? How can we be so uncertain of our best XI when we’ve had nearly nine months to work it out?

From all indications Peter Siddle looks to be on shaky ground, and for me that doesn’t quite sit well. Yes his figures in the tour match were unflattering, but isn’t he the only Australian bowler who played every Ashes Test last summer, the bloke who kick-started the series in such memorable fashion in Brisbane with a hat-trick, and who bowled his heart out in taking 6 wickets in the Boxing Day Test?

Apparently it all counts for nothing now. Mitchell Johnson gets the automatic start which is the due of any leader of a bowling pack – the only problem is he doesn’t like leading  –  Ryan Harris is an automatic start despite the fact that his body keeps letting him down, and Trent Copeland’s economy is just the thing we’ve been missing while Mitch has been flinging them everywhere in recent years.

Form is important, of course, and if Siddle is bowling badly because he’s short of a gallop the question has to be asked  …why? Why wasn’t enough meaningful cricket pumped into his willing body during the winter months  –   anywhere, anyhow?

Khawaja’s 37 in Sydney was the most heralded 37 in Test history but until last Friday young Usman had hardly made a run in Australia, England and Zimbabwe since. His battle with Marsh for the no.6 spot is intriguing :  you could argue the case for either  –   that Marsh’s time has come or that Khawaja is the incumbent  –   but it is all conjecture.

Did Khawaja open in the tour match because the selectors wanted him to have maximum time at the crease, or was Marsh used down the order because they wanted to simulate his batting position in today’s Test? Is it better to practise beginning your innings against spin if that’s what your job is going to be, or are any runs good runs? We will see.

Then there’s that damn spin-bowling itch. Whichever way we look at it, our spin bowling responsibilities over the coming month are going to be carried by a bloke who’s played one Test, or anothe who has played four Shield matches, or both. As much as Beery is a player with good temperament, and as much a fairytale as Lyon’s story is, it’s a lot of pressure.

Yet despite all these concerns, there is no doubt that Clarke and his troops are upbeat and with every chance of playing well. Their win in the one-day series was quite emphatic, and the two most important points to emerge  –  that good pace can unsettle the Sri Lankans, and that spin mysteries can be unravelled with good planning in the longer forms of the game  –  were well and truly on display from Clarke and his most senior teammates.

The Aussies will make plenty of runs. Clarke and Ponting seem to have their mojo back, Watson is a star, and the Sri Lankan attack is much the poorer with Malinga no longer playing Test cricket. But whether we have the bowlers to break the back of the Sri Lankan batting in hot and unhelpful conditions remains to be seen. Recent evidence would say no.

Comments

  1. Australia XI for Galle: 1 Shane Watson, 2 Phil Hughes, 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Usman Khawaja, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Trent Copeland, 10 Ryan Harris, 11 Nathan Lyon. (12th man – Michael Beer)

    Just named BM!

    I have only seen Lyon a couple of times and while he looked OK it’s a big ask for such an inexperienced spinner.

    The whole team still feels odd. A bit like those Tony Dell/Ross Duncan/Froggy Thompson days of the early 70s, until DK came along. They were all good bowlers in their own right, and deserved success at Shield level, but weren’t quite there at the next.

  2. The team has about as much traction as a slick tyre on axle grease.
    Might as well give up on the summer already.

  3. What about Beer as 12th? Poor fielder. Corny gag as a drinks waiter.

  4. John Butler says

    Brendan, that’s a pretty neat summary of the last 2 year’s selections.

    Nothing resolved. All still up for grabs. What criteria matters?

    A continually moving feast.

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