Ashes 2009 – The Australian Touring Party . . .
Does anyone else feel that the Australian selectors have taken a ‘if we pick a safe team, we’ll probably win’ approach?? Where is the spark? Where are the ‘X Factors’ apart from Mitchell Johnson (left)? Let’s break down the squad and see if we can’t find an Aussie win.
First we’ll analyse the likely first test line-up:
1. Phillip Hughes – an exiting prospect, and could well be a Hayden-ready replacement. But, so inexperienced! Yes, he had a fantastic series in South Africa, and he’s impressed mightily in the County Championship, but the Ashes are a serious test. A lot will depend on which opening bowlers England select, but Hughes does have a lot of upside.
2. Simon Katich – The guy you need to balance the attack-minded Aussie top order. Katich is a really gritty player, and could well provide some valuable innings. But, I can’t see him turning a match. I can’t see him wrestling momentum back from the other team.
3. Ricky Ponting – This will probably be Punter’s last Ashes series, and there’s no doubt he’ll want to go out with a bang. I guess the big question is whether he can take the pressure. Unlike any other Ashes he has played, this series he is the absolute key. No more Steve Waugh, Matty Hayden, Shane Warne or Glenn McGrath to provide that real leadership, Ponting is now the most crucial player for the Aussies. He’s been showing a little bit of weakness in his batting lately, which he’ll have to turn around fast. If Punter doesn’t perform, watch out Australia.
4. Michael Clarke – I don’t really know what to say about Clarke. He’s a damn good player, but I don’t know if he’s really the man to save the Aussies in a drastic situation. He’s considered the best player of spin in the team, but recent form wouldn’t necessarily show it. He is however, a very attacking player, and on his day could rip a game apart, with bat or ball.
5. Mike Hussey – I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he’s damn lucky to be here! What a run of outs! You simply have to pick him though. More than anything Hussey is important because he is the only player other than Katich who can really bunker down to a long innings. The other batsmen live or die on their stroke play, and therefore Katich and Hussey are vital counter-balances to that attacking streak in the team.
6. Shane Watson – Watson still has a heap to prove, but I feel you have to pick him in the first test. He’s the only attacking option in the all-rounder stakes for the Aussies. He could be the difference with the ball or bat and you have to give him a chance. If he fails in the first test, and the Aussies get thumped, watch how quickly the selectors a. drop him and b. pick one of the ‘safer’ all-rounder options.
7. Brad Haddin – Probably one of the best performing Aussie players of recent times, Haddin has managed to step into BIG shoes without any kind of chip on his shoulder. A dashing batsmen and a fairly good gloveman, he can provide handy runs for the team if they get in early trouble.
8. Mitch Johnson – I guess Mitch is the ‘X Factor’. Can he keep it up? It was vital that he has had that rest, and now he has to perform BIG TIME! Like Ponting, if Mitch fails, bye bye Ashes!!
9. Nathan ‘Hurricane’ Hauritz – There is some conjecture that the Aussies won’t play a specialist spinner in the first test, instead turning to Marcus North. I think that they’d be stupid to even consider that. However that said ‘Hurricane’ doesn’t exactly excite me out of my winter slumber. Gee, what a boringly safe choice for our ONLY spinner he is. Where is the attacking option? This is particularly an odd choice seeing as England are likely to produce pitches that turn to assist Graeme Swann (and possibly Monty Panesar as well)
10. Ben Hilfenhaus – They simply have to pick Hilfenhaus. They need his swing. Again, he is very un-tested, but in England you have to pick a swinger. He may not work, and then you can fall back on your more experienced reserves, but the Aussies have to back their youth and give him a go.
11. Stuart Clark – Ponting loves Clark and although that didn’t get Andrew Symonds on the tour, it will get Clark picked. He’s got a proven track record, and never really fell out of form. He and Hauritz will bowl a lot of overs, and provide run-stopping measures, whilst Ponting rotates the more attacking Hilfenhaus and Johnson from the other end.
– Marcus North – Really there in case they want to bowl four quicks. He will give a spinning option. Also handy if a batsmen gets injured. But I feel that he is probably not efficient enough at either.
– Peter Siddle – A very handy back up to have. I feel that there probably isn’t room for both he and Clark in the side, unless they decide to play four quicks. England pitches probably not going to suit him like the one’s in Australia and South Africa.
– Graham Manou – Back up keeper
– Andrew McDonald – I really like McDonald as a player, but unfortunately I think his selection shows how ‘safe’ the selectors have gone. There’s no problem having him there, but not as well as North. Yes, he is a different bowler, but he and North are fairly similar in that they’re not great at anything, just good at a range of things.
– Brett Lee – A lot of people will probably think that he’ll be picked for the first test, I’m not so sure. I just don’t know what he brings that the others don’t. He’s not express anymore, and he’s not as consistent as Clark or Siddle, nor does he swing it like Johnson or Hilfenhaus. I think the only way he’ll play is if there’s injuries, and even then I can’t see him worrying too many of England’s top order.
Looking over the squad there are some very sturdy and steady players there. Now, I don’t necessarily think that Andrew Symonds and Bryce McGain specifically should have been picked. But, you need some players like them. They might blow your chances; they might get hit for a lot of runs, or fail with the bat. But they can also turn a game, quick. I feel that this Aussie team is one that will do what it can, but will really be relying on the Poms to falter, which could well be a winning formula after all.
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