Ryobi cup done and dusted. ODI series against India lost. First round of Sheffield Shield matches in the books. So how we looking?
Firstly, the 50 over stocks are looking great for our matches against England in a couple of months. Finch and Hughes looked promising but ultimately failed to cement their places in India while Michael Klinger and Dave Warner have done tremendously at home. Look for a straight swap at the top there.
Watson will be there as always if fit, one century redeemed his otherwise poor series, but he's undroppable with what he brings with his bowling. Matt Wade and to a lesser extent Tim Paine did everything right in putting pressure on Brad Haddin, who pretty much did nothing right in India unfortunately, so could see a straight swap there too.
Clarke will come in for Maxwell who's showing some potential as a limited over specialist batsman and showing absolutely no potential at all with the ball. Bailey and Voges pick themselves with unbeatable averages so far in their ODI careers.
Of course there's the possibility looming that Clarke and Watson will have to stop playing the shorter format, or perhaps in Watsons case, stop playing the longer format. If that's the case, there are heaps of contenders to replace them.
Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja & Cameron White will all be licking their lips if Pup decides to call it a day, which he's given no indication that he will. Who knows what becomes of Shane Watson's latest injury, sooner or later he seems destined to either become a specialist batsmen, or retire from one form of the game or be done alltogether. Whichever way it plays out, Watson as only a batsman is replaceable, and Shaun Marsh did everything he could to remind the selectors he's about. Steve Smith, Rob Quiney, Chris Lynn & Tom Cooper all did well too.
There needs to be official second XI's in all formats of cricket. We've seen the controversies about England not giving Australia adequate oppositions for their warm up matches as well as all kinds of question marks about how players are picked. An official second XI would resolve both problems, as well as bring up another couple of interesting situations.
A decade ago, Australia's second XI test squad probably would have beaten every other test nation in the world most times. So why not allow them to compete? If a nation's good enough to field two sides in the competition then let them. Australia's ODI second XI is easily picked at the moment, it looks like this for the batsmen:
Klinger Warner Marsh White Smith Khawaja Wade
Australias bowling stocks have rarely been higher too. A test second XI would allow players the caliber of Mark Cosgrove, Alex Doolan, Michael Klinger, as well as bowlers like Luke Butterworth, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus to actually continue their careers against international players, not just other second XI's either, actual official test matches.
We already have a tiered system. The number one team isn't going to be play five test series against the Netherlands, but why couldn't an Australia second or third team be playing against them. Heck if they're good enough they can play against anyone if they get high enough in the rankings. Why not?
It's too late (probably) for Brad Hodge. Simon Katich would still make the side, heck he'd probably still make the first team, but at least he had a very good test career if not as long as we'd all have liked it to have been. But imagine how many Jamie Cox's and Darren Berry's and Stuart Law's and Martin Love's would have loved to have played for Australia A and had their chance to have great test careers even if they never made the top team. Mark Cosgrove is languishing, Steve O'Keefe seems to have pissed someone off, Michael Klinger never even got a test. David Hussey the same.
Anyway, back to the Shield. There should be three spots open to debate. We know Mitchell Johnson's in, so Nathan Lyon's the only bowling position as always never quite cemented. Fawad Ahmed finally came good with a 6fer. Steve O'Keefe outbowled Nathan Lyon for NSW, not by much, but if he does that every game, how do you pick Lyon for the test team?
In the test squad, I'd like to think Dave Warner's spot is still up for grabs, and there's the number 6 spot. Marcus North is leading the race for the opener spot after one match, but you'd think Phil Hughes would be preferred over him, and Mark Cosgrove hasn't got a hit yet. Ed Cowan and Dave Warner both failed, while Michael Klinger got a half century.
Tom Cooper had the biggest century of the round after impressing in the Ryobi Cup. Alex Doolan hit a very timely ton against NSW batting at 3 especially considering Shane Watsons latest injury scare. George Bailey's is heavily rumoured to be picked for the test squad despite being Tasmania's fourth or fifth best batsmen and averaging 18 last summer. Peter Forrest also hit a ton.
Warner will probably be retained for the test squad regardless, and if Watson's available he'll play coming off his 173 in his previous Test. But you never know, if Warner fails in the four innings he's got left before the first test, then you've got Klinger, Cowan, Cosgrove, North and Phil Hughes breathing down his neck. Not to mention Rob Quiney's doing well again it seems and opening now.
For middle order players should Watson or Clarke miss out, Cameron White seems to unable to avoid getting half centuries at the moment but needs to convert a couple. Alex Doolan was the fifth best bat last summer going round after Ponting, Hughes, Haddin & Rogers and couldn't have started any better with a fine match winning century. Tom Cooper is getting his name out there but he will have to do a lot having not done too much so far in his first class career. Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh & Matt Wade failed in the first round.
Of course none of this matters, John Inverarity made the simply amazing statement that the teams already picked. Mind blowing stuff given we just lost to India 0-4 and to England 0-3, not to mention how disheartening that must be to players playing Shield, or even as an anti promotional message for anyone bothering to follow the Shield anyway. These are supposed to be nail biting play offs for spots in the beleaguered Test squad that can't win a game, instead Sutherland's job is secure if the Aussies lose 0-5 apparently, and the Shield performances don't count for shit. Heads surely have to be rolling soon with these seemingly incompetent hacks at the helm of a constantly losing side?
The fact that James Faulkner, Tasmania's 3rd best bowler who bats at 8 or even 9 for Tasmania is playing as yet another allrounder batting at 7 for Australia, or that George Bailey's one day form counts for anything considering his averaging 18 last summer in first class cricket. Faulkner's a very good bowler, who can bat a bit, but do we want a top ten bowler who can bat a bit or a top four bowler who can't bat at all? He's obviously a top option for one day cricket, but for the tests?
As for George Bailey, his seemingly inevitable selection reminds a lot of Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques earlier this year. Guys who do alright in limited over cricket being picked on that basis, and failing to impress while we fail to win matches. Ponting said the Argus report was a load of bollocks and so far they seem to have done nothing to follow any of the suggestions, chiefly that runs in the Shield are what get you picked for the test team.
So the team for the first test will probably be the exact same one that didn't win the last test in England except for Johnson. Steve O'Keefe will miss out no matter what he does, and Faulkner will leave us with only five batsmen and Brad Haddin in a side that already has five bowlers and Steve Smith and one where Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson can wag as good as any tail in the history of the game. Hell even Nathan Lyon's been sticking around, not to mention Steve O'Keefe, again, who's about as good a batsman as Faulkner.
I'll do another round up after the next round of first class matches regardless. Geez John even puts the kabosh on bloggers who want to speculate on the make up of the team. What a cock.