Where to from here?
You don’t simply replace Ricky Ponting, so where does the Australian team go from here. It’s not simply going to be a matter of picking a new batsman for the squad – the batting order and team composition must surely be also up for grabs.
Where does the new batsman slot in?
Just about all the new batsmen introduced in recent history have been dropped in near the top of the order. Of those tried and then discarded Phil Hughes is really the only one that had any success. But not enough success to prevent him from being dropped as soon as his form dried up. Twice.
Hughes, Khawaja, Marsh and Quiney have all come and gone. All were ‘victims’ of the number three spot (Khawaja also spent a couple of games at number six as well). At this point it seems silly to continue drafting the new guys in at first drop – bring them in at five or six instead, let them move up the order as they mature as test cricketers just as many who have come before have had to do.
Shuffling to fit the replacement
In my option the newbie should bat at five, keep Hussey at six because of his experience batting with the tail – I made this same argument at the beginning of last summer as well. The means that I’d (reluctantly) push Clarke up to four to fill Punter’s spot and leave Watson at three.
There is an argument that your best batsman should come in at number 3, and for Australia that means it should be Clarke’s spot. However Watto wants to open, and with Warner and Cowan set at least for the near future the closest he’s going to get it at first drop. The reason I’m reluctant for Clarke to shift higher up the order is simply because of the success he’s had batting at five – I wouldn’t want a move to 3 or 4 to jinx that in any way, but I’d rather he moved up to four than throw another fresh face in at the deep end.
So what are the options for replacement?
There are many options, but I suspect the selectors will be mainly looking at these three first. Importantly they could all slot into the batting lineup wherever the selectors wish.
He’s already had two cracks at test level so he’s know what’s expected – and what happens if you fail to meet those expectations. He also had a super run in county cricket during the Aussie winter and has been in good touch for South Australia so far this season – leading Shield run scorer, second in the Ryobi Cup. I don’t think he’s done enough to be back in Test contention just yet. He’s averaging 51 in Shield Cricket, but – like most contenders – only has the one 100 so far. Personally I think its more likely we’ll see him return to the international stage in coloured clothing (currently averaging 80 in the Ryobi Cup), especially if he has a good run the Big Bash League. And let’s not forget he’s only 24, his time will come (again). The selectors may very well disagree that he hasn’t yet earnt another chance, as I kind of suspect he’s the one they’ll lean towards – especially if they are looking at picking a number three (and shuffling Watto down to 4) as hinted by Mickey Arthur.
I’m a Khawaja fan, and I believe we’ll see him back in the team at some point. He’s certainly been going alright since he moved to Queensland in the off-season – third highest run scorer in both the Shield and Ryobi Cup so far this season. But like Hughes he’s already had a crack and fell out of favour when his form disappeared. Not sure selectors will go back to him yet, but wouldn’t be shocked or disappointed if they did.
The most recent guy to be given a go, unfortunately he didn’t have much luck. His two-test run was topped off by a pair in the Adelaide test. He was then dropped for Perth when Watson returned. If you were to go simply by “last out, first back in” then he’s a solid chance for Hobart. However the fact that he was actually dropped fro the squad and not just left out of the playing 11 for Perth makes me doubt his chances. Also I want him playing for the Stars in the BBL, and he can’t do that if he’s back in the test side. Yeah, I’m selfish like that.
…what if the selectors pick someone a little more unexpected.
He’s the national T20 captain, but hasn’t scored a stack of Shield runs (only averaging 28 this year) when compared to the guys above. Probably a name that’s always on the fringe of selection talk, but I doubt he’s ahead of Quiney, Khawaja or Hughes in the pecking order.
Probably an outsider at best. Hasn’t played for Australia for almost 2 years, but he has runs in Shield cricket (2nd leading scorer) – but he’s had Shield runs in previous years too and never seems to get a look in.
Included only because he was a shock selection in the ODI side last summer and toured the West Indies as a back-up batsman earlier in the year. But he’s having an ordinary Shield season (averaging 16) so if his is the name read out for Hobart everyone will be surprised.
I know pretty much nothing about Doolan but his name keeps getting mentioned. He’s averaging 58 in Shield cricket this year, and scored 161* batting at 6 for Australia A against the South Africans a month ago – and he’s from Launceston like the guy they’re trying to replace…
This ones a complete speculator, no list is complete without a random name. Let’s assume John Hastings doesn’t become a permanent fixture in the side once all the ‘preferred’ bowlers return and, rather than look for a number 3, the selectors go looking for a lower order bat who can share bowling duties with Watson. Probably wouldn’t be seen as a long term option though.
If I were a betting man I’d say they’ll go with Hughes. But I’m not a betting man, or a selector, so take that as you will.