The A Team

The curious case of selection and resting strikes again. With absolutely no disrespect to the guys that have been picked – because it’s still a good side, and I’m genuinely excited to see guys like Aaron Finch and Phil Hughes getting a run in the coloured clothing – Australia will be fielding what resembles an A-team in the first two One Day Internationals against Sri Lanka. It’s simply because of the names that are missing, and there are a few.

Before I get to the players themselves, I’m curious about to the timing of the ‘rests’. I think I’d be more comfortable playing a full strength side at the beginning of the ODI series and then resting players once we’ve got a couple of wins in the bag – rather than leaving us open to the possibility of being 0-2 down when the full-strength team returns. Then again, it wouldn’t matter what decision the selectors made, it would’ve upset someone.

The players that are being “rested” include Warner, Wade and Clarke. Watson is still injured and Pattinson will likely be back at some point but is still not 100%. The weird one though is Mike Hussey, following his retirement announcement it looks like they’ve just flat out dropped him because they’re “looking to the future”. They seem to have a weird view of the future.

In the absence of Clarke, Watson, Warner and Hussey, George Bailey will step into the ODI captains shoes which makes perfect sense as he’s already the leader of the T20 side. He’s also performed well in his appearances for the ODI side so far – I still believe he’s better suited to the ODI team than the T20 team – and is probably a serious option to be Mike Hussey’s permanent replacement as the dependable lower-middle order finisher in the side.

Clarke’s been rested to give his hamstring more time to heal which I think is reasonable given the importance of these one-day games in comparison to the test tours of India and England that are on the horizon. The resting of Warner however, who had four 50’s on the trot before snaring a duck in the second innings in Sydney, is crazy. The most recent two of those 50’s were 62 off 46 balls in Melbourne and 85 off 84 balls in Sydney – both of those seem to indicate a guy that would be in good short-game form – yes, he’s played every game for Australia for more than a year, but so what?

The exclusion of Mike Hussey just a week after he announced that he was retiring is simply cruel – regardless of the “future thinking”, when you’re already without Clarke, Watson, Warner and Wade you probably shouldn’t be dropping Huss. Do you think that if Hussey had saved his retirement announcement until after the ODIs that he would have instead been in this side? I sure do.

Speaking of “future thinking”, they’ve picked 35 year old Haddin to step back into Aussie colours to fill in for Wade. Resting Wade seems silly to begin with, but Hadds has only scored 88 runs in domestic one-day cricket this year and hasn’t really set the world on fire in the BBL. Meanwhile you’ve got Time Paine, who (before injuries got in the way) was next in-line to Haddin in all forms, he too hasn’t had a brilliant run in the Ryobi Cup, but has been in good recent form for the Hurricanes in the BBL. Then you’ve got Chris Hartley, who is equal fourth on the runs tally (and averaging 60) for the Ryobi Cup this season – oh, and the guys above him? Finch, Hughes, Khawaja and Hussey – yep, all selected. I would have gone with Paine, but Hartley is probably the one who has been hard done by.

The fast bowling picks also seems little odd. So far in the Ryobi Cup this year Cutting has 5 wickets at 48 and McKay has 3 wickets at 34 – hardly outstanding. Cutting does have 6 at 19 in the BBL, so that’s probably helped his case greatly. Kane Richardson who has taken 10 wickets at 17 in the Ryobi Cup – and 8 at 21 for the Strikers in the BBL – should feel very unlucky to have missed out on a team that’s “looking to the future”. The same could be said for Ben Laughlin who has 13 wickets at 13 in the BBL for the Hurricanes, and Nathan Coulter-Nile who is the leading Ryobi Cup wicket taker with 12 at 24.

Steve Smith’s return the to the national side is a curious one, presumably its not as an all-rounder as he doesn’t bowl all that often anymore. So, in that case if he’s been picked as a specialist batsman (he is after all averaging 66 in the Ryobi Cup this year), why was he picked above other options? For me I would have found somewhere for Shaun Marsh (opening with Finch, play Hughes at 3), he’s in great form right now leading the run tally in the BBL. Even Smith’s NSW teammate Scott Henry, 212 Ryobi Cup runs averaging 53, could have been an outside option.

Who will they leave out of the final 11? Well, the way things are going I wouldn’t be surprised if the two Mitchells are left carrying the drinks – you know, because they might be tired or some nonsense. But that would mean only 3 specialist bowlers with the remaining 20 overs to be shared between Maxwell, Hussey, Finch and Smith – something that I’m not sure would end well. If I were picking the playing eleven, and thank god I’m no, I’d be including Starc at the very least – most likely I’d also include Johnson, and have Smith and McKay carry the drinks.

The 13 that have been picked aren’t a bad team by any stretch, they just aren’t the ‘best’ team that Australia could have put onto the field and I still believe that the ‘best’ team is the team that should always be fielded whenever possible.

Squad of 13 for first two ODIs against Sri Lanka

George Bailey (capt), Ben Cutting, Xavier Doherty, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin (wk), Phillip Hughes, David Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc