Sixteen healthy and hearty men have been picked to vanquish the English for this year’s Ashes. While the squad has no real surprises, no one can believe that the selectors are taking a team with only six specialist batsmen in a squad of 16. With no spare batsmen travelling, Shane Watson with his Test batting average of 19 and his soft tissue made of fairy floss will be the only back up batsman.
This is all fine if the two debutants (Marcus North and Phillip Hughes) continue their South African form, no batsman gets injured and Michael Hussey suddenly relearns the art of making actual Test match runs. If by the Third Test Michael Hussey still hasn’t found a run, is replaced by Watson, and in the warm up Michael Clarke trips a training ball (ala Glenn McGrath) Australia will find themselves with the worst top six for a long time. Watson at five, McDonald at six gives us a lot of options in the field, but will place Australia in a tough predicamnet once our third wicket falls.
The argument that there is no back up batsmen can’t really be made: Brad Hodge, Callum Ferguson, Andrew Symonds, Chris Rogers, and Michael Klinger could have all filled that void based on either form, history or talent. The first three are all contracted Australian players, the second two the leading run scorers in Sheffield Shield cricket last year. Either Nathan Hauritz or Andrew McDonald could have made way without too many tears from supporters.
While the batsmen are not going to get injured or lose form, the one wicket keeper might, so Graham Manou was picked. He was the only player that sent English cricket journalists searching the internet to find out who the hell he was. In the old days he may have been a bolter, but with his shiny new Cricket Australia contract only a few weeks old his spot in the squad as Haddin’s understudy was expected.
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And then there’s the bowlers: Bryce McGain took his name out of the ring by making his memorable debut. Brett Lee and Stuart Clark are now fit, so they will join the South Africa slayers of Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus. Being that the five of them might get tired, they have been sent a club spinner by the name of Nathan Hauritz. If you see Hauritz’s name in the final XI that might be the time to back against your team because it means the quicks couldn’t get the job done.
To round out our squad, pun intended, we have Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald as the all rounders. They are most probably fighting it out for the number eight slot, but if Australia go out and attack they should be carrying the drinks.
Andrew Symonds is obviously the biggest name to miss out on the squad, but Roy shouldn’t be too worried, this Ashes tour goes on forever, and what are the chances that Shane Watson will last the whole tour? Brad Hodge shouldn’t worry either; if Roy does go over there then anything could happen.
The final squad looks like this: Ricky Ponting (Captain), Michael Clarke (Vice-Captain), Stuart Clark, Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Graham Manou, Andrew McDonald, Marcus North, Peter Siddle, Shane Watson.