31 March 2013

Opinion: The Baggy Green Blog 2013 Ashes touring squad

The Baggy Green Blog 2013 Ashes touring squad (17 players):

1) Batsman - Michael Clarke (captain)
2) Batsman - David Warner
3) Batsman - Ed Cowan
4) Batsman - Chris Rogers
5) Batsman - Phillip Hughes
6) Batsman - Usman Khawaja
7) Batsman - Callum Ferguson
8) Wicket keeper - Brad Haddin
9) Wicket keeper - Matthew Wade
10) All-rounder - Shane Watson (selection as an all-rounder only)
11) All-rounder - James Faulkner
12) Fast bowler - Ryan Harris
13) Fast bowler - Ben Hilfenhaus
14) Fast bowler - James Pattinson
15) Fast bowler - Mitchell Starc
16) Fast bowler - Peter Siddle
17) Spin bowler - Nathan Lyon

*17 players toured for the 2005 Ashes series, 16 in 2009.

This is my 2013 Ashes squad to tour England. All I can say is good luck to the selectors! We have had so many debutants over the last few seasons that it's actually added to the madness. Some guys have shown potential, some have had bursts of promise, while others have been hanging around with sufficient input to warrant their selection, while not exactly being extraordinary. It's mostly like this on the batting front as it seems no-one is jumping around screaming for selection or a mammoth desire to play in the Ashes.

I see this tour as one to call upon balance, experience and medium term stability in terms of selection, as opposed to one of building a side for the long term. That will come naturally and should not be forced.

I have chosen my 17 man touring squad. Usually 16 men have been taken, but with Australia A playing over their shortly before our tour games begin, it will be another showcase to maybe keep additional players. This is of course a guess, but what I have done is looked back to the 2009 series where we had some slip ups and taken it into account with my selection.

One issue in 2009 was not having a reserve opening batsman. When Phillip Hughes was dropped, Shane Watson had to step up to open the batting. He did a good job, knuckling down and partnering Simon Katich in some good stands, but it wasn't a logical remedy. We missed a Chris Rogers or Brad Hodge. Phil Jaques was the most obvious candidate at the time but was out injured.

Therefore I have looked carefully at three factors for the reserve batsman. One, experience in the county circuit. Two, maturity within ones game, and three, someone who has shown solid form with some kind of international exposure.

The most logical player to me is Chris Rogers. It's not a long term solution but he's a credible batsman to help us add some experience, combat the English bowlers and regain the urn. He also has a Baggy Green cap.

Chris Rogers Sheffield Shield (2012/13): 17 innings, 742 runs, HS 131, Ave 49.46, x3 100s, x1 50
Chris Rogers county stats/ division 1 (2012): 29 innings, 1,086 runs, HS 173, Ave 40.22, x3 100s, x6 50s.

I am also over our selectors desperate pleas for exciting all-rounders. Mitch Marsh is, in my opinion, our best young all-rounder going around but has lacked first-class cricket since returning from injury. His return was ordinary and he is more suitable for limited overs cricket at this point in time.

In terms of all-round performance across Australia's state landscape, James Faulkner is the most promising player and I am certain he could perform really well in the English conditions. If Shane Watson cannot bowl, then James would be my all-rounder of choice, while sadly not taking Watto for the Ashes if he can only serve as a specialist batsman. I don't think he is suitable for this role and recent performances don't suggest otherwise. He also likely needs the two to go hand-in-hand for his own self-belief.

Two all-rounders max and Watson and Faulkner are my players of choice. Due to experience, Watson gets preference based on bowling and batting duties - not one or the other.

The rest of the batting line-up is tough. David Warner and Ed Cowan have made Test centuries and they've had some good opening stands. Both have made plenty of starts but have a handicap to carry on and convert. Both have had sufficient time in the middle but have certainly not looked to be a spectacular long term prospect.

Having said that, they are the opening duo of choice if we want to talk about unity and development without rocking the boat too much. For this reason, Chris Rogers is a valuable reserve opening batsman should either Warner or Cowan struggle in the warm-up games.

Phillip Hughes has been given some stick for his performances in India. It's vital to remember India is the toughest place to tour, especially with a side lacking experience as a unit. Hughes had an excellent start to his season with South Australia (12 innings, 673 runs, HS 158, Ave 59.19, x2 100s, x3 50s) and besides an incredible stint with Middlesex prior to the 2009 Ashes, he returned last year for Worcestershire and his stats return was worth taking some notice of; 17 innings, 560 runs, Ave 35.00, HS 135*, x2 100s, x2 50s.

He ripped things apart on the limited overs circuit in England, leading to his ODI debut this summer.

He has grown up with no shortage of challenges in his game and deserves to go to England and work away those nightmares of 2009. He was dropped harshly and the off-field technical bashing - short ball issues - and endless advice messed with his progression as one of our most exciting young batsmen.

Michael Clarke's spot is a given. His form continues to be sublime and is the skipper of the side.
Backing Clarke, he needs middle order batting partners. I have two players of choice in this regard. One may seem a biased selection as I often rate his value offered to our limited overs side, but he has shown consistency in his performances.

While not spectacular, I do believe Callum Ferguson will add value to our middle order. He was very much the Hussey-replacement in my eyes. He can hold down the fort, he can rotate the strike with ease and also has the ability to show aggression where required with a sound technique.

He had a run with Netherfield CC, North West of England, in 2008, which put his game into a better place. Unfortunately, he has had struggles to convert starts into bigger scores, but this season he did have a big century to his name. I won't be forgetting his calmness for Australia in ODI cricket and my own belief he has a lot to offer our struggling middle order.

Usman Khawaja is tipped as one of our better players against swing bowling. A move to Queensland helped him set up base at the Gabba to further improve his technical approach to facing swing bowling. He's been on the sidelines for a while and I do believe he showed a lot of character against South Africa in the 2011 Wanderers Test. I saw a lot of promise in that innings and I'd definitely have Khawaja and Ferguson as my middle order candidates.

Wicket-keeping is tough. However, as we did in 2009, I'd be taking two keepers. Brad Haddin and Graham Manou were the men of choice then. This time it would be Brad Haddin and Matthew Wade for me, realistically speaking.

Tim Paine will most certainly tour with Australia A in June. He missed out on a century for Tasmania in the Shield final but he's had a long road to return to first-class cricket after a serious thumb injury. I also think Matthew Wade will be trusted to make the the trip alongside Brad Haddin.

Truth be told, I have a gut feeling Haddin may be first choice gloves man. Once again, the Indian tour shouldn't dictate too much as that tour is a unique experience but Wade certainly has back tracked. Haddin's selection will possibly be a step back in itself with looking to the long term, but as I mentioned earlier, this tour is one to call upon balance, experience and medium term stability in terms of selection. Therefore, it may be a case of Haddin as first choice keeper with Wade as the back-up.

Ideally for the sake of progression, it should be Matthew Wade and Tim Paine as the wicketkeepers, but Haddin has a lot to offer with the bat in hand (if he just calms his mind in the middle) and has the edge ahead of the other two with experience.

As for the bowling, well according to Steve "Tugga" Waugh we should have no problem seeking out the right bowling mix to get 20 wickets. I am inclined to completely agree with Tugga. This is the "easier" part.

No doubt, most of you will have a different view come our batting selection, but on the bowling front I think there's no concerns with whatever 5 or 6 bowlers get picked.

In my 17 man squad, I have 5 fast bowlers and 1 spinner, with 2 all-rounders. Therefore, this is technically speaking 8 potential bowling candidates. Let me start on my spinner of choice.

Nathan Lyon is my spinner of choice. This could be a risky move but I see no need to take a second spinner. Sure, if I could pick a 20 man squad with a touring budget being no problem, I could have a spare spinner, keeper, batsman and fast bowler. Let me stick with a limit of 17 players to make it tougher, keeping in mind it's essential down to the starting XI from this list.

Nathan found his stride in India towards the end, when it was too late but this was a small victory for us that he took 9 wickets for the game. He dropped his length a bit and trusted his skills, whilst working with the track and he found success in the LBW zone. England will be another learning curve but some warm-up games will help the self-belief and game plan.

In 2009, Nathan Hauritz was our primary spin bowler. We had Marcus North, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke to call upon for part-time spin. Little faith was shown in Hauritz.
This time, if my side were to be a reality, Clarke and Warner would be your only options so there is greater responsibility placed on our bowlers, whose job is to get wickets. Not being Indian conditions I don't see this as an issue. In fact, in 2009 our most costly mistake came when the selectors left Hauritz out of the side for the final Test. One spinner could have made the difference. One spinner is all we need.

So, in order to learn from the past, have one spinner and get him in their for every game of the series! That is Nathan Lyon. If Shane Warne says he's our best, I trust that professional opinion too.

Fast bowling. I have gone with Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle.

Ryan Harris is, once again in my opinion, our best bowler. His return for the Queensland Bulls was awesome and watching him bowl in the Sheffield Shield final there was little to fault him on. It's simple. If his body holds up okay, get him over to the Ashes series as our number one bowler to rip apart England's batting stocks.

Ben Hilfenhaus, an interesting selection? Yes, but believe it or not, this isn't a selection due to favouritism. Hilfenhaus was our top wicket taker of the 2009 Ashes series and returning from injury - like Harris - he has made steady progress for Tasmania. While not at his utmost best, I see Hilfenhaus and Harris as an awesome swing bowling duo and you only need to think back to the 2011/12 Border-Gavaskar series. Based on his past English performances and his steady return, I'd get Hilfenhaus over there.

James Pattinson has the pace aspect with youth on his side, while Mitchell Starc has a few more variations to offer and the ability to really swing the ball. The left arm swing bowler is a good dynamic to have. If he gets his line right (often an issue) he could be a handful.  Both bowlers deserve a place in the side. They're our most promising young fast bowlers, with some experience in the bag already, so get them over there to contribute and develop as future front liners. Starc should be recovered in time to make the Ashes tour.

Peter Siddle is my last fast bowler. Jackson Bird was my man to push aside Hilfenhaus or Siddle, but Bird is a risk due to bone stress in his back. This is a delicate process of rehabilitation and he could be a risk for the Ashes. His return is also not clear. I'd rather see him play for Australia A and then have his progress assessed to handle the intensity. We already have risk in Hilfenhaus, Harris and Starc. He's my next option to replace any of my first options.

Siddle struggled in India and knew it all too well. I like Siddle's honesty and desire to improve. He plays with so much passion and his eagerness to get to England shouldn't be cast aside. I am a big supporter and while he's there for added experience and an injection of enthusiasm, the other bowlers may have the edge on him.

That would be my Ashes squad to tour England. What the National Selection Panel decides is a whole different waiting game, but this is my vision. Everyone has a selection opinion that varies which makes this exciting but it ultimately comes down to the NSP.

I'd really enjoy reading your squad views.

The last topic of my article is regarding the players who just missed out in my squad.

Patrick Cummins: The youngest fast bowler we have who has been the most exciting to watch. However, injury has resulted in limited cricket this season and it would be too big a risk to play him in the Ashes, given a core of the potential group already risk injury.

Chadd Sayers: Chadd was leading wicket taker this season in the Sheffield Shield (48 wickets, Ave 18.52) and roped in the awards for South Australian. Despite this, I would like to see how he goes for another season with the Redbacks before international duty. There is also the high probability he will play for Australia A.

Tim Paine: As mentioned, not enough cricket upon his return. Played well in the Shield final but not enough cricket. The Australia A tour may give him a chance to showcase his game, having also played Test cricket in England. I reckon he will be captain for that tour.

Steve Smith: Despite his obvious signs of maturity as a batsman in India, with the pressure of leg spin duties aside, I still think Stevo has a bit of time on his side to keep improving his batting. He isn't a push over anymore but I don't believe he is top of the list as a specialist middle order batsman. His part-time spin isn't probably as sought after given the additional focus on his batting, which has probably hindered his bowling development.

Steve O'Keefe and Ashton Agar: O'Keefe only peaked in later part of the Sheffield Shield after voicing his frustrations having been overlooked for the Indian tour, losing out to Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell. It was a fair argument, but I don't see two spinners as a necessity this Ashes. Agar needs another season under his belt. I would hate to see another young spinner thrown in the deep end with the risk of drowning to become another spin bowling casualty.

Brad Hodge: I was vocal about my anger with the way Hodge wasn't given the opportunities he deserved at the elite level. Many still call for him to return but it's simple folks, Hodgey has retired from first-class cricket. He will not return, case closed.

Shaun Marsh: Was in my side but given his lack of first-class cricket I can't see him being considered. Such a classy batsman, it's a pity he won't be in the side.

Alex Doolan & Joe Burns: Both handle swing very well, especially Joe Burns which would help in England. However, given Callum Ferguson's exposure at ODI level, current form showing he is in okay touch and having some kind of experience in English conditions, I'd tip him ahead of these two emerging batsmen. Tough decision but these guys will be ready for the home Ashes series.

David Dussey: Can only judge once played but Dussey seems to fall into the inconsistency zone for Australian cricket. Has loads of county experience and is a notable back-up player. However, Chris Rogers is still my first reserve player of choice with both age experience and county experience.

Sheffield Shield bowling statistics.

Sheffield Shield batting statistics.

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Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a second spinner in the mix, just in case Lyon gets injured. The problem is: who do we take? Doherty? Not good enough. SOK? I'm not convinced. Naturally, I'd like to see Hauritz back if they were going to go that way, but I think he is history.

Likewise, Rogers. I'm totally with you on how good he would be for the side, but I just can't see that happening. Like Hauritz, he is one of the forgotten players. They won't pick him again.

Sylvester said...

Interesting team, fair point with Bird. For me ff his recovery goes well I'd be bringing him, was hoping we would see how he went in India. I'm still worried Hilfy is swinging the ball too early and hence he isn't in my squad.

Ferguson still seems a bit too inconsistent for my liking, I do like having players performing at Shield cricket before being picked. But as we know with our current state it is a case of each to their own regarding our batsmen as only 1 batsmen is really safe while the rest can easily be ridiculed.

Sam A Monk said...

Generally agree with this assessment. I think a bit more experience is the way to go. I would be tempted to include Bird at the expense of Hilfenhaus if he can prove his fitness. I'd also try and find room for Marsh, maybe in place of Faulkner (I'm not sure we will need two allrounders). If Ahmed does qualify before the 1st test I'd have him on standby in case Lyon breaks down.

Sam A Monk said...

I'd like to see room made for Marsh, probably at the expense of Faulkner (I'm not sure we need two allrounders). I'd also take Bird over Hilfenhaus if he can prove his fitness. If Ahmed is available for selection before the 1st test I would have him on standby should Lyon break down.

Ian said...

Thanks for the comments guys.

My call for the experience is a long shot as I have my doubts it will even happen, but I know there's been genuine suggestions now for Rogers and Voges to be considered.

Let's see.

Seems to be 1 all-rounder and 2 spinners, or 2 spinners and 1 all rounder as the main topic of debate.