23 April 2013

Australian 2013 Ashes Squad Announced

Without further to do, here is the 2013 Australian Ashes squad to take on England in their territory.
The Australia A squad can be found at the end of this article. Your views are most welcome right here or via The Baggy Green Blog's Facebook page. The comment tab is at the footer of the article, moderation is active.

2013 Australian Ashes touring squad:

Michael Clarke (Captain)

Ed Cowan
David Warner
Phillip Hughes
Usman Khawaja
Chris Rogers

Shane Watson

James Faulkner

Brad Haddin (Vice-captain)

Matthew Wade

Nathan Lyon
Peter Siddle
James Pattinson
Ryan Harris
Jackson Bird
Mitchell Starc

Let me begin with an overall verdict. All in all I am satisfied with this side. The Indian tour, which was a nightmare, is over and we march on. This is the Ashes, a different competition and a different opponent in different conditions. The battle is fresh and after losing Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, I believe this is a well balanced side of emerging players and experienced candidates. I believe this side can win back the urn.

Batting wise, this was the biggest area of concern for us. This was evident in India and over the last three years we have seen frequent patterns resulting in batting collapses. Far too often our bowlers have been required to dig us out of a hole, which in hindsight has resulted in a bowling unit relatively young in age gain sound experience. This Ashes series is one for the batsmen to stand up. A recall of experience may help that drive.

Michael Clarke was a given. He's yet to be a member of a winning Ashes side in England, but he is now leading a side that has the ultimate opportunity to rise from the pit of negativity, following a tough start to 2013. His batting form has been sublime for some time but right now, we as Australian Cricket supporters, need to see this continue, not as The Michael Clarke show but rather The Australian Batting Show.

Phillip Hughes struggled in India and there were calls for him to dropped, yet again, from an Australian squad. However, he dug deep and managed to find some form, even though the series was lost. There was a small victory in Hughes finding some runs ahead of the Ashes series. One must also remember that India is historically reported as the toughest place to tour. This was his first tour to the sub-continent and we must keep in mind what Phillip has achieved in recent times. In other words don't base too much on that tour.

For South Australia in Shield cricket, he scored 673 runs at 59.19 from 12 innings. He hit two centuries and three half-centuries. Last county season he didn't dominate by any means as he did in 2009 for Middlesex, but in a stint for Worcestershire from 17 innings he scored 560 runs, averaged 35.00 with a highest score of 135*. Not prolific as when he burst onto the scene, but not poor either.

I also don't believe this return to England will result in short-ball nightmares for him, casting your memories back to 2009. This is an opportunity for him to realise his true potential and move forward, as the whole squad and supporters need to do as well. I also don't see value in questioning Hughes' unorthodox technique against short ball bowling. After all, it is unorthodox! If anything, he displayed a genuine weaknesses against New Zealand during his return with deliveries just back of a length pitched on middle and leg, where Chris Rogers (returning to the side) analysed Hughes' pitfalls from the sidelines.

Usman Khawaja has been in the waiting line a while and as one of the better players in the state system against swing bowling, I see complete value behind his selection. I doubt he is in the starting XI as a certainty, but I can't see any reason to oppose his selection. He's been one of the better performers at state level and a move to Queensland was one to enhance his opportunities and ultimately put himself in the best position to handle swing bowling conditions. He is a versatile batsman too.

Rogers is set to put his Baggy Green cap back on (2008).
Paul Kane: Getty Images
Ed Cowan and David Warner will be viewed as the likely opening duo, but I would say with Cowan currently getting further experience on the county circuit with moderate consistency, and Chris Rogers not showing any serious signs of struggle for Middlesex, Warner is not the definite opener. There has been discussion amongst supporters for Warner to drop the order, which has substance to it. I think the concept of Warner coming in at 6 or 7, as Adam Gilchrist did, will ensure the opposition never find time to relax with the knowledge there is still a game changer due to walk out to the middle.

The opening challenge is definitely set with Chris Rogers back in the frame. Chris has played one Test for Australia, which was against India in 2008. He's been left in the wilderness since but having put in the performances at first-class level he has cemented a case for himself to make this return, better late than never. A recommendation on the 2011 Argus Review was to focus on Test cricket as the pinnacle of the game and reward cricketers for their first-class performances.

For Victoria, Chris scored 742 runs at 49.46 from 17 innings. He had a highest score of 131, with three centuries. Last county season in division one, he scored 1,086 runs at 40.22 with a highest scored of 173. This was achieved in 29 innings. Definitely being rewarded for performances, how it should be!
One also can't expect him to suddenly perform miracles upon entering the side but persisting with him will show the experience come to the surface when needed.

Brad Haddin has been recalled to the squad, which will likely be seen as the most questionable selection. I s my ideal 17 man Ashes side, Brad was my second keeper of choice. I do see value in having Brad as a specialist batsman. He seems to have a bit of a short circuit up top though with the bat in hand at times. There is no doubt though that if he plays sensibly and paces his innings out, avoiding his aggressive desires to hit out, he can put together solid innings.
As selected vice-captain as well, this proposes the likely probability he is going to be in the starting XI come the first Test of the series, bringing the next topic of debate.

Matthew Wade had a poor tour of India and did show difficulties behind the stumps. An improved performance against Sri Lanka saw his confidence return but no doubt Brad will keep him on his toes. The competition may be seen as unhealthy though, given Brad is "on in years" in terms of keeper talk, while Matthew is at an age where his development is as important as the formative years behind the stumps. He's had plenty of experience and exposure to other conditions and I like to think he's had a bit of a boot camp.

Therefore, for the sake of development Matthew should keep wicket to not affect his progression. Having said that, we need to win this series and experience is clearly a vital ingredient for the NSP's desired recipe for success. Brad's position and situation does edge me towards the drive for experience in this series to win the urn, but it does put Matthew's position in doubt for the starting XI, a slight cause for concern in the greater scheme of things perhaps.

Shane Watson and James Faulkner make way into the side as the all-rounders of choice.

James, like Chris Rogers, has been rewarded for consistent state performances. He was also a member of my 17-man Ashes squad, and it would seem the selectors share the belief his bowling could prove to be menacing in English conditions but there's of course the value we have in a guy who showcased definite signs of improvement with his batting.

Shane Watson offers greater experience and has the edge over James regarding his batting, but Watto has battles of his own. He's had a shocking return with the bat for Australia in Test cricketer and his lack of bowling duties to help give him some longevity come his body conditioning for Test cricket, hasn't helped his case as well. Fortunately, we have seen the need for experience in this side and with Watto you get it. In the Indian Premier League he recently smashed a century, but has most importantly started resuming bowling duties as well. The short four over bowling will hopefully condition his body as needed to be able to offer Michael Clarke some overs to look at breakthrough opportunities, especially with an older ball in hand.

Watto also recently stepped down as vice-captain, a key reason for Brad Haddin's selection. I'd prefer to not write about the dramas of the Indian tour where he was a core part of the dilemma, but I do back his decision. Since giving up the responsibility of vice-captain, Watto has blasted a century for his IPL franchise - a sign of freeing the mind - and has appeared to be far more confident in his body language.

As selfish as it sounds to give up a role of responsibility to rather focus on your own game, there is logic behind this in a game where your individual input can outweigh a team input on paper at the end of the day. If this means Shane Watson can regain consistency with better performances and find a way to offer greater all-round duties for Australia, I am all for it.

Nathan Lyon is the sole spinner, with Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris doing the fast bowling duties.

The bowlers were almost a given. Perhaps the only question mark is why only one spinner was selected; a reason why a 17-man squad had purpose.

Nathan has yet to take on the English batsmen and has gained experience against other oppositions with mixed results. Like Matthew Wade, he has in some ways been through a boot camp of his own. Perhaps having not had the pressure of an Ashes series, while having had exposure against other sides in different conditions has put him in a thrilling position to get ready for the challenge. A second spinner would be good, but that is where the Australia A tour has value and someone like Ashton Agar could easily be retained for the remainder of the series after the 'A' side fixtures if required.

Ryan Harris is making his return after some destructive performances for the Queensland Bulls and remains, in my opinion, our best bowler in the system. The only issue with Ryan is the question mark if his body can handle all five Tests, as well as Australia A duties. His attributes will be sensational to witness in English conditions if he is in top shape.

Peter Siddle is the experienced candidate but by no means a leader in terms of his bowling attributes. His attitude and burning ambition will always be key ingredients for a leadership role to help his teammates through the day's play. His role as a bowler is an anchor role, to build pressure from one end and fire away looking for that one delivery that surprises the batsman, while his mates work around him.

Jackson Bird has an ability to just keep the ball in the right slot with no inabilities come variation. Another bowler who deserves his selection based on first-class experience, but also his performances with a fresh Baggy Green cap.

James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc are the young guns and with Patrick Cummins - our most exciting prospect in years - facing a long road to return with an increased depth, they are the gunners of choice.
Both possess attributes that contribute to the success of our bowling unit with combined with pace, variation and a joint ability to swing the ball. Mitchell Starc gives us the left arm option as well, notably shadowing that of Mitchell Johnson in the eyes of many.

Australia A sees Steven Smith serve as vice-captain, giving him a leadership chance on the back of an impressive show in India. Alex Doolan, Jordan Silk and Nic Maddinson get their opportunities as three batsmen who give us belief in our future batting stocks. The Ashes may be far too soon for all of them, so the opportunity to graft in English conditions with experienced Baggy Green players is vital for their development.

South Australia's Chadd Sayers has been rewarded as the leading Shield wicket grabber, while Ashton Agar has a chance to work the ball over as the spinner of choice. The Australian Ashes squad only had Nathan Lyon, but as mentioned the selectors can retain players post the Australian A tour. Ashton is in a great position.

My one surprise exclusion is that of Ben Hilfenhaus, given he was the leading wicket-taker for us in the 2009 Ashes series and has made steady progress since returning from injury, but Hilfenhaus alongside Harris provides a serious injury concern for the greater context of the series. Both would be epic to watch in tandem with the new ball, but not being in the Australia A side, he will have to wait for another opportunity to get that100th Test wicket.

In conclusion, the inclusions of Rogers, Harris and Haddin may prove to be surprises but it's simple really.
We need experience, we need to balance out progressing players with guys who have walked some hard yards. Ultimately it all comes down to what goes on out on the field. This is a team that needs to rebuild their image, needs to gain the confidence again from casual supporters and this move by the National Selection Panel is a start.

Bring on the Ashes! I have confidence in this side, so with that I wish the best of luck to the players selected.

Australia A Squad:

Brad Haddin (Captain)
Steve Smith (Vice-captain)
Ashton Agar
Jordan Silk
Alex Doolan
Chadd Sayers
Nic Maddinson
Usman Khawaja
Jackson Bird
Nathan Lyon
James Pattinson
Ryan Harris
Peter Siddle

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Unknown said...

The squad looks solid, I don't even mind Haddin being there, Wade really isn't a very good keeper and England is one of the teams against which Haddin has a good record.

Bowling is solid, if they can stay fit, keeping my fingers crossed that both Harris and Patto are fit for the first test as they should LOVE bowling at Trent Bridge.

Ian said...

I am glad there is more voicing of approval that this is indeed a strong side.

Look, there is minor concern with Haddin's selection, but experience is clearly the priority with this side to ultimately just get back the urn. It is not so much about development. We've had time for that and the selection hasn't completely nurtured that processed.

The bowling is exciting to say the least and damn right. Ryano and Patto, with say Starc or Bird in the wings will be mighty good to watch. I think our bowlers will rattle the poms, if 100% fit.

Our batting is the cause for concern, which is why we have called on experienced campaigners in form.

Bring on the Ashes!