Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Should Be Australia's Top 6 for the Ashes?

As part of the peanut gallery, it filled you with mixed emotions listening to a recent Cricinfo interview with Australian Chairman of Selectors John Inverarity with him bemoaning the rogue influence that T20 culture has had on the standard of Australian batsmanship. On the one hand, it actually angered you with it showing that the man in charge of Australian cricketing fortunes was so oblivious or in denial about what represents a virtual Cancer in the blood stream of the Test Team.

The Indian debacle stood testimony to this with Blind Freddy being able to tell you that success in that Lions Den was only possible for the hardened specialists with respected skill and pedigree. Only to see Inverarity treat the Tour as though it was a virtual pyjama party with the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Co selected and expected to excel with the bat in the top 6.

Thankfully humiliation seems to have awakened Inverarity to reality underlined by his Selection of the Ashes Team that on paper will support every Fleet Street Tabloid as being the worst Aussie Team ever. But at least it is full of men of the right constitution and ability for Test Cricket. A step in the right direction, but with the Tour on our doorsteps can the Aussie Brains trust take another leap of faith by redesigning the Aussie top 6 to better suit the conditions and give the Teams greatest weakness its best chance to succeed?

Conditions, that unless you have an immortal name like Sir Viv Richards have never been accommodating for top order batting dashers from visiting teams.

A mere look at the figures for the cavalier batsmen in England underlines this

Chris Gayle ( WI ), 21 innings, 721 runs, England average 36.05 ( career average 42.45 ), 1 century, 5 50's

Virender Sehwag ( Ind ) , 10 innings, 278 runs, England average 27.8 ( career average 49.34 ), 1 century, 1 50

Matthew Hayden ( Aus ) , 18 innings, 552 runs, England average 34.5 ( career average 50.73), 1 century , 1 50

Ricky Ponting ( Aus ), 34 innings, 1421 runs, England average 41.79 ( career average 51.85 ) 4 centuries, 6 50's

That is a 44 run dip from their career averages for four players who range from above average in Gayle to a vindicated all time great in Ricky Ponting. It is not hard to find the reason for this either with England being renowned for its swing and talk off the wicket which makes it so hard for top order batsmen to blaze against the misbehaving new ball.

The needs of the conditions are further emphasised when you look at the success of the more dour and resolute visiting batsmen to England

Justin Langer ( Aus ) 11 innings, 496 runs, England average 55.11  ( Career average 45.27 ), 2 centuries, 2 50's

Rahul Dravid ( India ), 23 innings, 1376 runs, England average 68.8 ( Career Average 52.31 ). 6 centuries, 4 50's

Graeme Smith ( RSA ), 22 innings, 1355 runs, England Average 67.75 ( Career Average 48.62 ), 5 centuries, 3 50's

Mark Taylor ( Aus ), 31 innings, 1584 runs, England average 52.8 ( Career average 43.49 ), 5 centuries, 7 50's

The 54 run rise from these players career averages shows how their defensive styles were supported in the conditions allowing them to dominate with all being astute accumulators of runs.

Keeping these figures in mind, one only has to look at what has been England's recipe for batting success with their top three always being full of dour types that embrace the traditional styles of play and feel compelled to mimic. Very like the South Africans did last year with the defensive expertise of Smith and Amla grinding the excellent English pace attack into the turf by depriving them of their greatest weapon in the new ball.

In dissecting these facts the first names that come to mind when looking at Australia's batting fortunes in England is the cavalier duo of Shane Watson and Dave Warner with it apparent that neither are suitable for a top order role. But such is the weakness and lack of depth in Australian batting ranks at present that both need to be found a place in the order where they are shielded and given the best chance to excel

To have them at the top, where both struggle with the need to turn over the strike in bowling friendly conditions and are a moment of madness a way from demise would be a fatal mistake before the Tour has begun.

So what should be the Aussie top 6?

This would be mine and the reasoning behind it

Ed Cowan- The nearly man of Australia Cricket needs to deliver in this tour for the team to be a success. It confounds me as to why he has yet to announce his arrival too with him giving many false dawns. Most notably his very accomplished century against South Africa recently. He has the technique and temperament to succeed and needs to for the sake of the Team

Chris Rogers- A bit of a risk choosing Rogers for this Tour, but he is a grizzled Veteran with an impressive First Class career in varied conditions. So, if he can replicate similar deeds at the top, he provides the team with the ' rock' that it has so missed since Simon Katich's inexplicable axing.

Michael Clarke ( C )- The best batsman always bats at three and Clarke needs to in the Ashes and dominate as he has recently. So as to give solidity to a top three that has many question marks, but also provide a platform for the more attacking types in the middle order to bat with less pressure on them.

Shane Watson- I have never been sold on Watson's mental aptitude for test Cricket with him in this regard being a midget when only the strong survive. Moving him to 4 providing the top 3 does not implode as it has in the last 2 odd years gives him a chance to play his natural attacking care free game and hopefully be a factor.

Usman Khawaja- Should have been in the team way before now, and provides a middle order fighter to compliment the dashers in this line up.

David Warner- It has been interesting seeing Warner deployed in the middle order in the IPL T20 with him stating his like for it with it supporting his free flowing style. Why not utilise him in the same manner in the Test side where his counter attacking blitzes could be decisive andsupported a way from the new ball?

X Factor- Mitchell Marsh- I think it was more than coincidental that on a day when Australian Test batting stocks were bemoaned that the 'Great White Hope' in Marsh was added to the Champions League Squad. Reading between the lines, you can see if he does well him being added to the Ashes squad with a shock inclusion to the Top 6 on the cards throughout the series.

1 comment:

  1. No to Mitchell Marsh and give yourself a birching for using that term 'X-Factor'. He's shaping for a career as a short format specialist.

    Other than that, I like the line-up. We need to get the hard-handed brigade out of the top 3 spots.