CA selectors have got it right

Date: April 25, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

There is an oft used saying in sport – “we are taking it one week at a time”.

In many ways, that adage has become the mantra for the National Selection Panel in its naming of the touring party for the forthcoming Ashes series.

The bolter into the 16-man squad is veteran left-handed opener Chris Rogers.

His recall to the Test squad – his only match in the baggy green was against India at Perth in January 2008 – says two things.

Firstly, his sheer weight of first-class runs, especially in England, is hard to overlook.

Secondly, the fact that at age 35 is he is back in the frame speaks to the parlous state of Australia’s current batting stocks.

Rogers’s inclusion is a short-term fix.

And there is nothing wrong with that at all if Australia is serious about regaining the little urn.

Australia’s top order is far from a settled unit despite the incumbents having had enough opportunities to strongly stake an ongoing claim.

Whilst Shane Watson has not been used as a top-three batsman throughout his career his career average with the willow is a modest 35.3 after 41 appearances.

As an opener he has performed best with 1878 runs at 43.7 in 45 innings.

The bulk of that record came early in his sojourn at the top – against Sri Lanka, South Africa and India – as his last six Tests produced just 202 runs at 20.0.

Her has gone 40 innings without a Test century and has just two from 75 innings all up.

Ed Cowan has been a constant in the opening slot since making his debut against India at the MCG on Boxing Day in 2011.

In 17 Tests to date he has averaged 32.9 with his Achilles heel being his inability to convert starts into large scores.

He has made one century and six 50s, but more damning is the fact that he has made ten scores between 20 and 50.

David Warner has blown hot and cold during his 19 Tests.

He has scored three centuries and passed 50 on a further seven occasions yet is average is still below 40.

Phillip Hughes’ most recent reincarnation came in December against Sri Lanka in Hobart.

He has played the last seven Tests for an unflattering return of 380 runs at 29.2, dropping his 24-match career average to 33.0.

The frailty and inconsistency of the top-three has seen Rogers rewarded.

He was named Victorian Shield Cricketer of the Year on the back of 742 runs and three centuries at 49.5.

A veteran of 233 first-class matches, he has scored over 19,000 runs at 50.0 with 58 centuries.

Many of those runs have been plundered in English conditions representing Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Middlesex and Northamptonshire.

In the past four seasons at county level he has made more than 5000 runs at 52.3 with 17 centuries.

Given the problems currently surrounding the nation’s batting stocks, and taking into consideration the recent retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, his choice as an experienced and sound opener is a sensible one.

The lead-in form in the two four-day warm-up matches against Somerset and Worcestershire heading into the first Test will no doubt consolidate the selectors final choice for the top three batting positions.

Many believed Shaun Marsh should be on the plane but his first-class record this past season for Western Australia was lamentable – 152 runs in four matches at 19.0.

His introduction to Test ranks was stellar with scores of 141 and 81 in his first two innings in Sri Lanka in September 2011.

However, he was axed in January 2012 – after seven matches – following 17 runs in his last seven innings which included four ducks.

Aside from his performances in the BBL he has done little at first-class level since his omission to indicate that he is a better Test prospect now.

Brad Haddin, as widely mooted in recent days, is not only back but returns as vice-captain.

With that honorific alongside his name he seems certain to replace Matthew Wade for the Ashes opener at Trent Bridge on 10 July, although Wade is in the tour party.

Like Rogers, he brings experience to the table and in a squad that lacks leadership credentials he is the obvious back-up to Michael Clarke.

He will captain the Australia ‘A’ team that will be in action in England in the lead-in to the Test series.

Despite being a full-time drinks waiter during the recent four-Test series in India, Usman Khawaja still has the selectors’ faith.

He too will get to press his claims during the Australia ‘A’ matches, as will most of the frontline bowlers.

Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird – all in the Test squad alongside Mitchell Starc – will all get valuable time with the English Duke cricket ball ahead of the Tests.

The omission of Mitchell Johnson suggests that his Test career may have come to an end.

Given his trials and tribulations on previous visits to England he was never likely to be chosen this time around especially as the fast bowling department is where Australia is currently strongest.

Nathan Lyon will also take part in the ‘A’ games.

Lyon is the only specialist spinner named in the official Test squad but NSP chairman John Inverarity has stated that a close eye will be kept on Ashton Agar during the Australia ‘A’ series.

James Faulkner, who has impressed in his limited-overs opportunities, has been selected as an all-rounder at the expense of Moises Henriques who debuted in India.

Approximately 30 Australians will be in England during the Ashes series and the NSP can avail themselves of any of those players should the need arise, a reason perhaps for naming initially only 16 players.

The selectors have gone with Rogers and Haddin with an eye to this series, and perhaps the return one in Australia this summer.

They have indicated for the moment that the nest ten Tests – against Australia’s oldest and fiercest foe – are the focus and the development beyond that can wait.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 24 April 2013