My Australian Test XI for the Gabba Test
Date: November 21, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
There is no chance it will suffer the same fate at home against India.
The venue has often determined the outcome of Australia-India series as much as the playing personnel with the home side in the last two series claiming the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 4-nil.
In recent times, Indian teams that have included the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Kumble and Harbhajan and still failed to win a series in this country – and those players are all long gone.
Australia’s pace barrage – and at present the arsenal is well stocked – will once again expose India’s frailties on the pace and bounce of Australian pitches.
While the result of the series appears a fait accompli the make-up of the Australian team is not quite as clear.
So who is likely to appear at the Gabba for the opening Test on 4 December?
David Warner and Chris Rogers are both certain to open.
Warner has had a golden 12 months with his past 10 Tests – against England, South Africa and Pakistan – producing 1305 runs, six centuries and an average of 68.7.
His new found maturity – both on and off the field – has seen him become arguably the side’s most important batsman.
His partner at the top of the order has been less impressive.
Rogers, at 37, is under seemingly daily scrutiny to retain his place.
The productivity in his last three Test series has been on the decline with an average of 46.3 last summer against England followed by 30.2 versus the Proteas and just 22.0 against Pakistan.
A century for Victoria against South Australia in his first Shield match after returning from the UAE, and the fact that presently no other opener is beating the door down, will see him retain his place.
The two Tests against Pakistan featured two different players at first drop.
Alex Doolan gave way to Glenn Maxwell for the second Test.
Neither will be at Brisbane.
It is hard to see anyone other than Shane Watson slotting in at three although he will need to score heavily to hold his place for next year’s Ashes tour.
Having missed the UAE tour due to yet another injury he has again stated in recent days that he wants to continue bowling at Test level.
The number of overs he sends down may well be lessened anyway by the retention of all-rounder Mitch Marsh, who whilst not setting the world on fire with the ball against Pakistan was tidy enough and he will be far more suited to life back on Australian pitches.
His batting showed maturity against Pakistan and he should certainly hold down the number six spot for just his third Test.
In the absence of Michael Clarke, his long-term heir apparent as skipper Steve Smith will likely move up to number four.
Like Warner he has made big strides over the past year with a 10-Test haul of 770 runs at 48.1.
Several times he saved Australia’s bacon during last summer’s Ashes series with some heady and calculated innings.
The number five spot is open to conjecture.
With Brad Haddin declared a near certainty, and with that the man anointed to lead the team in Clarke’s absence, it rules out the possibility of a return by George Bailey.
If Cameron White cannot force his way into the ODI team he is no chance to make it back to Test level.
The form middle order batsmen in the early part of the Shield season have been Victoria’s Peter Handscomb (348 runs at 116.0), the Bulls’ Joe Burns (324 at 54.0), South Australia’s Callum Ferguson (324 at 81.0) and Warriors’ skipper Adam Voges (261 at 87.0).
Handscomb has played 28 first-class matches but prior to this season his pickings have been slim hence a career average of just 35.7.
Burns continues to produce solid numbers and now boasts an average of 42.1 and must be in strong contention.
Both Voges and Ferguson have tasted the international arena in the limited-overs form.
Voges did so very effectively with his 31 ODIs producing an average of 45.8 while Ferguson was also impressive with a 30-match average of 41.4.
At 29, Ferguson is perhaps ripe for a Test debut and given his past international experience, for mine, he will just edge out Burns, who at 25, is sure to get the chance if his form holds over the next few years.
Mitchell Johnson, the newly anointed ICC and Test Player of the Year is a no-brainer and we can expect him to feast well on India’s batsmen.
With a seven-wicket haul for Queensland against New South Wales in his comeback match from injury, Ryan Harris seems destined to return to the fold.
With 103 Test wickets at a miserly 22.6 he has shown he is world-class when fully fit.
The last spot in the pace battery is between Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc.
Siddle has been a workhorse through his 55 Tests which have netted 190 wickets at 30.2.
He appeared to labour in the UAE where he captured just two wickets at 108.5 in the two Tests.
That followed a lean time in South Africa where he was dropped after the opening two matches on the back of just five wickets at 54.6.
His pace was well down, something that troubled coach Darren Lehmann who stated openly that he wants to try and dominate opposing batting line-ups with speed.
His lacklustre showing in the past two series has him under pressure to hold his spot.
He may edge out Starc – who played the last Test in Abu Dhabi – as a result of his second innings 5-31 yesterday for Victoria against South Australia.
If that is the case it would be cruel blow for Starc who is currently in the one-day team against the Proteas where he bowled well yesterday with a match-winning haul of 4-32.
If it was me, I would retain Starc for the series opener at Brisbane.
He has played 13 Tests to date and been dropped seven times, and as such, deserves another opportunity.
His pace is ahead of Siddle at present and he is ideally suited to the Gabba pitch.
That just leaves the spinner and I am sure there will be one simply for team balance.
Given that Steve O’Keefe was jettisoned after just one Test with Nathan Lyon once again given the bulk of the slow bowling responsibility in Abu Dhabi he will get another chance but he needs to once again start claiming wickets or may well be out the door.
So, there you have it, my XI for the first Test should fitness not be an issue is: Warner, Rogers, Watson, Smith, Ferguson, M Marsh, Haddin, Johnson, Starc, Harris and Lyon with Siddle 12th man.
If however Haddin is not fit to take his place I would have Chris Hartley making his debut with Smith as skipper.
First published on The Roar – ther0ar.com.au – on 20 November 2014