Australia’s 4-0 trashing at the hands of India has been described as the worst test series by an Aussie side since the 2010-2011 Ashes, and the worst tour since the post Lillie, Marsh era of the 1980’s.
Australia showed a few competitive glimpses, but overall failed when the pressure was on. One of the key fundamentals to a successful cricket side is the ability to build batting and bowling partnerships, and this is where Australia lacked the composure and experience to achieve neither. The phrase ‘batting collapse’ almost became the theme for the 4-test tour, while with ball in hand they were unable to build pressure against India’s dominant batsmen.
The 5-test tour of England is now under 100 days away and Australia’s selection panel must come up with a squad they believe can win back the urn. Normally leading into an Ashes series the feeling amongst the media and public is one of expectation and excitement, but this time around the output is genuine concern for what could be a shellacking at the hands of the Old Enemy.
It seemed Australia chose their squad for the Indian series based on potential rather than form, but will the 17 man touring party for the Ashes shed any casualties?
Of the batsmen that toured, only skipper Michael Clarke left with his pride and average intact, but it would be a fairly safe bet to say that Ed Cowan, David Warner and Shane Watson will be joining him in England. Phil Hughes somewhat redeemed himself with some fighting knocks in the final 2 tests, but his weakness against spin will have Graeme Swann licking his lips in anticipation should he be given a selection reprieve. It would be somewhat unfair to overlook Usman Khawaja for the Ashes seeing as though he has been starved of competitive cricket after being kept on the sidelines in India, while also not being flown home to contest the shield final. Based on his potential and form over the summer, he should finally get another crack in the baggy green.
If Australia’s selectors wanted an experienced head, then one-test Victorian Chris Rogers should be top of their list. Although considered an outside chance for the tour, Rogers boasts an outstanding 1st class record in England and averaged just under 50 over the past shield season, while Shaun Marsh’s name could also be thrown up.
There’s an old adage that unless a player is good enough to make an XI as a batsman or bowler, then they probably shouldn’t be playing as an all-rounder. This may have been highlighted by the selections of Moises Henriques and Glenn Maxwell in India. After a solid 1st test with the bat, Henriques failed to make an impression during the rest of the tour, so his plane ticket to England maybe on stand-by. The fact his seamers could be more effective than those from a spinner in English conditions, may mean he gets a nod, but James Faulkner’s impressive shield final will also have him on the selectors radar. Maxwell was given ample opportunity to perform in India, and some of his dismissals when his country needed him were deplorable, and probably shows the million dollar man does not have the temperament for test match cricket.
Potential Ashes tourists – Batsmen: Cowan, Warner, Hughes, Watson (vc), Clarke (c), Khawaja, Smith, Rogers /Marsh.
Indian casualties – Henriques, Maxwell.
Matthew Wade continues to garner criticism due to his glove-work, but has done enough with the bat to make the squad, while Brad Haddin has kept Tim Paine’s challenge for the deputy role at bay. Chris Hartley is still wondering what he has to do to get a look in.
Potential tourists – Keepers: Wade, Haddin.
Casualties – none.
James Pattinson was Australia’s standout quick on the tour, and along with Peter Siddle will most likely play in a majority of the England tests, but with Australia looking to keep with their rotation policy, they will need at least 5 pace-men for the series. Jackson Bird was very impressive when he had his opportunity over the summer, and it seems his style of bowling will be suited to English conditions, while Ryan Harris’ return to form and fitness has given Australia a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak outlook. If he is fit he will tour, if only to play 2-3 tests.
The remaining spot could come down to Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson or Pat Cummins should the selectors wish to go for an x-factor, although Starc’s ability to swing the new could be the safe bet amongst the 3.
Some felt Nathan Lyon was harshly treated after his dumping from the 2nd test, but to his credit he took it in his stride and turned in some impressive performances. As it stands Lyon is Australia’s front line tweaker, but he will need an understudy for the Ashes. Xavier Doherty seemed a confusing selection for the Indian series, and while he toiled hard, he lacked penetration. Fawad Ahmed is the man on everyone’s lips, and before we get too excited, he needs to get his passport approval fast tracked. If this happens, he could well be a bolter for the squad.
Potential tourists – Bowlers: Pattinson, Siddle, Harris, Bird (if fit), Starc, Lyon, Ahmed.
Casualties – Johnson, Doherty.
Despite stuttering to a series draw against New Zealand, England will be confident of retaining the urn on home soil. On paper they have a much superior line-up across the park to Australia with world class batsmen in Cook, Trott, Pietersen and Bell; probably the world’s second best bowling line-up behind South Africa in Anderson, Broad & Swann; while Matt Prior went a way to cementing himself as one of international crickets best keeper / batsman with a match saving hundred in the 3rd test against the Black Caps.
If Australia is to have a chance, they will need Michael Clarke to average around the 60+ mark, while the likes of Cowan, Warner and Watson will have to rise to the occasion. England will expect a tough encounter from the Aussie bowlers, and as New Zealand proved, they can be susceptible to the swinging ball. In 1993 an unheralded leg spinner demolished England with controlled slow bowling not seen on their shores before. Cue Mr Ahmed… No pressure or anything.