The Australian Test side is in a period of evolution and transition with many of its key players entering their twilight years. Vital cogs in the machine that is Australian cricket are slowing down, passing their peak and questioning their future. It is at this moment that the selectors need to start looking towards the stars of tomorrow, as well as the players that will tide them over as they build the foundations of the next generation. Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and even the former captain Michael Clarke are looking like they will not be around for much longer. So who will rise to the occasion and grasp the opportunity of representing their country at the highest level once these champions are gone?
The Willow Smashers
First Class Average: 41.10
Ed Cowan is the forgotten man of Australian cricket. After making his Test debut on Boxing Day 2011, Cowan looked to be the next opener for years to come. His early form was competent with a few half-centuries in the Australian summer and he backed it up with a maiden Test century in 2012 against the might of South Africa. Scattered form and poor scoring speed followed and the emergence of Chris Rogers in the 2013 Ashes series led to his disappearance from the squad. Cowan has bounced back in a massive way this Sheffield Shield season, leading the runs with 590 at 65 and amassing four centuries in just nine innings. His biggest improvement is how he attacks the bowlers with consistent boundaries, always ticking the scorecard over. This change in attitude and playing style makes him a suitable choice to take an opener spot when the time comes for a new partner for David Warner. It would make sense to persevere with Chris Rogers in England as he has significant county experience, but after the series, we could see Cowan break back into the side.
First Class Average: 42.90
At 35, the chance of a Test career may have passed Adam Voges by, but on current form he’d be next picked for the upper to middle order. The West Australian captain is having a stellar season in all forms of the game with an amazing average of 101 in Sheffield Shield and some handy runs down the order in the Matador Cup. He is a very composed player and can handle both spin and pace with ease. An experienced head may also be beneficial to Australia in the near future, with a number of veterans possibly bowing out.
First Class Average: 42.82
Youth, composure and athleticism; Jordan Silk has them in droves and all of this at only 22. He’s made an immediate impact for Tasmania since making his first class debut in early 2013. Four centuries and four fifties in only 16 matches are proof that Silk can make big scores already. His patience at the crease is a vital aspect of how he plays and this attitude has seen him become a tremendous player of all forms in a short period of time. As an opener, he could be the perfect foil for the swashbuckling Warner, but there is serious competition for that spot.
All Round Talent
First Class Batting Average: 32.14
First Class Wickets: 118
Bowling Average: 35.70
Dan Christian has travelled to all corners of the country looking for a home, having played for New South Wales, South Australia and now Victoria. He has played a number of roles but most importantly he is a very good batsman and damaging bowler at times. His recent first class form showcases his versatility with a century and four wickets against the Warriors. Despite getting consistent ODI and T20 call ups, he has yet to earn a baggy green. With Shane Watson slowing down and other all-rounders yet to stamp their claim for the Australian spot, Christian is definitely in the running for a Test debut.
First Class Batting Average: 31.91
First Class Wickets: 147
Bowling Average: 24.06
He may be the in-form ODI player for Australia but James Faulkner hasn’t really had a chance to showcase his skills at Test level. Faulkner’s solitary Test was during the 2013 Ashes series and despite taking six wickets in the match, he hasn’t been picked since. Stats wise, Faulkner is very handy with bat and ball but a big problem with his five-day form is the fact that he has 12 half centuries and zero centuries. He needs to kick on and turn these starts into triple figures so that the selectors have evidence of an all-rounder who can hold up the lower order in times of turmoil.
Bowling Average: 26.86
Economy Rate: 2.89
The form bowler of this year’s Sheffield Shield, Nathan Rimmington has serious pace but he also cramps the opposition batsmen. Rimmington’s economical style frustrates opponents, pressuring them into silly shots, while he also intimidates them with his speed and short balls. Nineteen wickets at 19 this season is proof of his recent consistency and he looks to be right in contention for the incredibly competitive fast bowler positions in the Australian side.
Economy Rate: 2.91
Andrew Fekete is a new face in the cricket world, having only debuted for Tasmania in November 2013, but he’s made a big impact in this Sheiffield Shield season. He’s dominated opposition with his partner in crime Ben Hilfenhaus, taking 22 wickets at 19. At 29, he’s still relatively young and if his form continues, he should be catching the eye of Mark Waugh and the Australian selectors.
Economy Rate: 3.23
This left-arm quick from Western Australia has been in tremendous form across first class, one dayers and T20s, and is hitting some serious pace at just 24 years old. His ability to swing the ball with ease makes him incredibly dangerous and he’s been on national display with his devastating spells in BBL04 with the Perth Scorchers. Across the three forms of the game he’s taken 32 wickets in 2014/15 and could be a serious contender for the World Cup squad.
Economy Rate: 3.82
It’s been a tumultuous couple of months for Sean Abbott, with the tragedy of Phillip Hughes’ death and the aftermath. However, when it comes to Abbott on the field, he’s a supreme talent with untapped potential. Just 17 days after the Hughes tragedy, Abbott returned to the NSW side and took 6/14 in an absolute demolishment of the Queensland Bulls. He has youth on his side and his height makes him difficult to handle for batsmen. Abbott himself is also quite handy with the bat.
Tweaking and Turning
The story of Fawad Ahmed is amazing, fleeing Pakistan as an asylum seeker in 2010 – and now he is one of the best spin bowlers in Australia. His ability to turn the ball and take wickets at quick intervals has made him a feared bowler on the domestic scene. Ahmed’s Shield season has been excellent, taking 18 wickets at 30 and doing it while conceding minimal runs. Nathan Lyon currently has a stranglehold on the spinner position in the Test side but if two are needed based on the conditions – or if Lyon goes down with injury – Ahmed will be ready to go.
O’Keefe, or SOK as he’s known to many, made his Test debut against Pakistan in the UAE back in October and despite the whole team underperforming, he managed to take four wickets for the match. He is an impressive orthodox bowler who can make decent scores with the bat, an element which can make him stand out from other potential Australian spinners. Nine shield wickets at 28 hasn’t been a standout season but given the opportunity, O’Keefe can rip through a batting order. This can be seen by his excellent 5/24 against South Australia in his first game of the 2014/15 campaign.
The Glove Men
First Class Catches/Stumpings: 150/6
Batting Average: 40.71
Peter Nevill looks to be the natural successor to Brad Haddin in the Australian side. He has leadership experience, excellent hands behind the wickets and can make big scores when his team needs it. Averaging 40 as a wicketkeeper is very good and with Haddin’s current poor form with the bat, he would be a handy addition to the line-up. Nevill’s Shield form with the gloves has been fine, with 17 catches in the past five games and despite a few failings with the willow, he digs in and makes important half-centuries at pivotal times.
First Class Catches/Stumpings: 470/14
Batting Average: 31.50
A stalwart of the Queensland team, Chris Hartley is another possible replacement as Australian wicketkeeper, with his stellar career showcasing his catching ability. His batting average isn’t that flash but this Shield season has seen him rack up some big hundreds against Tasmania and South Australia. Eight centuries across 108 matches is relatively sparse but if he can continue the batting form previously mentioned, he definitely cannot be counted out of selection discussions.
First Class Catches/Stumpings: 45/4
Batting Average: 35.73
Wicketkeeper/batsman Handscomb is one for the future, and at only 23 still has significant development to go if he wants to play for Australia. He is already displaying the kind of raw talent that could light it up on the big stage, with three centuries and 10 half-centuries to his name. A recent quickfire 134 against South Australia led his Bushrangers to victory and was a thrilling innings from such a young player.