Tuesday, November 22, 2011
You might, given a current projection of:
Hughes, Warner, Khawaja, Ponting, Clarke, Watson/Batting all-rounder, Haddin/Wade, Bowling all-rounder, Harris/Hilfenhaus/Siddle, Cummins, Hilfenhaus/Cutting/Pattinson/Starc, Lyon (12th)
be inclined to think we're stepping around the issues, but with seven out of twelve spots more or less definite, or at least definite as far as Hughesy's concerned (Hughes, Warner, Khawaja, Ponting, Clarke, Cummins, Lyon) and a straightforward either/or for the 'keeper's spot the final consideration involves the question mark over Watson, the general issue of the all-rounder's place in the side and the makeup of the bowling attack.
So we start with the two all-rounder spots.
Now, the first point that needs to be made here is that the all-rounder needs to be good enough to go close to selection in the side as a bat or a bowler, with the extra string to the bow coming in as a bonus.
Back in the Gilchrist era you could see him as a 'keeping all-rounder, since his glove work mightn't have been the best in the country (but it wasn't that far short of technically-superior rivals) his batting wasn't that far off justifying his inclusion as a specialist.
With Watson we're looking at a batting all-rounder, and if he's not fit to play at the Gabba, the cover for him is a bat who bowls. This means he's someone who'll bat six and contribute some useful overs, either covering for the lack of a specialist spinner or adding a fifth seamer to an all-pace attack.
Number Eight's a slightly different kettle of fish, and if Mitchell Johnson was firing he'd be a natural fit, a front line bowler who can contribute with the bat. There will be those who'll argue that his 40* at The Wanderers has saved his bacon, but there's no question about the bowling side of the equation.
No, send Mitch off to play for the Warriors, giving him a potential path back (if form justifies it) against India in Perth, or alternatively, with the Big Bash on the horizon and the ODIs against India to follow, Mitch's all-round ability makes him an obvious candidate for the shorter forms of the game.
A quick glance at the Shield results from the season to date throws up a number of candidates which can be grouped as Christian/Henriques/Smith for the spot at Six, and Hopes/Mitchell Marsh/McDonald at Eight.
Given Smith's inclusion in the squad for the Australia A game, you'd pick him as the obvious favourite, though the other two have strong claims as well.
At the Gabba, if you reckon four quicks are enough Smith's the obvious choice, and he's obviously got potential despite being pretty thoroughly done over against England last summer. If I was sitting at the selection table, however, I'd be leaning towards Henriques since we're looking to manage Cummins' workload. Under other circumstances four quicks might be enough, but let's not overload the youngster.
With those factors in mind, let's throw Copeland into the Harris/Hilfenhaus/Siddle bracket, since Harris is unlikely, Hilfenhaus may emerge from the #11 bowl-off and he'd slipped my mind up to this point.
Hughes, Warner, Khawaja, Ponting, Clarke, Watson/Henriques, Haddin/Wade, Hopes/Mitchell Marsh/McDonald, Copeland/Harris/Hilfenhaus/Siddle, Cummins, Hilfenhaus/Cutting/Pattinson/Starc, Lyon (12th)
From there, things fall into place pretty quickly.
At Eight the logical choice is Hopes, though Mitchell Marsh is obviously on the way up. It's a relatively inexperienced attack, so the first class and international experience will be helpful.
Assuming we've ruled out Harris on fitness grounds, with Hopes in there already, it becomes a toss up between Copeland, Siddle and Hilfenhaus, and given the emerging shape of the lineup, Copeland.
Anything can, and probably will, happen at Bellerive, but I'd be looking for a lefty to round out the attack, so a couple of days out from the announcement with the Australia A game due to start tomorrow I'd be pencilling in:
Hughes, Warner, Khawaja, Ponting, Clarke, Watson/Henriques, Haddin/Wade, Hopes, Copeland, Cummins, Starc, Lyon (12th)
Assuming Watson is unfit, a relatively inexperienced side might be enough to save Haddin's bacon, but I'd be leaning towards Wade who will probably, given the way these things invariably seem to run, break a finger in the Australia A game...
So let's leave it at that until Saturday and turn our thoughts elsewhere for a bit….