Posted by: nestaquin | October 7, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy: Australian XI Review

Presumably, the Australian team for the First Test of the Border/Gavaskar Trophy will be announced tomorrow, however, selections in the two warm-up matches and comments in the press by Ponting and Nielsen indicate that the team has already been chosen regardless of conditions.

It should be noted that this is not the team that the author would select, Symonds and Jaques would be involved, but the team expected to be selected.

Matthew Hayden – Returning from injury the veteran hasn’t played in a losing Test since the 2005 Ashes and his record in India is unsurpassed. Enjoys the battle be it against the new ball or spin and at age 37 will be keen to cement his place in the side for the coming summer. His catching at first slip is top notch and he will need to be in form if Australia are to retain the trophy.

Simon Katich – Prolific domestic form and a fine series in the Caribbean has the gritty, patient left-hander edging out his New South Wales team-mate Phil Jaques for the opening position. Experienced, with a superb cricketing brain, Katich will need to perform early in the series to keep his cap as Jaques has done little wrong of late. Prone to edging balls that swing away which RP Singh and Zaheer Khan deliver so well. His left-arm wrist spin could be valuable in a crisis as he has the knack of breaking partnerships with the occasional unplayable delivery.

Ricky Ponting – The Australian captain has been a veritable walking wicket on previous tours to India and it is matter of personal pride that he succeeds in his final Test series on the sub-continent. Returning to cricket after wrist surgery this is an important series for Ponting not only for his outstanding reputation but also to prove that his body can continue to withstand the relentless nature of international fixturing.

Michael Clarke – Superb tour of India last series including a colossal 151 on debut. Pup is an improved cricketer four years on and meaningful middle-order contributions are expected.  A left-arm orthodox spinner who topped the averages in the Caribbean he will be expected to bowl his fair share of overs this tour especially when the going gets tough. An inspirational fieldsman with a strong arm and quick reflexes who has an uncanny knack of hitting the timber although his catching can sometimes let him and his side down.

Michael Hussey – Arguably the world’s best batsman who values his wicket highly and once set is very difficult to remove.  Equally at home defending or attacking, his cool consistency in any situation is perhaps Australia’s greatest strength, while his fielding, be it on the ground or in the air, is as sound as his batting technique.  If India are to win the series they must dismiss Hussey early and often for his ability to form partnerships with the tail is preponderant.

Shane Watson – Belatedly gets an opportunity to cement his place in the Test team in Andrew Symonds absence. Receiving the player of the IPL award proves that the conditions and opponents won’t be problematic to success and if his body stays true to his ambition Shane should show the rest of the cricketing world what many in Australia have known since he first donned the green cap of Tasmania as a teenager.  He is a genuine allrounder with a textbook batting technique who bowls a heavy ball in excess of 140km/h. On his day he is a match-winner and after so many setbacks this series is a chance to put all that disappointment behind him. If he stays fit, and that is a big if, he could be the difference between the two sides.

Brad Haddin – The New South Wales gloveman will never completely fill the hole left by Adam Gilchrist but he is a fine keeper who is experienced in all situations and also bats calmly and intelligently. If he can continue to average 30 and form willing partnerships with the tail he will have done his job. Rarely drops a chance and his powers of concentration, a necessity on long hot days in India, are proven and beyond question.

Cameron White – Will become Australia’s first choice spinner by default. Has concentrated on improving his batting in the last two seasons and if he is selected above Jason Krezja, Australia will be very difficult to dismiss cheaply. His wrist-spin is more handy than devastating and last month as Australia ‘A’ captain he had an excellent tour of India leading his country to an impressive series win in the triangular ODI tournament where he led superbly by bowling tightly, batting handsomely and fielding aggressively.

Brett Lee – Quick, experienced, aggressive and focussed after a tough heartbreaking off-season and career best last 12 months. Will lead the attack and be used in short sharp spells by Ponting for maximum effect. The Indians are wary of his pace and the early battles with Sehwag will be worth the price of subscription. His batting could also be effective especially if Australia are on top and looking for quick runs before a declaration.

Mitchell Johnson – Probably the quickest left-armer in international cricket, Johnson continues to improve and his willingness to sacrifice off the field and on has made him a favourite of his team-mates. With his slingy action perfect for the art of reverse-swing on the sub-continent, Mitch will be expected to bowl long spells with the older ball. He has worked hard on his fitness and spent time with DK Lillee and Troy Cooley during the break with this series wholly in mind. His batting will be more than handy at No.10 and his athletic outfielding for a man of his stature (1.89m) can only be described as freakish.

Stuart Clark – The perfect foil for Lee and Johnson, the metronomic and cerebral Stu Clarke will continue to do what he has done since his excellent debut series in South Africa in 2006. He’ll find the length and through patient consistency keep making the batsman play in the corridor of uncertainty. Can move the ball off the pitch when others cannot and has added an outswinger to his armoury in the last year. Expect him to do the hard yards, bowling a tight line to his field and be rewarded for the effort.

Concluding, Australia are in much better shape than most think and the side above will give a good account of themselves in a foreign environment. I think India, with their long tail and ageing, desperate middle-order have more to be concerned about than the Australians, who although underdone, have excellent form and massive self belief to fallback on when the going inevitably gets tough.

Tomorrow: The Tooting Trumpet runs the fine-tooth comb over Team India.

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Responses

  1. The difference in the fielding will be huge.

  2. Good call Toots.

    In the ’80s when the cupboard was bare Bob Simpson decided that even though Australia had few world-class batters and bowlers they could at least excel in the field. That attitude won them the ’87 World Cup (Gatting’s reverse sweep helped too) and his legacy continues to this day.

    Zimbabwe under Heath Streak and Andy Flower had a similar philosophy and they were able to compete and beat most nations in the ODI format because of it in the ’90s.

    Sadly, it’ll be a long time before we see the red caps excelling at that standard again.

  3. Even a pub side should be able to field well, although truly great fielding is as rare as truly great batting or bowling. Any bowler should aspire to field like Mitch Johnson or Jimmy Anderson and batsman should work on it as a second skill.

    There’s no excuse for poor fielding in the modern game – none. Errors okay – they happen – but consistently poor like too many of the Indian side, no.

  4. Looking at that lineup, there’s incredible batting depth there. It doesn’t really let up right through to even Stuart Clark, who is more than capable of a handy 50. I’m really interested to see if Warne has worked any magic with Cameron White.

  5. (Tangential to the discussion…) Nesta, I don’t think that Zimbabwe were competitive because of their fielding. They would have been competitive anyway because they had some really good players, most notably Andy Flower, Murray Goodwin, Neil Johnson, and Heath Streak (and a few other all right players). Their good fielding no doubt helped them, but core batting and bowling ability was their main strength.

    This contrasts with Bangladesh, who are apparently good fielders.

  6. Perhaps you are correct, David, but I do remember the Zimbabwe team of that era publicly stating that they aspired to be the best fielding team in world cricket. They were a crack outfit too. I had high hopes for Zim cricket a decade ago.

    As for Bangladesh I didn’t see too much to crow about in any aspect of the game when I witnessed their crushing defeats in Darwin.

  7. Yes – I recall Zim saying that they would aim to compete with bat and ball, but were committed to being the best fielding side in the world. They did develop some very good players, before it all went sour.

    Bangla boys doing okay as I write.


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