Australia ring surprise changes

In the months following Australia’s loss in the Ashes series of 2005, the selectors repeatedly swung the axe and dismissed several long-term members of the team. First to go were two parts of the out-of-form pace attack – Michael Kasprowicz and Jason Gillespie. Then there was Damien Martyn, viewed by many as the scapegoat for the team’s lacklustre batting performances, and then as the home summer began, Simon Katich and Michael Clarke found themselves returning to New South Wales and Michael Hussey and Brad Hodge took their places in the Australian lineup.

Six months on from the Ashes, and the selectors have come full-circle on several careers. Michael Kasprowicz has made a surprise return to the test squad ahead of Jason Gillespie to cover the missing McGrath, while Shaun Tait was also preferred to his South Australian teammate, and also swing specialist Nathan Bracken. Damien Martyn had a poor Pura Cup season and an indifferent time in the international one dayers, while Brad Hodge has averaged almost 60 since his call-up to the test side to replace Michael Clarke. Nevertheless, both Martyn and Clarke made the squad, while Hodge and prolific New South Wales batsman Phil Jaques remain at home. In the battle of the all-rounders, Andrew Symonds has been preferred to Shane Watson, despite missing the three one dayers that were meant to seperate the two before the test squad was named.

In all, the selection changes offer a worrying hint of desperation from the Australian selectors. Keen to appear ruthless and efficient in dismissing dead weight six months ago, they are now returning to the same players and dismissing those who have performed credibly in recent times. Michael Kasprowicz and Michael Clarke earned their second chances with weight of performances at domestic and one day level, but the Martyn-Hodge shuffle seems to be little more than a whim, and if successful would surely call into question the decision to drop Martyn in the first place. Outside of the batting lineup, some of the choices for the pace attack to cover the loss of McGrath also seem without direction.

Eventually,it will be the performances of the squad offered that the selectors will be judged upon, but for an aging team like Australia it is particularly important that selections are made with an eye to the future – something that seems to be lacking in the major turnaround offered today.

Australia Squad
Ricky Ponting (c), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn, Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Michael Kasprowicz, Stuart MacGill, Stuart Clark, Shaun Tait.

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