Hall of Fame Member
Join Date: Oct 2004
Regarding the bowling attack first, I think you have to consider what a second spinner will actually bring to the Australian team. Macgill is a good bowler, but there is very little that Warne can't do with regard to spin bowling in the team. He's an attacking and a defensive spinner, he can rip through a team or tie up an end... he's the greatest spinner Australia has ever had. I think, on Australian pitches, the selectors have to consider an attack they think is most likely to win them games and run with it for a season. Picking McGrath, Lee and Tait, in the absence of other options, lets the selectors have a look at how they will perform as a unit, if Lee can translate his improved bowling performances in England into a better success rate, and how well Tait goes. There is a strong argument for including Watson with this team, but he has to show some improvement with the ball. Watson is a fine batsman, but if he did not bowl he would not make the current Australian team outright. He might deserve a spot, but he wouldn't get it because there's a few other people in line. If Watson does come in, he must hold his own with the bat and also provide some value with the ball, even if that's just bowling accurately and tying up an end for a while. Tait and Lee are both capable of being devastating, but lack the capacity to reduce the run flow. If you supported them with McGrath, Warne and an all-rounder who could bowl seamers and keep it tight when needed, that wouldn't be such a problem. Tait is the best reverse swing bowler in Australia, Lee is fast and did more than enough to warrant at least being in the team next summer in England. Australia should try that team for a summer, rather than throwing McGrath/Lee/Tait/Warne on the scrapheap after one test as a unit.
Now, batting. I am loathe to drop Katich. I think he's a very good player and has the ability to be a real dour, tough middle order player in the mould of a Waugh or Border for Australia, which is something we need. However, he struggled in England more than I expected he would, and his problems weren't just freak dismissals, they were inability against reverse swing and a tendancy to play rash shots. Katich isn't a fluent, destructive batsman who can get away with playing the odd rash shot, his role in the team is different and if he's doing that he shouldn't be in the team. Australia's bowling troubles warrant looking to Watson if he has a good tour with the A team, and putting Katich on the sidelines once more, as much as I like him as a player.
I would rather see Hussey in the team than Jaques. Australia don't simply need youth, they need someone who's going to come in and score runs. Hussey might be 30, but he's got a few years left in him yet, as Langer and Hayden were around that age when they began opening together. Hussey's a long standing success in England, a moderate success in Australia, but most importantly he's got an opportunity at international level and he did well. You can have a first class average of 70, but that's not worth as much as success at international level, and Hussey from the very moment he joined the ODI team has looked absolutely at home. He's played in difficult conditions in England and excelled, and he looked the part last summer in Australia and New Zealand as well. He should be the guy who comes in for Hayden. Jaques will get his shot soon enough, and could use another season to mature anyway.
The rest of the middle order sorts itself out. Ponting/Martyn is still the strongest 3/4 in world cricket today, regardless of Martyn having a poor Ashes series. As you mentioned, there is no reason to believe his slump is a major problem, he simply had a bad series after starting well and getting a few bad calls and losing form and confidence. He'll bounce back, and even if he doesn't he certainly deserves the chance. Clarke was very impressive on the tour of England, and as the future of the Australian batting lineup he deserves to be retained, obviously.
My team, if the first test against the West Indies was tomorrow:
If Hayden's poor run of form continues, replace him with Hussey immediately - some time during the summer. Don't give him another series of doing nothing, especially if Australia are struggling. Tait and Lee deserve to be persisted with. Watson needs to improve the ball so he can at least block up an end like Razzaq and continue his evolution with the bat, and then he will justify his place.
I know a place where a royal flush
Can never beat a pair