Well, well, well. It seems that Australia’s selectors are just as barmy as England’s hopeless trio. The Aussies have made three controversial selections in their squad for the first test. Young Cameron Bancroft has come in for Matt Renshaw, old Tim Paine has come in for Nevill / Wade, and even older Shaun Marsh has been recalled ahead of Hilton Cartwright (who sounds a bit like an upmarket hotel).
Although I doubt these selections will make a rat’s arse of difference to the outcome of the Ashes – Bancroft is in better form than Renshaw, I’ve always quite rated Marsh, and England were always going to have the better keeper-batsman anyway – the Australian selectors have caused a bit of a stir down under. In fact, quite a lot of Aussie fans are throwing their toys big time. We know the feeling lads!
I imagine the selectors see Marsh and Paine as the new Hussey and Haddin (albeit not quite as good) and didn’t quite trust the younger guys. This seems fair enough to me. However, it does make Australia look a little unsettled. And who knows, perhaps it might have given England a timely morale boost?
Tom Sturrock, a passionate Aussie who has long contributed to this site, emailed me to express his displeasure. It was quite an enjoyable rant. Thanks Tom! It’s good to know that the Aussies are already on the run. Ahem.
Here’s what Tom had to say:
“English fans probably won’t be familiar with Cameron Bancroft but he’s been picked ahead of Matt Renshaw on the back of some outstanding domestic form – he made an unbeaten double-century for WA earlier in the week. Renshaw, on the other hand, has been short of runs.
So it’ll be Warner and Bancroft, then Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith (in whatever order), then Peter Handscomb at 5 and then … this is where it gets weird … Shaun Marsh and 6 and Tim Paine at 7.
Those last two names will cause an unseemly gnashing of teeth Down Under. Positions 6 and 7 have been hotly debated in the lead-up to the Ashes. The late switch of Bancroft for Renshaw will be widely accepted. But going back to 34-year-old Marsh and recalling Paine from the wilderness will have people’s heads spinning.
Let’s start with Marsh …
For the best part of the last decade, Australia has insisted on having an extra bowling option in the top six. This was used to justify carrying Shane Watson for five years. Even Mitchell Marsh was gifted 20 Tests … all because an all-rounder is desperately needed, apparently.
This spot has been complicated by the fact that Australia doesn’t have any rolled gold all-rounders – although the streaky Glenn Maxwell scored a century four Tests ago batting at 6 in India. Marcus Stoinis and Moises Henriques would have been other options. Hilton Cartwright also rolls the arm over.
But this magic rule about needing an all-rounder has now been cast aside … just so they can give Shaun Marsh another go. To decide that no all-rounder is required is shock enough but to go back to Shaun Marsh compounds it. It looks like the selectors have decided they simply want the best six batsmen in the country. But there will be howls of frustration up and down the east coast that Marsh is deemed one of them. And what if one of the quicks breaks down?
The press are now calling Marsh ‘the cat with the bat’ – he’s been recalled 8 times so maybe he has 9 lives. That’s even more than Gary Ballance, right? It’s crazy. Although Ed Cowan was the leading run scorer in domestic cricket last year he wasn’t even allowed to play for NSW this season because he was deemed too old. Cowan is 35. Marsh is 34 yet gets a test recall!
Marsh is 34 with a Test average of 36 and a FC average of 40. And he’s been in indifferent form domestically. Why break the rule on picking an all-rounder for someone like him? Unbelievable. The selectors just seem to love the Marsh boys. Australians will be throwing their TimTams at their TV screens.
And as for Tim Paine …
The selection of Paine won’t annoy people so much but it’s no less surprising. Paine made his Test debut in 2010 and was even regarded as a potential future captain at one point. He played four Tests and averaged a respectable 35 before a chronic finger injury derailed his career.
Leading into the Ashes, Matthew Wade was the incumbent keeper. Clearly he was under pressure but the likely contenders to replace him were Peter Nevill and Alex Carey, who’s uncapped. Paine wasn’t even in the conversation … but here he is.
Let me explain how much of a shock this is. Paine and Wade both play for Tasmania. In the first three games of the domestic season, Wade has been keeping wicket while Paine (in the one match he actually played) fielded somewhere else. So Paine isn’t even first choice for Tasmania – unless they just feel obliged to give Wade the gloves as he’s the Test incumbent. Well not anymore!
If you go into this newspaper site, there’s an interactive feature that allows people to pick their own Australia squad. And you can also see who the “experts” chose, along with the aggregate of people’s votes (http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/ashes-201718-pick-your-own-australian-team-20171107-gzgft0.html). There’s no mention of Marsh or Paine in any of them. No mention of Bancroft either, but that switch is more easily explained on the basis of domestic form.
It was only 12 months ago that Australia had a big cleanout and signalled it was charting a new course with young batsmen. They picked Renshaw, Handscomb and Maddinson, who were all under 25 at the time. But apparently that was just a weird spasm and the pendulum has now swung back the other direction.
No one can explain these selection decisions. The official rationale has been incoherent. There’s no plan, no policy. The selectors might as well have put a dozen names in a hat and picked one at random.
Although Australia will still start as favourites, this selection controversy has certainly ruffled a few feathers. It’s proof that England aren’t the only side with chronic uncertainty surrounding their team.”