Australia’s Selection Meltdown: Are They Panicking Already?

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 ( 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.”

Tom Sturrock


  • I think Australia are favourites, because of home advantage. Could come down to who scores the most, Cook & Root, or Warner & Smith. Hazelwood, Cummins, Starc & Lyon, should out bowl Anderson, Broad, Overton & Moeen, on Aussie pitches. If the same squads were about to play over here, I’d make us favourites. Should be an interesting series.

    • If the best youngsters they have are Renshaw, Handscombe and Maddison it’s not surprising they’ve gone backwards, though Shaun Marsh has been dropped so many times Vince and Ballance don’t look bad options. As I have said from the outset, why are we so worried about the present Aussie set up? They are there for the taking, totally reliant on Stark and Hazelwood. Warner and Smith are sure to score runs, but who else is? As I see it the rest all have proven technical deficiencies that the likes of Anderson, Broad and Woakes are experienced enough to exploit.

      • Of the youngsters there was buzz about Jake Weatherald last season and he has just scored centuries in both innings in the Sheffield Shield. May be the next one to get a chance.

  • If Stokes does make it back at some point during the series, it might be closer than many (me included) first though. If one of the Aussie quicks breaks down as well, than England have a great chance.

  • ” I’ve always quite rated Marsh”

    Are you taking the piss there James? I’ve seen Marsh over the last 10 years be absolutely mediocre at international level, yet somehow he and his brother seem be given chance after chance by the selectors, presumably because of his last name. How exactly is Marsh better than Ferguson, Cartwright or Maxwell? Maxwell can feel righfully cheesed, apparently the management don’t seem to like his face. Australai are going in with 4 bowlers now, and if they happen to spend a long day in the field, then the chances of one of the bowlers breaking down is amplified. All this has done is send a message to the rest of the players that they should change their last name to Marsh.

    • I’m a sucker for elegant batsmen so that’s why I quite like Marsh. He’s good to watch, and a test average of 36 (with 4 tons) isn’t anything to be sniffed at. That’s slightly more than Ben Stokes averages.

      I can understand the frustrations with Marsh because he’s a bit like Ian Bell … a great player to watch who can be flakey sometimes. However, he’s a pretty useful No.6! Not sure that I would’ve recalled him at the age of 34, but I don’t think his presence weakens the batting. He’s a better player than some of the all rounders considered imho.

      • Shaun Marsh is basically James Vince’s template, looks good but doesn’t offer any performance worthy of consideration. That article in the guardian is spot on.

      • It makes little sense to compare him to Stokes when Stokes is an all-rounder. If Marsh offered a fifth bowling option, then by all means pick him. But he doesn’t.

        • It’s awful for anyone who calls themselves a batsmen full stop!!! However, England fans crow over stokes, hales, moeen and co when they are pretending to be good enough for a top six slot and yet avg low to mid 30’s!!

          Just shows the lack of genuine talent around that these stats are being considered ‘world class’ now

          • 36 is certainly good enough for a 6 who takes wickets at less than that. So moeen and Stokes both good enough.

            No one thinks Hales is Test class. No idea where you got that.

  • Don’t fully agree with Tom – Tim Paine was mentioned in nearly every Australian on-line media outlet in the last couple of weeks, I even had him down in my XI as I have always rated him. He had a good debut, a good future until fate struck and he had massive finger issues for a number of years.
    He wasn’t selected in the Tasmanian XI because the selectors wanted to see if Wade could get back into form as well as give Paine some playing time against England in the warm up match for CA XI. Paine is also the current Australian T20 keeper, so not a shot out of the blue at all, Wade and Neville were told to up their games, which they had three chances to do so, and all failed. So the Paine selection was actually quite an easy one.

    Bancroft was always going to get a game sometime soon – Renshaw was put through his paces earlier in the week against the test bowling line-up at the academy because he too had failed in the three Sheffield Shield matches, so they wanted to give him a chance. Clearly he couldn’t convince the selectors in that workout, so in came an in form Bancroft. Renshaw will be back, he is only 21 and a big talent.

    Marsh is an interesting one, a gifted batsman for sure but he really has had so many chances. Form and injuries were against him. I’m not convinced he should be at 6, if they selected him as an opener, fine, but at 6 now leaves Australia with a back up bowler short. With my local intel, I hear, Steve Smith has been spending a bit of time bowling in the nets as he will have to help out with some overs. We all know he is not a genuine wicket taker, but he will have to plug in some overs to give the big three a breather, as will probably Warner. Many mock his bowling, but as a matter of bowling 4 or 5 overs, it gives a front line bowler an extra 8 – 10 over breather. Dumping Maxwell is a gamble, so the back up bowlers had want to be ready, if they are required. It also means that Smith will have a quick bowler every second over has he rotates them around Lyon – gutsy move……..

    So for me, Marsh is the odd one, however it seems the selectors are banking on the 4 main bowlers to take the required 20 wickets to win a test match, with the top 6 and Paine as main contributors to post 400+ 1st innings totals, very doable.

    I think the 2nd test in Adelaide is where the selectors will be proven right or wrong.

    • Feel free to provide an example of media coverage mentioning Paine.

      Check out the interactive feature on Fairfax sites. None of the “experts” picked him. To suggest he was a straightforward selection is sheer fantasy.

  • There would have been one way to achieve better balance in the Australian side. Give Bancroft the gloves (if he can keep and bat in Sheffield Shield then he can in tests as well) and play Ashton Agar at 7. I understand that Agar is a bits and pieces player, but he has a FC batting average close to Paine’s and provides the fifth bowler (and, even better, as a SLA he is different to any of the other bowlers). I understand the doubts about Agar (not good enough at any particular role), but he is as good as any alternative and provides the balance the selected side badly lacks.

      • Not a lot, but as a back up spinner that can bat a bit, he’s not a bad option. I rate Zampa, but where is he in the pecking order?

      • Well, on the Australian tour of Bangladesh in September he took 7 wickets at 23 in 2 tests (not bad for a 5th bowler against a team that has beaten both England and Australia in tests recently). He also scored 65 runs at an average of 32.5.

          • If they have no better option. Is that so difficult to understand or do you just like argument for the sake of it? They have 4 bowlers, 2 of which are injury prone, and no alternative seamer who can also bat. Agar can bat (has 2 FC 100s to Paines 1). Unfortunately, as I pointed out, probably irrelevant until the WACA due to injury.

            • But they do have better options than Agar. If the fifth bowling option is a priority, then Maxwell is clearly a more accomplished batsman. Cartwright also rolls the arm over.

              • But neither Maxwell or Cartwright are other than occasional bowlers. Agar is several cuts above them as a bowler.

      • Apologies. Just found out that the finger Agar broke in September needed surgery and he is only just back in training. Guess he will be targeting the WACA test.

    • At least Bancroft forced his way in through weight of runs. Can’t say the same of Marsh. And Paine has come out of the blue.

      • Why not Bancroft at 6 if his weight of runs demanded selection? Henshaw has effectively been dropped for Shaun bloody Marsh.

            • Yet Bancroft opens for WA and will replace Renshaw opening for Australia. Marsh bats lower for WA and will bat at 6 for Australia. Hence, Renshaw has been replaced by Bancroft, not Marsh. You don’t have to be “literal” to observe this. It’s obvious.

  • A few random points:
    1) Leaving out Maxwell is the selection decision I find hardest to understand. Dropping him has taken out a batsman capable of winning a game in half a day, the fifth bowler and the team’s best fielder (apart from Smith and Warner this isn’t a great Australian fielding side).
    2) Khawaja and Handscomb have been little discussed in the build-up. Khawaja averages 77 in the last two Australian home seasons (against NZ, WI, SA and Pakistan – and he only got one Test against WI). He’s struggled in Asia against spin. Handscomb started his test career like a train but has been slowing up and looks vulnerable to me to the full-length away-swinger (if England can manage to bowl some!).
    3) Nathan Lyon is being underrated as usual. He has just had a superb tour to Bangladesh.
    4) David Warner just slowed his slowest Test century – he may not be quite as easy to “bore out” as some think.
    5) There seems to be a widespread assumption that England must win in Adelaide. Australia actually have a better recent record in Adelaide than in Perth.
    6) James Sutherland talked last week about Test pitches should help bowlers more. 10 of the last 12 Tests in Australia have produced results (one of the draws was heavily rain-affected and the other needed Ross Taylor to break a century-old batting record). I wouldn’t bet on many draws.
    7) The build-up has seemed very muted. I hope we have a good series with some ebb-and-flow rather than one side getting on top quickly and everything thereafter being a procession.


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