As the we move on from the euphoria (if you are Australian) of the Ashes, to the One Day cricket menu, the Australian team is shaping up to be very, very hard to beat. I would go as far as to say that this team has the potential to be the best team Australia has ever fielded at a World Cup, and possibly ever. In a time of change for Australian cricket, many of the fans feel worried, uncertain, discombobulated even. But I think it is bloody exciting. Of course, the exits of Langer and Warne have had no effect on the one day team, and for McGrath, it is business as usual until the end of the World Cup.
The main opportunities have come from Martyn’s retirement and that unlucky man again, Shane Watson. Watson’s injury has already seen not one, but two Test players benefit this summer – Michael Clarke and then Symonds. It now seems that Watson’s injury has not only seen the rebirth of Hayden. And in the search for balance, Cameron White – “Bear” has been turned lose on the international cricket community. And what a launching it was – his Twenty20 debut had the critics in raptures, as did his stunning hitting in his first ODI innings of the summer.
What surprises me about Cameron White is that he is still but a youngster at 23 years old. He seems to have been around for ages (and this is his sixth season) and I thought he might be getting a bit long in the tooth! Many seasons ago, there was hope that White would replace Warne as the number one leg spinner. But I have heard over recent seasons that his batting has improved and his bowling fallen away. However, he has 131 first class wickets at 38.8, which is not that bad – it does give one reason to hope. And his batting is very noteworthy. He has hit two centuries in “county” Twenty20 including 141 not out.
What this one day side offers is a batting line up of seven top shelf one day batsmen. It is laden with powerful hitting and balanced by the class of Ponting and Hussey. That is not to diminish those players’ strike power – while not brutes like Symonds, Gilchrist and White, Ponting and Hussey can score as quickly as most. However, they do offer the stability of say, Bevan, without the sedative side effects. Here is the exciting part. From those seven batsmen, you get a wicket keeper and three bowlers, specifically Clarke, Symonds and White, from whom you can expect to get 10 – 20 overs. That leaves room for four strike bowlers. The appeal in this team composition is that it avoids the situation where you have four all rounders in the team and none of them are dominating with either bat or ball. I feel that in recent times, in any given match, Australian teams have tended to be weak with either the bat or ball, as selectors tried to find the correct balance. This team is potent with the bat and the ball.
The candidates for four bowling positions (in my preferred order) are:
There are some useful batsmen amongst those bowlers. Perhaps it’s shocking that I am suggesting that McGrath should not be in the starting eleven. I won’t be upset if his is, but I’m ready to move on. No disrespect intended to Pigeon but let’s go with youth and form. It should be remembered that in One Day Cricket, McGrath offers nothing with the bat and in the field he is not getting any faster.
There has been some comment that the team is weak in spin and that this is a problem. I have a few comments on that:
1. It’s a one day match, not a Test match. You don’t necessarily need a spinner. All you need is 10-20 tidy overs out of the previously said trio.
2. Symonds and Clarke can bowl tidy spin. White’s economy so far is over seven per over and he should aim to improve.
3. If the pitch is expected to be spinner friendly, Hogg can come in for one of the quicks.
I’m not sure where that leaves poor old Watto. Perhaps you could argue he could come in for Hayden at the top of the order. Or possibly that Hussey could open and Watson come in down the order. That would further strengthen the bowling without really weakening the batting. I have no idea where Brad Hodge fits in – to me, that was a red herring from the selectors. But there it is, it’s only while Ricky is on his mid-season holiday. Now there is a concept!