Presenting problems without solutions is the fastest way for your opinion to be ignored.
So instead of taking another pot-shot at the Australian cricket team’s national selectors, I’m going to dig them out of their hole and give them their optimum side for the first Test.
Ten of the names to be entrusted with batting, bowling, fielding and hydrating their way into the history books by regaining the sport’s ultimate prize on home soil when the Ashes kick off at The Gabba on November 23 should be locked in stone.
Openers David Warner and Matt Renshaw will be tasked with blunting England’s attack — through brute force and time at the crease respectively — while selectors have no issue picking Usman Khawaja on home soil at first-drop.
Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb follow next, while Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon will strike fear into the Poms all series.
Jackson Bird has made the drinks carrying spot his own in recent times and is really coming in to the role well with his (insert sponsor here) mix improving with every drop.
But the final two positions — numbers six and seven in the batting order — are as open as any leading in to any Ashes series I can ever remember.
The problem with the positions is that integral philosophical questions about the nature of each player required must first be answered before a suitable candidate is found.
Does the number six spot go to an all-rounder or your next best batsman in the country?
If you do go with an all-rounder, do you need a back-up pace option or would you prefer a spin-twin for the GOAT? Or do you stick with the best batting all-rounder and take whichever discipline he prefers with the ball as an added bonus?
Confused already? The selectors seem to be.
Then we go to number seven.
In my opinion, who you select at six has a direct correlation with who gets the nod as the next cab off the rank.
If you’ve got an all-rounder in the order you could throw the gloves to Handscomb and pick another batsman.
It would be a brave decision though, and unlikely, so your wicketkeeper must have a sound grounding in front of the stumps, not just behind them.
But if you pick a pure striker of the ball at six it allows you to pick the best gloveman in the country — no matter his prowess with willow in hand.
The sheer number of options is simply overwhelming if I go through every player combination which could get a game on these grounds, so I will make the decision clear-cut.
I’m picking an all-rounder at six, which means I need my wicketkeeper to make runs.
I trust the bowling attack to create enough chances that if one or two are fluffed behind the stumps it will not matter and I’m banking on any byes or leg byes conceded being repaid at least three-fold when my gloveman takes to the crease.
So who does that leave me with?
Still more options than you could poke a stick at. But at least it gives us a clearer vision of who joins the middle order.
NUMBER SIX CANDIDATES
A Test cricket average of 26.08 with the bat and 42.63 with the ball will not scare the English. What will is Maxwell’s ability to catch fire in the space of 30 balls and take the game in a new direction. There will never be another Adam Gilchrist, but I believe Maxwell can carve out a similar role with the bat as the greatest keeper of all time. More than handy in the field as well and is my pick for Brisbane.
The incumbent number six can also hit a long ball, but I feel his time is yet to come. At 25 Cartwright still has plenty left in the tank and I think he would not be harmed at all by plying his trade in the Sheffield Shield for another season or so. His medium pace is surplus to requirements in my opinion, as with the GOAT in fine form captain Smith can rotate his three quicks from one end in short spells.
If the selectors do not give Maxwell another chance I implore them to pick Head and leave him there for 10 years. The 23-year-old is beautiful to watch at the crease and can help lead the next generation of Australian Test cricket. Has a great head on his shoulders (pun unequivocally intended) and would help allay fears of middle order collapses. His bowling is on par with Maxwell’s.
Anyone But Mitch Marsh
Please. We’ve been there, tried that. Like an ex who says they’ve changed, the only place for them remains in the discard pile. And while the selectors are at it, Shaun does not deserve another shot either. If you have to pick him somewhere put him in the People’s XI under Geevesy.
NUMBER SEVEN CANDIDATES
Wade has returned a dismal 263 runs at 20.23, and amassed more than 40 in an innings only once, since returning to the national team for his batting prowess. Massive failure — cut ties and start again.
Nevill was unlucky to lose his Australian gloves, but that does not mean he should get them back. At 32 he still has enough life in his legs to be a medium-term option, but the selectors will be looking to give a fresh face a chance if they drop Wade.
The endorsement from Gilchrist last week was enough for me to be content if Carey gets selected, but he would not be my pick. A career first-class average of 24.54 is simply not enough with an all-rounder in front of him — no matter how good he is behind the stumps.
The selectors love to throw a curve-ball. Bancroft will be 25 by the time the first Test kicks off, but he fits the mould of promising young star to a tee. Averaging 53.71 at the top end of Western Australia’s order so far this summer, I think Bancroft could make the transition down the order. It would also allow him to take the gloves — something he has already done for his country in the international Twenty20 arena. Give him five Ashes Tests to see what he is made of and you might just find yourself with a 100-Test player on your hands. I have been against experiments in the past, but no keepers are banging the door down.