Ashes selectors finally put underperformers on notice
Australian selectors, who generally rate somewhere between journalists and used car salesmen on the vocational popularity scale, may just have gotten something right for a change.
On the face of it, naming an extended 17 man Ashes squad was a classic act of fence-sitting. But in another sense, it shows that selectors have finally heard the public outcry to remove the dead wood.
By picking 17, Andrew Hilditch and his cronies have put the serial underperformers on notice, by picking an in-form specialist for each of the incumbents currently under threat.
Marcus North and Mike Hussey, watch your backs. Usman Khawaja – who may be Australia’s first Muslim Test cricketer – and the classy South Australian Callum Ferguson are hot on your tail.
Nathan Hauritz, now would be a really good time to at least imitate a dangerous bowler. Otherwise, you may find yourself ousted by the “X-man” Xavier Doherty, whose impressive ODI debut was touched upon in this piece.
Even pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson has effectively been told his position is not safe, with the selection of the supposedly-injured Ryan Harris. Meanwhile, disappointing NSW opener Phil Hughes has been told ‘sorry, not needed’, which is exactly the sort of harsh-but-fair call the public has been baying for.
This, of course, is the first time selectors have named a squad for a home series, a point met with deserved cynicism here and elsewhere.
The very notion of a home “squad” is nonsensical, given that every first class cricketer in Australia should have their name on a selectorial list somewhere.
But leaving all that aside, this week’s Sheffield Shield matches will now be genuine last minute Ashes trials, as they should be. If Khawaja or Ferguson make runs, or if Doherty if bags a big haul, then there simply have to be new faces in Brisbane – especially if Hussey, North or Hauritz tank.
That’s the second thing the selectors need to get right. Don’t just flag the changes. Actually make them, if the situation demands it.
The squad: Ricky Ponting (c) Michael Clarke (vc) Doug Bollinger Xavier Doherty Callum Ferguson Brad Haddin Ryan Harris Nathan Hauritz Mike Hussey Ben Hilfenhaus Mitchell Johnson Simon Katich Usman Khawaja Marcus North Peter Siddle Steven Smith Shane Watson.
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