Australia’s Ashes squad has caused consternation in some quarters – but Sky Sports’ Matt Floyd says the inclusions of Tim Paine, Cameron Bancroft and Shaun Marsh could prove pretty astute…
The general reaction to Australia’s Ashes squad for the Brisbane Test has been negative.
There were three hotly-debated positions in the side and with at least two of them, the selectors have a sprung a surprise. Clearly, many in Australia expected them to stick largely with the status quo and the last-minute parachuting in of three players certainly smacks of mild panic. But did they have much choice?
In the case of opener Matt Renshaw, they may even have done his long-term career prospects a favour. His supporters will point to his temperament, young age and an impressive start to his Test career (he averages over 36 in 10 games), but there are very strong comparisons to the situation Haseeb Hameed found himself in this summer.
Renshaw’s last nine scores are 16, 1, 1, 19, 17, 16, 5, 4 and 0. How can anyone go into an Ashes series in that kind of form and be confident, let alone a 21-year-old who has yet to play in one?
Renshaw looks like he could be the long term solution as David Warner’s opening partner but, as Steve Smith, said the Ashes “isn’t a place where you need to be trying to find your form”. A continued poor run in the spotlight could lead to an extended run out of the side.
Now compare that with Cameron Bancroft’s last four scores in first-class cricket – 228*, 17, 76* & 86. This is a player arguably in the form of his life. While there were other contenders, none were banging the door down like Bancroft and the selectors have done the sensible thing and gone with the guy scoring the most runs, who also happens to be just 24.
The wicketkeeping change was perhaps the least surprising of the three as most expected Matthew Wade to lose his place after a drastic loss in confidence both with bat and gloves. The big shock was his replacement.
Seven years after his last Test appearance, Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine says he is excited after a shock recall
Tim Paine wasn’t even picked by Tasmania at the start of the season, last played a Test in 2010 and has only scored one first-class century in 158 innings. Hardly a ringing endorsement for a place in an Ashes XI.
Bancroft would’ve been considered for the gloves as he is Western Australia’s current keeper but it makes sense to allow him to throw all of his energy into the crucial opening position. That left Peter Nevill, who can certainly feel aggrieved when he looks at his first-class record next to Paine’s.
In 133 innings he has nine centuries and his average of 39 is over 10 runs higher than his Tasmanian rival’s. Having said all that, according to Chairman of Selectors Trevor Hohns, Paine is “regarded as the best gloveman in the country”. If that’s the case, then is Paine’s selection such a punt?
Australia are hoping to blow away England with three very talented fast bowlers and for that to happen they will need someone to hold on to the nicks. Also, Nevill averages just 22 in his 17 Tests, so how much could you really expect him to have a significant impact with the bat? Looking at it that way, you might as well have someone in there who can make the biggest difference behind the stumps.
Number 6 was the other bone of contention and the choice was whether to go with an out-and-out batsman or an all-rounder. Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright were the leading options for the latter, with Mitchell Marsh currently unable to bowl.
Both played in Australia’s last Test in Bangladesh but I would question how much value they would add with their bowling. A second spinner in Brisbane is rarely needed and Cartwright is very much a part-time seamer with 19 first-class wickets at 45 apiece.
Plus, Australia have an excellent frontline spinner in Nathan Lyon who can rack up overs if the need arises and the three seamers need a rest. In that case, you simply go with the best batsman and although Shaun Marsh has had plenty of chances in the Test arena (in some ways he is Australia’s Gary Ballance) I would argue he is that person.
He has a better first-class record than his closest rivals – including his brother, Mitch – is in decent nick and number six may suit him. The selectors could have gone with a fresh face like Jake Lehmann but that would mean two debutants in the top six for a massive series.
All in all, the selectors hands have been tied by a lack of outstanding candidates across the three positions. That could have led to the likes of Renshaw, Cartwright and Wade keeping their spots but instead they have gone with players who are in form.
Paine’s selection ahead of Nevill is the really contentious one and Hohns, Mark Waugh, Greg Chappell and Darren Lehmann have certainly left themselves open to criticism, but there could also be some sound thinking behind the changes. Time will tell.