With a tour to South Africa around the corner, and a coveted World Test Championship Final spot jeopardised, Australia has no alternative but to recover swiftly from an embarrassing defeat at the hands of what’s being dubbed India’s ‘B’ Team.
What changes could be made?
Starc was once known for mopping up the tail, but that ability seems to have eluded him as of late. Australia’s ‘formidable’ bowling unit failed to bowl India out twice on fifth day wickets, something has to give. If the pace trio is to be re-jigged, even only temporarily, Starc will be first to go. Averaged 40.72 with the ball this summer.
It would be outrageous to drop the GOAT, especially on 399 Test wickets. But after he managed just 9 wickets across four Tests at 55.11, the conversation has to be had. Will hold his place.
To Wade’s credit, he’s been selfless and played the Mr. fix it role, opening for the first time in his professional career at Test level. Upon return to his familiar number five position for the final two Tests, he still failed to register a half-century, repeatedly throwing away starts with a rush of blood, and failing to show his experience.
Harris was granted an opportunity that looked extremely unlikely at the beginning of the summer, despite his Sheffield Shield double-ton. Having made 5 and 38, he didn’t exactly grab his chance, and now averages 23.77 across his 10 Test career. He’s been dealt tough circumstances time and time again, and will unfortunately make way providing Will Pucovski’s fitness.
Talk of Paine losing his place in the side is ridiculous, for the coming South Africa tour at least. The man that captained Australia through this series loss to India is the same man that lead Australia through it’s darkest hours and retained the Ashes on English soil for the first time in 18 years. He is 36 years of age, and won’t be around forever, but will go out on his own terms, as he deserves to.
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The Potential Newcomers
If Mitchell Starc was to lose his place, a three horse race would ensue between Richardson, Michael Neser, and James Pattinson. Richardson has a bowling average of 20.50 from his two Test career, and looked threatening at Test level before being undone by a shoulder injury. With this summer’s installment of the Big Bash being his first major tournament since recovering from that injury, he’s shone to be the competition’s leading wicket taker with 26 wickets.
No one is more deserving of a baggy green than Michael Neser. He’s Australia’s perennial 12th man, but can’t crack the side. His bowling could be suited to South African conditions – where Vernon Philander thrived – and he’s more than capable with the bat having notched a Shield century this season.
A like-for-like Starc replacement brings firepower and fear-factor. He may have played the fourth Test if not for his freak lawn mower mishap. Can bowl upwards of 145 km/h and has 81 Test wickets.
In the unlikely event Nathan Lyon’s brutally axed, Mitch Swepson is his obvious replacement. The 27-year-old leggie has been banging the door down and craving opportunity at Test level. His 23 Sheffield Shield wickets at 21.17 make him the tournament’s leading wicket taker by a substantial eight wickets.
You just have to watch McDermott in the BBL to know how cleanly he’s striking the ball. The 26-year-old is currently fifth in the tournament’s runs with 401 at 40.10, continuing a golden summer in which he’s scored a half-century every Sheffield Shield game at an average of 59.16. He recorded a century against India A, meaning he’s succeeded against world-class bowling, and would also provide a back-up kepper making him the perfect replacement for Wade.
The resurgance of Matthew Wade is proof runs outweigh age. Most will screw their nose in disgust at the mere mention of Shaun Marsh playing Test cricket again, but when you dive into the numbers, he’s a far more appealing option than you think. He’s currently second in the Sheffield Shield runs with 485 at an average of 97, and would be replacing Wade at number five. Whilst he has a Test average of 34.31, he averages 46.42 batting at five and six. The future’s admittedly far more enticing, but there comes a time when you need to focus on the present. With the World Test Championship final in July, that time is now, and Marsh doesn’t have to feature beyond that game. Would also provide the optimal top-six balance of four experienced campaigners and two rookies, as opposed to exposing a third inexperienced player.