New Zealand in Australia 2011-12 November 26, 2011

Howard, selectors test depth at their disposal


Australia have turned an injury predicament into a selection opportunity by naming four potential debutants in the squad for the first Test against New Zealand. They are unlikely to be the last tyros tried this summer.

Under the authority of the team performance manager Pat Howard, the new panel of John Inverarity, captain Michael Clarke, coach Mickey Arthur, Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel are intent on expanding the group of cricketers capable of playing Test cricket, eventually hoping to have as many as 25 players ready for the baggy green at any moment in the calendar.

"This summer we are taking on a squad mentality and building depth," Howard said. "Players are going to come in and out regardless of who they are. We will take performances on board to try and build the strength of depth that we really need - that's regardless of the 18-year-old or the 36-year-old."

To that end David Warner, Ben Cutting, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc were named in the 12 for the Gabba, an accent on youth and current form ruling out the likes of Trent Copeland, Ben Hilfenhaus and the Australia A centurion Ed Cowan. The latter trio might all have been selected at another time, but a series against New Zealand has been judged the ideal moment to explore the selectors' options for the future.

"We've got very much an eye to the future, it is a disappointing we've got so many injuries, but the injuries have created a wonderful opportunity for young cricketers," Inverarity said in Brisbane. "The way ahead for Australia is to see how good these young players are, and it is a fantastic opportunity for these young men.

"We were hoping that those who were pressing for selection would be in the younger age bracket, and that's exactly what was the case. They were the ones who were really impressive, they were performing, they were looking good. We need to develop a very good squad of players, particularly a squad of faster bowlers. There's a very heavy workload and that workload needs to be shared. To have promising young 22, 23-year-old pace bowlers is very encouraging."

Copeland is known to be extremely disappointed at missing out on a berth for the first Test, having contributed to Australia's Test series win in Sri Lanka then serving as first reserve in South Africa. Inverarity pointed out that Copeland had lacked for bowling and wickets in recent weeks.

"Trent has been slightly a victim of opportunity," Inverarity said. "Since the beginning of October he's in his fifth game since than, and if you look at his stats, in the last eight weeks he's only taken one wicket for about 250 runs, so just at the moment he wasn't pressing for selection. But knowing the sort of young man and bowler he is, we're hoping he can start racking up performance and knocking on the door again - we need depth of bowlers."

While the fast bowling and wicket-keeping spots are the subject of some debate, Inverarity indicated that the likes of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey are not yet being sufficiently pushed by batsmen beneath them in domestic cricket. The selection panel would dearly like a return to the heavy runs being made by the batsmen in line a decade ago.

"We want lots more batsmen knocking on the door," Inverarity said. "You pick your best time always with an eye to the future. If there are some senior batsmen to be replaced, then it's got to be the younger batsmen who are making the quantity of runs that presses their claims.

"We're delighted we've got two young 'keepers in the wings. The strength of any sporting team has got a great deal to do with the depth of the squad, and we're delighted we have those two 'keepers and a number of fast bowlers pushing."

In its first major squad since convening, the selection panel sought a balance between choosing fit and in-form cricketers but also making them earn a place in the team. Howard, who also sits in on selection meetings, said there would be other times in the future when players would not be asked to carry niggling injuries through five days of a Test because of the greater squad depth presently being grown.

"It is a fine balance, you don't want to cheapen the baggy green, but you've got to make sure you're putting players onto the field that are in absolutely tip-top condition," Howard said. "There are some players who are 80% or 70% and sometimes you'll give them the Test off to come back at 100%, means you're putting the best players on the field for each game.

"This game we have the opportunity to put the best players in the best conditions, who are performing, who give the selectors a group or a bevy of players to put forward. What we hope is to manage the players outside the team very strongly to give the selectors more of a headache over the coming weeks."

Arthur has arrived in Brisbane to join Howard, Inverarity, Marsh and Bichel, and will meet with Clarke for the first time on Sunday, before addressing the squad once it assembles at the team hotel in Brisbane.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mehmood on November 29, 2011, 22:58 GMT

    usman khawaja is very talented player, he must be in test squad permanently now.......

  • Justin on November 28, 2011, 13:56 GMT

    Perhaps the selectors want to see how these new fellas bowl at an international level against the Kiwis before the series with India. The have seen copeland bowl and know what he does - this is a chance to see 2 new faces in action (and from memory there were a lot of comments in the past calling for this). Lets just see what happens - either way it finally looks like we are going to blood some new talent. Also regarding Haddin - he played a match winning innings in the last game - thats what he is capable of and thats why he is still in the side. Even he knows he is on thin ice so if he pulls his head in and performs with the bat over the next series he should be safe otherwise we all know he will be dropped.

  • Matt on November 28, 2011, 10:17 GMT

    Hopefully the only reason Haddin is still there is because they are waiting for Paine to recover

  • Randolph on November 28, 2011, 10:02 GMT

    @MinusZero, well put. You can add Bollinger's paultry 8 wickets against top ranked nations to that list as well as Siddle's ability to get carted around every park he plays on to that list. These reasons are why I never want to see these 3 players near our team again.

  • Roo on November 28, 2011, 8:44 GMT

    @KarthikR... should have added Coulter-Nile is out injured as well... Re: Clint McKay... yes seems to be on the edge & only ever given 1 Test - his bowling is nearly as good as Butterworth & also a handy lower order batsman, though not as good as Butterworth... seems neither will be given the chance though their stats & current form show them up there with the best at FC level...

  • Roo on November 28, 2011, 7:51 GMT

    @KarthikR... Bollinger - groin... Butterworth the same... Hastings = shoulder & another 4-6 months... Paine still in rehab from finger surgery - 2nd broken finger in 15 mths... Marsh out till Boxing Day Test at least said coach... Watson & Johnson awaiting more tests...

  • Karthik on November 28, 2011, 6:05 GMT

    Why not Bolly and McKay? Surely they deserve another go along with 1 - 2 newcomers in the pace department... Or am I missing out any injuries here?

  • Andrew on November 28, 2011, 1:09 GMT

    All I want from the selectors is consistency - This is the new selection panels 1st real pick of players. A core group of players like we picked in the mid / late 80's is what we need. I'll give these guys the benefit of the doubt - but please don't pick players on a test by test basis otherwise the stability this team so badly needs will be lacking. And that mentality will show in the results ahead.

  • Roo on November 28, 2011, 1:05 GMT

    @Peterincanada... agree with your bowling attack... Starc should be the drinks waiter - but being a left-hander may get the nod for variability - aka Johnson... Hauritz & Doherty have bowled reasonably well at the Gabba in previous Tests... Lyon may get smashed a bit but will get wickets in return... Clarke may have to stand up & be counted as a bowler... The Gabba has branches growing out of it at present so the first 3 days will be important...

  • Andrew on November 28, 2011, 0:03 GMT

    @Hyclass - one last point on Hodge, in fairness he did average 84 @#5 with 100+ S/R from 7 innings.

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