Who should replace Simon Katich?

Meet the contenders

After Simon Katich's axing, Australia must find a long-term opening partner for Shane Watson. ESPNcricinfo runs the rule over the candidates who could be given chances in the next couple of years

Brydon Coverdale

June 10, 2011

Comments: 40 | Text size: A | A

Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes wait to bat in the nets, Sydney, January 1, 2011
Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes: two of the contenders to take Simon Katich's place in the Test team © Getty Images
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Phillip Hughes, 22 (NSW)
Certainly the first in line, although he failed to have any impact during the final three Tests against England last summer when he replaced the injured Katich. However, the selectors were impressed by his 138 and 93 in the Sheffield Shield final in March, and he also made a century in the last Shield game before the decider. His technique will always be questioned, but twin hundreds in his second Test, in tough conditions in Durban two years ago, show that he can score at the highest level. One of the most fascinating subplots in Australia's next two Test tours, to Sri Lanka and South Africa, will be whether Hughes can grab his opportunities. If not, he'll be under enormous pressure come the home summer.

Usman Khawaja, 24 (NSW)
A fine young batsman who the selectors want to embrace, Khawaja's main issue is that he doesn't open for New South Wales. But then, Katich wasn't opening for his state when he was thrust into the role in Test cricket in 2008, and nor was Justin Langer when he suddenly became a champion Test opener in 2001. Khawaja's poise was on display in the Sydney Ashes Test when he replaced the injured Ricky Ponting, and with Ponting likely to stay at No.3, Khawaja would need to drop down or move up if he is to keep his place in the side in the immediate future. In 33 first-class games he has made seven hundreds and averages 47.30, and one way or another, he should become a permanent part of the Test team over the next few years.

Shaun Marsh, 27 (WA)
Like Khawaja, Marsh doesn't typically open for his state in the longer format. Unlike Khawaja, his record at first-class level is a fraction disappointing. For a batsman of Marsh's talent, six tons in 60 first-class appearances is below par, although last season he managed one century and three fifties in only four games, his season having been disrupted by injury. In Marsh's favour, he has proven himself capable of performing at international level, and his ODI record is strong. In 2009, the selectors made Watson a Test opener based in part on the fact that he had shown ability against the new ball in one-day internationals. It's not out of the question that Marsh might win a similar vote of confidence.

Nic Maddinson, 19 (NSW)
He might not be ready just yet, but expect Maddinson to put his hand up for higher honours over the next couple of years. In October, he became the youngest New South Wales player to score a century in his first-class debut, and he had added a second ton by the end of the summer. Importantly, both came when he was opening the batting. A highly-talented left-hander, Maddinson could very well become part of Australia's plans for the 2013 Ashes, and if he thrives during this winter's Australia A tour to Zimbabwe, there could even be a call-up sooner rather than later.

Ed Cowan, 28 (Tas)
A solid domestic performer over the past couple of seasons, Cowan opened for Australia A in Hobart last year during England's first warm-up match of the Ashes tour. He made thirties in both innings and finished the Australian summer with a century in Tasmania's Sheffield Shield final victory, which earned him the Man of the Match award. However, he turns 29 next week and is perhaps not the young up-and-comer the selectors want, although if he can manage a huge domestic season in 2011-12, he won't be out of contention.

David Warner, 24 (NSW)
Along with Maddinson, Hughes and Khawaja, Warner is heading to Zimbabwe later this month as part of Australia A's four-day squad. It's a big step forward for a man who had been viewed as a short-format slogger, so much so that he made his Twenty20 international debut before he'd even played a first-class match. He still has only seven first-class appearances to his name, but posted a mature century while opening in the second-last match of the Sheffield Shield season. A year ago, Warner playing Test cricket seemed about as likely as Katich making Australia's Twenty20 team. How times change.

And who won't get the job?

Mark Cosgrove, 26 (Tas): Has time on his side but is unlikely to win a baggy green unless his fitness improves dramatically. Has opened at domestic level and topped the Sheffield Shield run tally last summer.

Michael Klinger, 30 (SA): Realistically, has probably missed his chance. Had two huge summers with South Australia but fell away last season when given the state captaincy.

Phil Jaques, 32 (NSW): The forgotten man. Three hundreds in 11 Tests was a fine record but he has not been the same after a severe back injury, and at 32 his ship has sailed.

Chris Rogers, 33 (Vic): Like Jaques, he has had a taste of Test cricket. But will be 34 in August, and is therefore too old for a selection panel looking to the future.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by baronvonchickenpants on (June 12, 2011, 12:48 GMT)

Runs are the only prerequisite to opening the batting. Who cares where the player is from? If Hughes comes out this season and gets heaps, give him the job. Same goes for the rest. GET RUNS should be plastered on every change room in every state ground. Khawaja is the most aesthetically pleasing to me, but the bottom line is always performance. Perform or Perish!

Posted by   on (June 12, 2011, 9:43 GMT)

Give a nod to the technically correct batter who could bat elegantly rather than sloggers.

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (June 11, 2011, 23:15 GMT)

Its time that Ponting and Hussy are sent on vacations. katich still has som 2 -3 years of cricket in him and he is one of the best performers in last couple of years. They will have to bring him back - i can bet on it

Posted by gogoldengreens on (June 11, 2011, 11:18 GMT)

David Hookes was right when he said that if you when you sign up for NSW they give you a baggy green cap in a paper bag lets count the openers choice here remembering there is only 2 in a team 1. Watson (NSW) - shoe in 2. Katich (NSW) kicked out 3. Usman (NSW) 4. Hughes (NSW) 5. Warner (NSW) 6. Jaques (NSW). 7. Nick Maddinson (NSW)

Posted by alvey4168 on (June 11, 2011, 8:52 GMT)

Rightttt. Six "contenders", four of whom play for NSW and one of the other two is an ex-NSW player. Are you trying to get a job with the Sydney Morning Herald Brydon?

As anyone with at least one eye in reasonable working order can see, Hughes has a horrible technique. It's one that has seen him average an entirely fitting 25.9 in his 15 innings since his miraculous twin 100s v RSA. That there's people in this thread blurting out such incredible rubbish as; "Phillip Hughes should be given until the 2013 ASHES to prove that he is capable of opening for Australia." is a tragic reminder of the increasing prevalence of mental disorders in Australia.

Posted by popcorn on (June 11, 2011, 2:58 GMT)

The knowledgeable Mark waugh has seen Shaun Marsh at close quaters and says he is Test Cricket material. He should be the first choice replacement for Simon Katich. Phil Hughes is unrelaiable,undependable,hangs his bat out out to dry, he is flashy,fishes outside the offstumop.He was exposed in The Ashes 2009,and was the root cause for our defeat, because England had their tails up after getting him out cheaply in the first twoTests.With him around, the openers will NEVER build a platform for the middle order, like Simon Katich and Shane watson did - or Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry. Phil Hughes is only good for Twenty20 cricket.His centuries in South Africa were a flash in the pan.The next best choice is Usman Khawaja, who has sound technique - unlike Phil Hughes.

Posted by donda on (June 11, 2011, 1:11 GMT)

I think Usman has better technique than all these other 3 contenders.

I would definitely go with Usman to open , he is good for longer term than Hughes because his technique will be huge problem for longer terms.

Only technical good batsman can survive in test matches for long time.

Usman is my man.

Posted by katandthat3 on (June 10, 2011, 23:23 GMT)

Onlinegamer - Shaun Marsh has been averaging 50 in the last 4 years of FC cricket and 60 in the last two so maybe look at those stats - a little more relevant - plus he has the best technique full stop. It's about what he is now as a player not what he was many years ago - otherwise how does anyone get promoted. Plus he has done well in other forms of international cricket.

Posted by elsmallo on (June 10, 2011, 18:26 GMT)

Pick Cosgrove. He's plenty good enough for most bowling attacks in international cricket at the moment, although the Ashes/SA will be different. He's a big lad but it's happened before. Remember Merv Hughes? Or Boon? Need I mention Gatting? Hughes is talented but his technique is too full of holes. He's got time to sort this out. Problem for all these guys is that they are coming into a side that is struggling.

Posted by Gordo85 on (June 10, 2011, 16:07 GMT)

The main problem with Shaun Marsh is he is inconsistent too often. Ed should get the gig atleast he deserves it pretty much more than the others.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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