States of anticipation
Australia's domestic summer begins with an early round of matches before the national team departs for South Africa, and there will be much interest in the progress of state teams since the Argus review's edicts about their strength being of paramount importance to the health of the game. Ahead of the first Sheffield Shield fixtures, ESPNcricinfo runs an eye past each state team, starting with last summer's winners Tasmania.
The Tigers have the benefit of last summer's success to carry them forward, and are also aided by the retention of a highly skilled and unified support staff to keep the players' development and wellness in hand. George Bailey is perhaps the most popular captain in the country, while a solid batting ensemble will expect continued sparks of brilliance from the bat of Mark Cosgrove. Bowlers including Luke Butterworth and Ben Hilfenhaus - in need of a stand-out summer to return to Australia calculations - may be challenged by pitches expected to offer a little less for seam and swing than last season's rain-dampened surfaces.
Squad: George Bailey, Jackson Bird, Luke Butterworth, Steven Cazzulino, Mark Cosgrove, Ed Cowan, Matthew Day, Xavier Doherty, Alex Doolan, Brendan Drew, James Faulkner, Evan Gulbis, Ben Hilfenhaus, Matt Johnston, Jason Krejza, Nick Kruger, Adam Maher, Ashton May, Tim Paine, Ricky Ponting, Sam Rainbird, Marc Simonds, Jeremy Smith, Tom Triffitt
A new coach in Anthony Stuart and a rankled captain in Simon Katich will offer the Blues plenty of incentive for trophies this summer. Katich has been widely predicted to dominate the domestic runs aggregates as he seeks to prove wrong the exceptionally cold selection logic that had him dropped from the list of Cricket Australia contracts. Elsewhere NSW will have quite a task to juggle the bowling resources at their disposal, with the likes of Doug Bollinger, Trent Copeland, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc all pushing for national selection even if all cannot be fit in a single NSW XI. The not-quite-retired Stuart Clark, meanwhile, will wait in the wings if needed.
Squad: Sean Abbott, Nicholas Bills, Doug Bollinger, Nathan Brain, Beau Casson, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Burt Cockley, Trent Copeland, Pat Cummins, Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Phillip Hughes, Phil Jaques, Simon Katich, Usman Khawaja, Brett Lee, Nic Maddinson, Peter Nevill, Steve O'Keefe, Ben Rohrer, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Timm van der Gugten, David Warner, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa
Queensland now bear the stamp of their new coach, Darren Lehmann, who managed to sway some sceptical members of the squad to his methods after the acrimonious unseating of his predecessor Trevor Barsby last summer. Queensland have made one intelligent recruiting decision by picking up Peter Forrest, underused in NSW and likely to add spine to the batting. Much is also expected of the youthful duo of Chris Lynn and Joe Burns, while the pace triumvirate of Ben Cutting, Luke Feldman (currently injured) and Chris Swan can expect some support from Steve Magoffin, returned from Western Australia.
Squad: Corey Barsby, Cameron Boyce, Ryan Broad, Nick Buchanan, Joe Burns, Ben Cutting, Ben Dunk, Luke Feldman, Jason Floros, Peter Forrest, Cameron Gannon, Ryan Harris, Chris Hartley, James Hopes, Alex Kemp, Chris Lynn, Alister McDermott, Michael Neser, Jimmy Peirson, Nathan Reardon, Andrew Robinson, Nick Stevens, Chris Swan, Scott Walter
After spending his first year as Western Australia's coach sorting the wheat from the chaff and instilling higher standards of rigour, Mickey Arthur expects his group to succeed this summer. The Warriors have made a handful of acquisitions, picking up the likes of Travis Birt, Mark Cameron and Nathan Rimmington, in order to bolster a promising collection of young bucks. All will have roles to play, and the bustling fast man Cameron can be expected to profit from the WACA ground's bounce. Luke Pomersbach's absence to deal with issues of depression is a sad sub-plot. The state captain Marcus North, by contrast, has been refreshed by his first off-season at home in years, and will want to lead WA to a domestic trophy after years of underachievement.
Squad: Tom Beaton, Michael Beer, Jason Behrendorff, Travis Birt, Mark Cameron, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Liam Davis, Ryan Duffield, Marcus Harris, Michael Hogan, Michael Hussey, Michael Johnson, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Knowles, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Marcus North, Joel Paris, Martin Paskal, Luke Pomersbach, Nathan Rimmington, Wes Robinson, Luke Ronchi, Adam Voges
Victoria let lofty standards dip last summer, and the Bushrangers are adamant they will not let the downturn be prolonged. John Hastings is a part of the group in name only after shoulder surgery ruled him out for the season. Andrew McDonald, James Pattinson and Matthew Wade will be among those pushing particularly hard for Australian recognition, while the captain Cameron White is also intent on forcing his way back into the ODI team at least. Greg Shipperd and his assistant Simon Helmot have split the coaching duties, leaving the Shield team with Shipperd while Helmot looks after the limited overs combination.
Squad: Scott Boland, Ryan Carters, Mark Cleary, Aaron Finch, Brett Forsyth, Steven Gilmour, Peter Handscomb, John Hastings, Jayde Herrick, Michael Hill, Brad Hodge, Jon Holland, David Hussey, Alex Keath, Andrew McDonald, Clint McKay, Glenn Maxwell, Darren Pattinson, James Pattinson, Robert Quiney, Steven Reid, Chris Rogers, William Sheridan, Peter Siddle, Matthew Wade, Cameron White
South Australia are the third team to start 2011-12 with a new coach, Darren Berry having been promoted from the Twenty20 job to take in all formats. His task is a steep one, given his team's lowly finishes in the Shield and limited-overs competitions last summer, obscured only partly by T20 success. There is talent in the squad, as the likes of the captain Michael Klinger, Callum Ferguson, Aiden Blizzard and Daniel Christian will all attempt to make a consistent impression on opponents. But the bowlers will need to find another gear, particularly as the off spinner Nathan Lyon can be expected to be playing for Australia as often as not.
Squad: Cullen Bailey, Aiden Blizzard, Cameron Borgas, Daniel Christian, Tom Cooper, Mick Delaney, Theo Doropoulos, Ben Dougall, Callum Ferguson, Peter George, Jake Haberfield, Daniel Harris, Michael Klinger, Tim Ludeman, Nathan Lyon, Joe Mennie, Aaron O'Brien, Elliot Opie, Gary Putland, Kane Richardson, Chadd Sayers, James Smith, Tom Thornton
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo