Australia news December 30, 2012

Warner and Cowan in line to lead


David Warner and Ed Cowan must contemplate leading Australia after Michael Hussey's retirement added further to the leadership conundrum created by Michael Clarke's tender hamstring and Shane Watson's uncertain international future. The loss of Hussey and Ponting in the space of three Test matches means Australia are not only without two of their most seasoned batsmen but also the likely candidates to lead the Test team in the event of Clarke and Watson being unavailable.

Watson has already been ruled out of the New Year's Test in Sydney due to a calf problem that may well sound the final knell for his attempts to maintain fitness as a Test match allrounder, and Clarke is again in some doubt with a strained hamstring. Hussey's decision to retire shocked Clarke and Australia's coach Mickey Arthur, leaving them short not only of their most complete batsman but also a safe candidate for short-term leadership duty.

Arthur had been digesting Watson's confession that he may no longer be an allrounder in the future in the hours following the Boxing Day Test when he felt a tap on the shoulder. Hussey requested an audience with Arthur and Clarke, whereupon the 37-year-old confirmed his intention to retire at summer's end. The instant response of Clarke and Arthur was to leave Hussey room to reconsider.

"We'd done our selection meetings, we'd got everything out of the way, and Watto and I had a chat to see where he was with his injury and Watto hinted that he might just consider being used as a batsman from now on, so that was a little bit of a shock," Arthur told ESPNcricinfo. "And then I thought I'd just have a beer now and enjoy the win and Mike Hussey tapped me on the shoulder.

"So my first reaction was 'wow', it was myself and Michael Clarke and Huss together, Clarkey and I looked at each other and it was just 'wow, what do we do'. We congratulated him on a fantastic career and said 'are you sure?' but Huss had made his mind up and like a true champion he's done it very well."

Warner and Cowan have both been mentioned as potential captains, after leading various teams in the past 12 months. Warner led the Sydney Thunder and a CA Chairman's XI last summer, while Cowan guided Australia A on their winter tour of England and showed his batting could benefit from the extra responsibility by comfortably topping the tour aggregates.

Australia's plans for the tours of India and England in 2013 had been drawn up with Hussey as a central part, especially after Ponting's loss of form had hastened his exit from the national team. Arthur said a swift change of tack was now required, and he placed onus on the likes of Warner, Cowan and Watson when he returned to fitness to step into the breach.

"We were certainly building a top six around that," Arthur said. "We always knew Clarke was there, and once Ponting went we knew we had Hussey. We had all our plans in place, so with no warning it was a shock, but I totally understand his reasoning and respect his decision. He deserves to go out the way he is. But for us now it's about moulding a top six that's going to win us a Test series in India and win us an Ashes - an enormous task.

"In our Test team you've got to hope that David Warner and Shane Watson really step up now. I'm pretty confident they'll do that. In Ed Cowan you've got a very wise head, a very good, calming leader around the group. So they need to stand up. I said to the group when Ricky left I wanted everyone to stand up and give us 5% more, now we're going to have to ask everyone to stand up and give 15% more, because we need to fill that void now that we've lost, and we need to fill it very quickly."

That void was painfully evident on last year's ODI tour of England, when a team minus Ponting and Hussey - who missed the trip for family reasons - was battered 4-0. Arthur said that while excesses of rain and inadequate preparation factored into that result, he acknowledged the team dynamic was changing enormously without the guidance and example offered by Hussey.

"We were outplayed in that one-day series, but there were so many mitigating factors," Arthur said. "We couldn't train with rain, we'd come basically out of an off-season, whereas now we wouldn't have, our planning is in place and is spot on in terms of giving guys enough cricket and preparation leading into that first Ashes Test match. That won't be a problem, but what we are looking for is some guys to really stand up and take the opportunity because there are opportunities out there for somebody to make it his own.

"The team dynamic's definitely changed a massive amount when you consider you've lost Ponting and Hussey in a couple of Test matches. Mike Hussey's a phenomenal player and I was gutted when he told me because he's been such a reliable batsman. But you've got to look to the future, you've got to look to who's going to step up. We've got so many options available and I'm so excited to see who steps up and who takes on what is a really demanding year for us."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on January 2, 2013, 8:34 GMT

    @ zenboomerang You call Perth a "narrow victory" with Aus short 5 top bowlers. Is Starc then no.6, Hastings 7, Bird 8? Lyon & Watson aren't in your top 5, but surely precede Johnson, making him no.11? Midge, in Melbourne, out-bowled Siddle, Watto, Bird & lyon, had top batting figs - stranded on 92* - was MoM- and he's no.11!

    You say a 3rd string attack conceded a "narrow victory" of 309 runs. Really? Did they make Aus fold for 163 1st inns, when Hastings outscored all but Wade? Overall, Hastings/Johnson/Starc** scored 130, or 26.8% of team runs, same as Warner/Cowan/Watson & 31 more than Punter/Clarke/Hussey.

    You claim Aus had young & inexperienced players? Johnson 31, 49 tests. Clarke 31, 88 tests. Warner 26, 14 tests. Hussey 37, 78 tests. Cowan 30, 12 tests. Lyon 25, 18 tests. Watson 31, 38 tests. Ponting, 38, 168 tests.

    Old hands, not 3rd string rookies, lost in Perth. Your excuses are absurd & demean "your nation & people." Find some integrity & man up, like Punter & Pup did

  • David on January 2, 2013, 0:19 GMT

    @ Shaggy076. I've often given Aus credit, here on Cricinfo, for their fighting performance against SA. Adelaide test, 1st day match report, 8th post down, read my comment posted Nov 23 2012, 04:35 AM GMT - a clear example of me crediting the Aus batting, & even defending Aus against unwarranted attack! Link:

    You can also see mikey76 & Milhouse79 have a go at me thinking I'm an Aussie after I replied to FFL's attack on Warner. It's funny, 2 Eng posters addressing a Saffer, thinking he's an Aussie. First & third posts down - just 6 above your post Dec 25 2012, 07:17 AM GMT, responding to the ever objectionable Lunge.

    Marcio - take a look. Might learn a bit

    Cricinfo - please publish. We regulars here rarely get to see the bigger picture of other posters, & get to know each other a little better. Thanks in advance, I hope.

  • David on January 1, 2013, 22:39 GMT

    @ Not_Another_Keybord_Expert Soon as a team gets the top ranking they are horribly overhyped, & that adversely affects them. SA were well below average in tests 1 & 2, & were only good at "not losing," an unglamorous but still critical skill for a top test team. Effective at the end of the day, but not inspiring.

    This team is not SA's best ever - the 69/70 team was. Lawry, Mallet & Ian Chappel would agree - in the only squad to face that team, they NEVER forgot it!

    Aus have to fix their batting. Their bowling is the deepest/strongest around. If, BIG IF, Johnson keeps his regained form, is he Aus' best all-rounder? Bye bye Watto? Pattinson & Starc have shown they can bat, but can they play real spin? On recent test form only, Johnson, Pattinson & Starc could bat 6, 7, 8. Add Siddle, Cummins & a spinner & the quicks don't work hard & get hurt! Sort out the top 3, bat Clarke at 4, Wade at 5 & that is a fearsome squad. A fantasy team perhaps, but a nightmare for Poms - he he he he he

  • Roo on January 1, 2013, 22:03 GMT

    @Greatest_Game... Your comms to Marcio are your own business - I replied to your absurd outburst against my national team & players, so if you want to sledge my nation & people, then you will always get a reply that reflects your comms - regardless of who you are posting to...

  • michael on January 1, 2013, 21:07 GMT

    @Zenboomerang. Not really sure of the point you're trying to make. Quite happy to acknowledge if we're beaten. I'm not crowing over our superiority over Aus it's just that its a fact. We won easily the last time we played in alien conditions. If anything Australia are weaker now without Hussey, whereas England have currently 5 players you could label world class with the likes of Bell, Trott and (when fit) Broad pushing hard for that label. I just don't see how such an inexperienced and technically flawed top order can consistently score runs in England. Eng aren't a great side, but they are very good and seem to got over that glitch in form that plagued us for much of 2012.

  • luke on January 1, 2013, 7:09 GMT

    @greatest_game i agree,SA deserved to win the series,i just think they are overhyped,i thought they would perform alot better.SA were being billed as the best SA team ever but i couldn't see them beating SA of 10 or so years ago,with the likes of Donald and Pollock .As for Aus we are in big trouble,with the ashes coming we are in for a bit of a spanking if our batting keeps collapsing clarke cant do it on his own forever.

  • Graham on January 1, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    GreatestGame - Your points are valid and to any observer it is clear man to man the South African side is better than the Australian side, that being said you must give Australia credit for creating opportunities to win cricket games. Unfortunately they didnt win. It apperas due to the cattle on the park many teams and supporters are underestimating Australia but in the end over the last 16 months they have played some very good cricket. Joseph Langford Cowan and Hughes earned there chances by being the highest scores at shield cricket. Cowan has performed ok to keep his position. Hughes has just had 3 knocks since returning and the only pressure knock he made 80 runs. Khawaja will get his chance shortly.

  • David on January 1, 2013, 6:18 GMT

    Not_Another_Keybord_Expert & zenboomerang. My comments were for Marcio who attacked me when I characterized Clarke and Hussey as the only 2 batsmen who TRULY troubled SA in the series. It's not my habit to gloat, but I wished to make clear to Marcio that despite all the excuses like "third string attack" or "weakest team in years," the fact is that Aus had the chance to win in Adelaide, & failed. However, in Perth SA took the game away from Aus.

    Ponting said "They put us under more pressure than I think we have been under for a long time so they thoroughly deserved to win this series."

    Clarke said ""They showed why they're the No.1 Test team in the world."

    Read the articles. The Clarke piece supports my point, stating clearly that Aus' top 3 failed - i.e. Cowan & Warner did not trouble SA. Marcio can't accept that

  • David on January 1, 2013, 5:36 GMT

    @ Marcio. I'm not prepared to admit to using phrases that YOU made up! My original comment was that the retirement of Hussey is a great loss to Australia, but you had a hissy fit because because I said that Hussey and Clarke were the only 2 bats to TRULY TROUBLE SA. Not trouble a little bit, but TRULY TROUBLE - as in potentially take the game away and win. Just because Cowan and Warner each scored a century & averaged in the low forties, does not mean that they really threatened SA. Clarke & Hussey threatened SA. Warner and Cowan did not.

    Warner could be a really troubling batsman, but fails too often. Cowan is a slower grafter, but he too fails too often. Du Plessis, Amla, Kllis, De Villiers and Smith all scored more runs than Warner & Cowan, & only Smith had a lower ave than Cowan. Warner's was even lower.

    Ultimately, my point must stand. Australia could not win one game - they did not trouble SA enough to win one match, because they only had 2 batsmen who truly troubled SA.

  • luke on January 1, 2013, 5:03 GMT

    @greatest_game thats funny coming from u, SA were outplayed in 2 of 3 tests,hardly dominated by this "unstoppable" SA team and this was against our worst team in years LOL