Australian cricket December 6, 2012

Uncertainty at three for Australia, still

After the Andrew Hilditch years, there is something nice and warm about John Inverarity's honesty. Even when you don't agree with his take on things
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After the Andrew Hilditch years, there is something nice and warm about John Inverarity's honesty. Even when you don't agree with his take on things.

It's hard to agree when he says that Phil Hughes was hidden from the mighty South African attack, and yet is still strong enough to bat at No. 3 for Australia. That seems like a contradictory message, and one that will be sorely tested if Hughes (caught Guptil, bowled Martin) does make runs against Sri Lanka and ends up on tours of India and England.

If Hughes needs Rob Quiney to be his human shield against a class opposition, then will three Tests against a poorer attack that he has dominated before really change anything?

It's as important to be mentally tough and believe in yourself to bat at No. 3 as it is to be really good at batting. And if you have to hide Hughes, then perhaps the position is not for him. Hughes is not even a No. 3; he'd be a makeshift No. 3 replacing another makeshift No. 3.

It's also possible that Michael Clarke could move himself up the order, although he's shown no intent to do so. Michael Hussey, as a former opening batsman might be the better option. What better way for Hussey, in his last years as an Australia player, to serve his country than to take over the most difficult role and allow some of these more fragile souls to develop their skills batting at five or six, before moving up to three when they are ready?

No. 3 is not a place to build your confidence, it's a place you make work with confidence.

With Quiney not taking his chance and already seemingly out of favour, and Alex Doolan talking up everyone other than himself, it seems that Australia are back to Hughes and Usman Khawaja for now. But even the Australian selectors don't believe Hughes is ready for real challenges, and Khawaja is still not in the side.

It was only a few months ago when Inverarity used all his headmaster skills to sit the two errant boys in the corner and not play them for Australia A. It was a brilliant move, as neither deserved to be picked for Australia A at the time. Both had played horrendous summers for men of their talent, and deserved to be punished for it. So Inverarity, with his honesty, made them earn their places rather than take the easy rides they had received earlier in their careers.

And looks what has come of it, form and hunger.

Selectors aren't perfect, even Inverarity the saintly grandfather of Australian cricket is going to make mistakes. This past week he probably made some with his entirely new bowling attack. But getting Hughes and Khawaja back in form was a massive effort from him.

Khawaja has just given away a start against an underwhelming Sri Lanka. While he'd probably like to rectify that in the second innings, he won't be able to as the Big Bash League comes first when it comes to Cricket Australia's priorities at the moment, and Khawaja forcing his way back into the Test side is apparently not as important as him representing whichever Sydney franchise he plays for.

As if being a selector who uses honesty isn't hard enough, Inverarvity has to do his job around a vacuous vacuum of a tournament that is trying to use his future charges for publicity purposes. It's still not as hard as actually batting at No. 3 though.

As Quiney, Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh may attest to.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anonymous on December 10, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    It is very imortant for Australia to use this series against SL as preparation for the India tour. With the current stance of Dhoni and BCCI Aus may face turning tracks in all 4 Tests, if not minefields. Batsment who can grind, and build big acores and spinners who could bowl fast and well, and fast bowlers who can bowl wicket to wicket with lot of patience and discipline, with reverse swing skills are the key needs of the hour. It will be ideal for Aus coaching team to get some key member sof Aus team to watch and learn from current tour of England in India. It is a great lesson and will be very helpful

  • iforgotwhat on December 9, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    It doesn't really matter who they pick there is not the talent in Australia anymore so Aussies stop fooling yourself by saying we have depth etc.

    Really the only half decent batsman in the line up is a 37 year old Hussey. Before anyone talks about Clark he has done nothing when the ball either swings or seams. As the test against SA shows. In Brisbane the ball did nothing at all the same goes for Adelaide. But look what happened in Perth when the ball was doing something.

  • Shyam on December 9, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    It just suprises me people call Clarke a coward when two recent former Aussie captains (Border and Waugh) both batted at 5 for long periods of time (Waugh moreso than Border) and yet those two are referred to as examples of toughness and strength the current generation should be inspired by. Clarke has scored 4 x double centries this year at number 5 - unparralleled in test history. Why would you move him??

    The issue I think is the 'coaching' of players into batting a certain way as opposed to batting in their own way. Bradman had a 'dodgy' grip the NSW selectors didnt like, Doug Walters was "too aggressive" and apparently Ian Chappell should have "never" played the hook shot (although he scored bucket loads of runs with it) and they did ok.

  • abdul on December 7, 2012, 22:32 GMT

    The selectors should bring in more younger batsmen like they did with the bowlers BRING IN YOUNGSTERS LIKE Steve Smith & Alex Doolan + OTHER YOUNG PLAYERS THAT ARE PERFORMING WELL IN SHIELD CRICKET

  • ferix on December 7, 2012, 17:38 GMT

    For all those criticising Clarke, where did S Waugh and A Border bat? How many times has Tendulkar, Lara and Kallis batted at 3?

  • Bee on December 7, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    To those suggesting Clarke is soft not batting at first drop, I have two words for you: Steve Waugh.

    My batting order would be Cowan, Hussey, Khawaja, Clarke, Doolan, Watson, Wade.

    Doolan interchangeable with Warner (if we must) or another young prospect.

    The likes of Hughes, Smith and most certainly Marsh haven't yet atoned for past failures.

  • Pete on December 7, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    Couldn't agree more at how ridiculous Usman has to leave the Chairman's XI game for the BBL. Complete lack or respect for Khawaja's ambitions and the longer form of the game. Could someone please tell me why, if it's not making money, we even have this 20-20 tournament in Australia?

  • Robert Barlow on December 7, 2012, 5:31 GMT

    Hughes, Khawaja and Quiney are not the answer. Hughes has no idea of shot selection and should have benn left in Shield Cricket to make a mountain of runs before being considered at Test level again. Khawaja is an honest tradesman, while Quiney had the opportunities and didn't seize them. Why would you fool with the batting order - especially with Clarke when he is making a mountain of runs. Keep the current list: Warner, Cowan, Watson - OK move Clarke up to 4, Hussey, Steve Smith, Wade, Johnson,Siddle, Starc and Lyon. Hilfenhaus to carry the drinks

  • Victor on December 7, 2012, 4:48 GMT

    Good article. Hussey and Clarke should be occupying the 3-4 spot. Hughes at 5 followed by Watson. I think Hughes will score heavily against Sri Lanka. His real test will be against India and England. Really shows the lack of depth in Australian cricket now. Don’t you wish players like brad Hodge, S. Law, McGill were playing now. Too many good cricketers in one generation.

  • Ollie on December 7, 2012, 3:34 GMT

    Totally agree. The best batsman in the country should be at 3, not someone you think couldn't cut it against SA. Why Clarke is not there mystifies me.

  • Anonymous on December 10, 2012, 9:17 GMT

    It is very imortant for Australia to use this series against SL as preparation for the India tour. With the current stance of Dhoni and BCCI Aus may face turning tracks in all 4 Tests, if not minefields. Batsment who can grind, and build big acores and spinners who could bowl fast and well, and fast bowlers who can bowl wicket to wicket with lot of patience and discipline, with reverse swing skills are the key needs of the hour. It will be ideal for Aus coaching team to get some key member sof Aus team to watch and learn from current tour of England in India. It is a great lesson and will be very helpful

  • iforgotwhat on December 9, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    It doesn't really matter who they pick there is not the talent in Australia anymore so Aussies stop fooling yourself by saying we have depth etc.

    Really the only half decent batsman in the line up is a 37 year old Hussey. Before anyone talks about Clark he has done nothing when the ball either swings or seams. As the test against SA shows. In Brisbane the ball did nothing at all the same goes for Adelaide. But look what happened in Perth when the ball was doing something.

  • Shyam on December 9, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    It just suprises me people call Clarke a coward when two recent former Aussie captains (Border and Waugh) both batted at 5 for long periods of time (Waugh moreso than Border) and yet those two are referred to as examples of toughness and strength the current generation should be inspired by. Clarke has scored 4 x double centries this year at number 5 - unparralleled in test history. Why would you move him??

    The issue I think is the 'coaching' of players into batting a certain way as opposed to batting in their own way. Bradman had a 'dodgy' grip the NSW selectors didnt like, Doug Walters was "too aggressive" and apparently Ian Chappell should have "never" played the hook shot (although he scored bucket loads of runs with it) and they did ok.

  • abdul on December 7, 2012, 22:32 GMT

    The selectors should bring in more younger batsmen like they did with the bowlers BRING IN YOUNGSTERS LIKE Steve Smith & Alex Doolan + OTHER YOUNG PLAYERS THAT ARE PERFORMING WELL IN SHIELD CRICKET

  • ferix on December 7, 2012, 17:38 GMT

    For all those criticising Clarke, where did S Waugh and A Border bat? How many times has Tendulkar, Lara and Kallis batted at 3?

  • Bee on December 7, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    To those suggesting Clarke is soft not batting at first drop, I have two words for you: Steve Waugh.

    My batting order would be Cowan, Hussey, Khawaja, Clarke, Doolan, Watson, Wade.

    Doolan interchangeable with Warner (if we must) or another young prospect.

    The likes of Hughes, Smith and most certainly Marsh haven't yet atoned for past failures.

  • Pete on December 7, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    Couldn't agree more at how ridiculous Usman has to leave the Chairman's XI game for the BBL. Complete lack or respect for Khawaja's ambitions and the longer form of the game. Could someone please tell me why, if it's not making money, we even have this 20-20 tournament in Australia?

  • Robert Barlow on December 7, 2012, 5:31 GMT

    Hughes, Khawaja and Quiney are not the answer. Hughes has no idea of shot selection and should have benn left in Shield Cricket to make a mountain of runs before being considered at Test level again. Khawaja is an honest tradesman, while Quiney had the opportunities and didn't seize them. Why would you fool with the batting order - especially with Clarke when he is making a mountain of runs. Keep the current list: Warner, Cowan, Watson - OK move Clarke up to 4, Hussey, Steve Smith, Wade, Johnson,Siddle, Starc and Lyon. Hilfenhaus to carry the drinks

  • Victor on December 7, 2012, 4:48 GMT

    Good article. Hussey and Clarke should be occupying the 3-4 spot. Hughes at 5 followed by Watson. I think Hughes will score heavily against Sri Lanka. His real test will be against India and England. Really shows the lack of depth in Australian cricket now. Don’t you wish players like brad Hodge, S. Law, McGill were playing now. Too many good cricketers in one generation.

  • Ollie on December 7, 2012, 3:34 GMT

    Totally agree. The best batsman in the country should be at 3, not someone you think couldn't cut it against SA. Why Clarke is not there mystifies me.

  • Sanjay on December 7, 2012, 3:04 GMT

    Jarrod spot on. Watson has shown he is not capable of being consistent opening and don't see number 3 being any different for him. Khawaja is the best choice moving forward.

  • Clazza on December 7, 2012, 3:00 GMT

    how Pup is not at 3 is mind boggling. It is the hardest spot and requires your best bat..pup, huss, usman, watto.. it ain't that difficult..time for the captain to step up

  • Victor on December 7, 2012, 2:56 GMT

    Good article. Hussey and Clarke should be occupying the 3-4 spot. Hughes at 5 followed by Watson. I think Hughes will score heavily against Sri Lanka. His real test will be against India and England. Really shows the lack of depth in Australian cricket now. Don’t you wish players like brad Hodge, S. Law, McGill were playing now. Too many good cricketers in one generation.

  • Woody Venkat on December 7, 2012, 2:50 GMT

    Kulasekera Right Arom Over moving it towards the slips.Scorecard read last summer Hughes Caught Guptil bowled Martin this year Hughes Caught Jayawardene Bowled Kulasekera.

  • Raghib on December 7, 2012, 0:58 GMT

    Nice article

    I still don't understand Hughes playing at No.3

    I'd like to see Australia go with Warner, Cowan, Hussey, Clarke, Hughes, Watson, Wade..and then the bowlers.

  • No. 3 on December 6, 2012, 23:41 GMT

    Mike Hussey can keep hiding at no. 6, and play for three more years and keep building his stats, or he can go to the ballsy position at 3, and probably fail and retire alot sooner. We need an inexperienced type at 6, to come through, not someone 37 years of age there.

  • Jonathan on December 6, 2012, 22:48 GMT

    I think it's slightly unfair to claim that because Hughes wasn't used against South Africa that he can't be ready to play at number 3. When Quiney was selected for those games it was still thought likely that he would only be a replacement for one test, maybe two. At the time there was no talk of Ponting retiring after Perth so the position was intended to be short term. I'd say it was two factors together which dictated Quiney being in selected before Hughes. Certainly part of it was the selectors not wanting Hughes to have to restart his test career against SA but I think it was also that the selectors didn't want him coming in for just one test, but prefering to bring him in for a longer term run.

  • Mac on December 6, 2012, 22:14 GMT

    I would go for Khawaja as he is the inform batsman at 3. Khawaja got dropped worked on his weakness's and is now scoring aggressively and his fielding looks fantastic. The move under Boof has paid off for him and I think he is the best choice for the number 3 spot. I won't put Hughes down as he is a good batsman but he is our long term opener, Khawaja is the best number 3 in the country. His attitude to improvement is fantastic.

  • Andrew on December 6, 2012, 21:52 GMT

    Everyone is assuming that Hughes will come in at number 3. I disagree, i think what you will find is that Hughes and Warner open and Cowan comes in at number 3 who is obviously a lot steadier although still trying to find his feets and cement his own position. They are playing a long term game and i think Hughes and Cowan will really come in handy come England. I also would not be surprised to see Khawaja come in at some point as well.

  • Lokesh on December 6, 2012, 19:58 GMT

    good point This should be Australia 1)Watson (in concentrating mode) 2. D Warner ( in explosive mood) 3. Ed Cowan 4. Michael Clarke 5. Michael Hussey 6. Shaun Marsh/Usman Khawaga 7. Matthew Wade (wk) I always wonder why Ed Cowan always opened . He would be a perfect number 3. It might take a bit time to get used to but after that he would make loads of important & significant runs for Australia. He also has the game for number 3 (a nice technical batsmen). I am not sure about spin-play ability though.

  • untalented on December 6, 2012, 19:54 GMT

    Australia are overanalysing their batting order. There cant be that much difference in requirements between top and middle order bats, so put your best ones first to lead and newer players or all rounders below, with maybe an anchor like Hussey at 6. If players need to protected then I ask how good they are anyway.

  • Rob Noah on December 6, 2012, 18:40 GMT

    It blows my mind that Clarke hasn't positioned himself at first drop, the guy's cowardice, in my opinion, is unparallelled in Australian cricketing history. He tucks himself away, throws lambs to the slaughther, just doesn't want the responsibility of the most important position in the team.

  • akki on December 6, 2012, 17:52 GMT

    well written article. may be they should read some stats too, in modern cricket most successful batsomen are who debuted against India(Amla, cook, jayawardhne) so they could have waited few more years and expose him against India. Even there is another way like hayden when he find his mojo against India in 2001 so I still believe they can wait 3 more tests too :P

  • Tom on December 6, 2012, 16:13 GMT

    This is always a problem when you have a couple of dubious top-order players and a far superior player lurking at 5 or 6. West Indies have the same problem with Chanderpaul; the best batsman in the side is batting "too low". On the other hand, if Clarke or Chanderpaul were to move up the order, the chances are they'd be less effective, and the greener players wouldn't make up the deficit. It's probably best to keep your best batsman in his best position. Australia do have a problem, though, as they have question marks over all their top three. Moving Hussey to open might be a decent compromise, if he can handle it, which I think he probably could.

  • Neeraj Anand on December 6, 2012, 14:57 GMT

    Being an ardent follower of Australian cricket over the years,as per my assessment, Australia badly needs a rock solid batsman at vital position No 3, where Ponting did justice so well for so many years that too by such positive batting. Actually not only no 3 but also I am not satisfied with both Warner and Cowan as openers because they are far from reliable and lack the technique to face quality attack in bowler friendly conditions. My gut feeling and the reading of the game says that the ploy of moving Watson down the order by Mickey Arthur is not a bad option, but the problem persists at the top. Though failing to justify his potential, I would still want the selectors to try Shaun Marsh in the openers role along with Warner, who is a attacking batsman but needs to work on his footwork and shot selection. Callum Ferguson who too has good temperament should be given a chance in the test line-up in the one down position followed by Clarke, Hussey and Watson.

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  • Neeraj Anand on December 6, 2012, 14:57 GMT

    Being an ardent follower of Australian cricket over the years,as per my assessment, Australia badly needs a rock solid batsman at vital position No 3, where Ponting did justice so well for so many years that too by such positive batting. Actually not only no 3 but also I am not satisfied with both Warner and Cowan as openers because they are far from reliable and lack the technique to face quality attack in bowler friendly conditions. My gut feeling and the reading of the game says that the ploy of moving Watson down the order by Mickey Arthur is not a bad option, but the problem persists at the top. Though failing to justify his potential, I would still want the selectors to try Shaun Marsh in the openers role along with Warner, who is a attacking batsman but needs to work on his footwork and shot selection. Callum Ferguson who too has good temperament should be given a chance in the test line-up in the one down position followed by Clarke, Hussey and Watson.

  • Tom on December 6, 2012, 16:13 GMT

    This is always a problem when you have a couple of dubious top-order players and a far superior player lurking at 5 or 6. West Indies have the same problem with Chanderpaul; the best batsman in the side is batting "too low". On the other hand, if Clarke or Chanderpaul were to move up the order, the chances are they'd be less effective, and the greener players wouldn't make up the deficit. It's probably best to keep your best batsman in his best position. Australia do have a problem, though, as they have question marks over all their top three. Moving Hussey to open might be a decent compromise, if he can handle it, which I think he probably could.

  • akki on December 6, 2012, 17:52 GMT

    well written article. may be they should read some stats too, in modern cricket most successful batsomen are who debuted against India(Amla, cook, jayawardhne) so they could have waited few more years and expose him against India. Even there is another way like hayden when he find his mojo against India in 2001 so I still believe they can wait 3 more tests too :P

  • Rob Noah on December 6, 2012, 18:40 GMT

    It blows my mind that Clarke hasn't positioned himself at first drop, the guy's cowardice, in my opinion, is unparallelled in Australian cricketing history. He tucks himself away, throws lambs to the slaughther, just doesn't want the responsibility of the most important position in the team.

  • untalented on December 6, 2012, 19:54 GMT

    Australia are overanalysing their batting order. There cant be that much difference in requirements between top and middle order bats, so put your best ones first to lead and newer players or all rounders below, with maybe an anchor like Hussey at 6. If players need to protected then I ask how good they are anyway.

  • Lokesh on December 6, 2012, 19:58 GMT

    good point This should be Australia 1)Watson (in concentrating mode) 2. D Warner ( in explosive mood) 3. Ed Cowan 4. Michael Clarke 5. Michael Hussey 6. Shaun Marsh/Usman Khawaga 7. Matthew Wade (wk) I always wonder why Ed Cowan always opened . He would be a perfect number 3. It might take a bit time to get used to but after that he would make loads of important & significant runs for Australia. He also has the game for number 3 (a nice technical batsmen). I am not sure about spin-play ability though.

  • Andrew on December 6, 2012, 21:52 GMT

    Everyone is assuming that Hughes will come in at number 3. I disagree, i think what you will find is that Hughes and Warner open and Cowan comes in at number 3 who is obviously a lot steadier although still trying to find his feets and cement his own position. They are playing a long term game and i think Hughes and Cowan will really come in handy come England. I also would not be surprised to see Khawaja come in at some point as well.

  • Mac on December 6, 2012, 22:14 GMT

    I would go for Khawaja as he is the inform batsman at 3. Khawaja got dropped worked on his weakness's and is now scoring aggressively and his fielding looks fantastic. The move under Boof has paid off for him and I think he is the best choice for the number 3 spot. I won't put Hughes down as he is a good batsman but he is our long term opener, Khawaja is the best number 3 in the country. His attitude to improvement is fantastic.

  • Jonathan on December 6, 2012, 22:48 GMT

    I think it's slightly unfair to claim that because Hughes wasn't used against South Africa that he can't be ready to play at number 3. When Quiney was selected for those games it was still thought likely that he would only be a replacement for one test, maybe two. At the time there was no talk of Ponting retiring after Perth so the position was intended to be short term. I'd say it was two factors together which dictated Quiney being in selected before Hughes. Certainly part of it was the selectors not wanting Hughes to have to restart his test career against SA but I think it was also that the selectors didn't want him coming in for just one test, but prefering to bring him in for a longer term run.

  • No. 3 on December 6, 2012, 23:41 GMT

    Mike Hussey can keep hiding at no. 6, and play for three more years and keep building his stats, or he can go to the ballsy position at 3, and probably fail and retire alot sooner. We need an inexperienced type at 6, to come through, not someone 37 years of age there.