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World Cup 2011

Australian selectors face tough questions

Peter English

January 17, 2011

Comments: 115 | Text size: A | A

Australia's 15-man World Cup squad must be named by Wednesday, but after years of planning the selectors face a string of last-minute decisions. The injured Ricky Ponting is expected back in time for the tournament as he aims for his fourth win in a row, but this time he will have to do it with a team missing its usual batch of superstars. Here are some of the questions facing the selectors.

Brett Lee speaks in Canberra ahead of the Prime Minister's XI game, Canberra, January 9, 2011
Brett Lee is fit and ready for a second World Cup © Getty Images

Can Brett Lee and Shaun Tait fit into the same squad?
Brett Lee and Shaun Tait are almost unchallenged as fast men when they are at full fitness. The major problem for Australia is it doesn't happen very often, setting up a risk-or-reward gamble. If they are on-song at 150kph, they will terrorise batsmen in most games and be expensive in others, but wickets are virtually guaranteed. If Australia take only one of the pair the other could be on standby as a like-for-like replacement in case of breakdown. Lee, 34, is now the front-runner after impressing at the MCG on Sunday after Tait pulled out with a back strain.

Neither plays first-class cricket any longer, so this tournament is their international peak - and also a warm-up for the IPL. Lee's return from injury - he had elbow surgery at the start of last year - could provide the side with a link to its all-conquering past, and help him overcome the disappointment of missing the 2007 event with damaged ankle ligaments. His international career started just after the 1999 triumph and he was the second-leading wicket-taker in South Africa four years later.

How many spinners do Australia need?
Australia have always had slow-bowling problems when heading to the subcontinent, even when Shane Warne was around. How many do they need this time, and will any of those selected be able to make any impact? The offspinner Nathan Hauritz didn't play in the opening ODI but is with the squad for the current one-day series against England and has been promised some games. That wouldn't have occurred if he hadn't been marked for a part at the World Cup.

Xavier Doherty, the left-arm orthodox from Tasmania, was on trial at the MCG in his third ODI and went wicket-less. Steven Smith has a big future and his legbreaks will be required over the next couple of months, but he is not yet good enough to be a specialist with either bat or ball. And then there are the real part-timers. David Hussey, who must make a mark as a batsman first, collected two victims with his offspin in Melbourne when he was preferred in the early stages to Doherty; Michael Clarke can dart in some handy left-armers when his back allows; and at some point Cameron White might be asked if he still remembers how to roll his arm over. Even the selectors and coaching staff really don't know the best combination in this key department.

Are Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke worth their leadership roles?
Of course they are. Both Ponting and Clarke have had poor Test summers but they will be crucial ingredients if Australia are to have a successful campaign. Ponting is out with a broken little finger but expects to be back to lead the team in a tournament in which he has never lost a game as captain. He has been a part of the past three previous world-beating outfits and brings authority and aggression, even if his best days are behind him. However, whatever happens, he should seriously consider stepping down at the end of the competition and let the next generation emerge. Clarke is a vital piece in the middle order and is desperate to find some form and fluency to return to the top of his game after a rare, extended slump.

Does Brad Haddin need an understudy?
Tim Paine was appointed Australia's vice-captain for the T20s against England and Brad Haddin was dropped. Paine, 26, is being groomed for future leadership roles while Haddin was Clarke's deputy for the SCG Test. It's a strange time for Australia's incumbent wicketkeeper, who usually gets to choose his engagements. Haddin, 33, is the more attacking batsman and will start at the top of the order, but his glovework is less assured. He was sloppy in the opening ODI, with three missed stumpings, and may struggle over two months in challenging conditions. There is no way he will be around for the next World Cup, so it would be sensible to send Paine for the experience, and to give Haddin a rest against Canada and Kenya.

Who is going to miss out?
David Hussey and Tait sit right on the edge of selection, while a host of other players in the 30-man preliminary outfit are now no chance of making this week's unit. It always seems crazy that Brad Hodge misses out despite his regular domestic heroics, while Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson have been injured. Dan Christian, John Hastings and Callum Ferguson, who broke his nose when he missed a short ball last week, should come into consideration if there are any injuries to the preferred 15.

Possible squad Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Cameron White, Michael Hussey, Steven Smith, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Brett Lee, Xavier Doherty, Peter Siddle, Shaun Tait, Doug Bollinger.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 115 
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Posted by Andrew on (January 20, 2011, 8:05 GMT)

Interesting little bit of info on Hilditch, I'd forgotten that he was Test crickets 2nd batsmen out handled ball. Shows what a dope he is. I also forgot that he has been on the panel since 1996, I think it's a case of lost touch.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 17, 2011, 22:48 GMT)

Cricket Australia are bent upon playing Ponting and Clarke immaterial of their form. They have been waiting for their form to return for over an year now. The wait is going to be there longer. Johnson is a trier and will be persisted with for the World Cup. Brett Lee looked OK but not at his best yet. Hauritz is by far the best spinner in Australia. He needs to be there. My Australian Team will be : Watson, Haddin, Ponting, Clarke, White, Mike Hussey, David Hussey, Hauritz, Johnson, Siddle, Lee. Take along Smith, Paine, Bollinger and Fergusson/Christen. I still would like to see the Australian resurrection. What better stage that the Worl Cup 2011.

Posted by Basil on (January 17, 2011, 22:31 GMT)

Harris and McKay injured are 2 HUGE losses as they bowl with the most control and take regular wickets. There records are peerless in ODIs. Having said that let's choose our BEST ODI players and win a 5th World Cup. Squad - Watson Haddin Hodge Ponting M Hussey White Christian Hastings Lee Hauritz Nannes Ferguson Bollinger Warner OKeefe. I think this is the best team from those available to win the cup in sub-continental conditions. Marsh, Hopes, Doherty, Paine, and Tait are all back-ups of there respective skills. NO Johnson- he has no control, Clarke is too slow and selfish, and D Hussey is way out of form.

Posted by Eric on (January 17, 2011, 21:34 GMT)

The thought of Ponting,Clarke and D.Hussey scratching around trying to get some form in the middle order after a good start is worrying. Would Lee and Tait break down again? Hauritz, Hodge and Marsh must have walked under a ladder, or broken a window. Wonder what shockers the pathetic selectors will come up with this time, perhaps a spinner playing 2nd grade in Sydney competition.

Posted by Martin on (January 17, 2011, 21:12 GMT)

Michael Clarke is so out of form. His mind is elsewhere. I think they should take him to the World Cup. If he fails again then it should be curtains for his international career. He would have failed on the two biggest stages, the Ashes and the WC and means he does not possess the character necessary to play in, let alone lead, the Australian Cricket Team.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 17, 2011, 20:39 GMT)

If you Aussies wanna get back to winning days, DON'T select Tait, Smith and maybe even Hauritz.

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 17, 2011, 17:40 GMT)

With Michael Hussey injured and now likely to miss the tournament it would seem, they definitely need another batsman and I would suggest two - D Hussey and C Ferguson maybe. I too think there are too many fast bowlers in this squad for the subcontinent, and am surprised that Peter English put both Tait and Lee in when the article suggests this is risky! Tait is only bowling 4 overs a match in 20/20 and still he has a back strain!

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 17, 2011, 15:31 GMT)

I read on cricinfo that Hussey is doubtful so Ferguson or Brad Hodge should replace him. Going with three spinners not bad but I think it's better to select a solid batsman and part time spinner David Hussey in place of Doherty..!!..

Posted by Dummy4 on (January 17, 2011, 15:16 GMT)

wheres James Hopes? He is a great finisher! Aussies need him in One Dayers! Dougie and Harris are no good in limited overs...Hopes should be brought back

Posted by Dakshinamurty on (January 17, 2011, 15:07 GMT)

I think the following 15 should be good enough to retain the World Cup 1- Shane Watson 2- Brad Haddin 3- Ricky Ponting 4- Michael Clarke 5- Cameron White 6- Callum Ferguson (As Hussey is now injured and in doubt for the WC) 7- David Hussey 8- Tim Paine 9- Mitchell Johnson 10- Peter Siddle 11- Brett Lee 12- Doug Bollinger 13- Nathan Hauritz 14- Xavier Doherty

The 15th spot can be decided between Shaun Tait and Steven Smith, depending on what the selectors want.

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