ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

World Cup 2011

A bold and welcome move

By drafting in Michael Hussey, and keeping Dirk Nannes on standby, Australia's selectors have taken a gamble that's out of character but welcome and worth taking

Brydon Coverdale

March 6, 2011

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

Dirk Nannes and Michael Hussey are thriller after getting rid of Kamran Akmal, Australia v Pakistan, Group A, ICC World Twenty20, St Lucia, May 2, 2010
Michael Hussey and Dirk Nannes: Selections that have given Australia their best chance of progressing to the final © AFP

It's not often Australia's selectors are congratulated, but they deserve it this time. Andrew Hilditch's panel has got it just right by sending Michael Hussey to the World Cup and flying Dirk Nannes across as a standby player. In one move they have both strengthened Australia's batting, especially against spin, and ensured the bowling won't be compromised.

The loss of Doug Bollinger to an ankle injury provided an opportunity. The selectors needed to choose as his replacement the player who would add the most to Australia's hopes of winning a fourth consecutive World Cup. Clearly, that man was Michael Hussey, the fourth-ranked ODI batsman in the world and one of Australia's most accomplished players of spin.

They could have gone for the conservative option and chosen a bowler, keeping the balance of the squad, but would Peter Siddle, or James Pattinson, or James Hopes have worried opponents in the same way that Hussey does? And would another bowler have even played a game, or simply sat in the rooms listening to his iPod for the next month?

Australia's plan is to go hard with a pace attack of Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait, and they should stick to it. Jason Krejza and the part-timers are there to bowl spin and John Hastings is in the squad, ready to step in if required. They can also get 10 overs out of Shane Watson, reducing the need for another genuine fast man.

By sending Nannes as a standby player, they have cover in case of an injury, although whoever he replaces would not be able to return to the squad. They know that, as Stuart Broad found, there is the risk of waking up on match day to find a couple of bowlers in bed with stomach complaints. If that happens, they won't have time to have Nannes approved by the ICC's technical committee, but why make selections based on hypotheticals? The gamble they have made is worth taking.

Of course, the ICC confused matters by stating earlier in the tournament that "once replaced, a player cannot return to the squad". Australia's full-time selector Greg Chappell, as well as Hussey himself, believed that once Hussey had been named in the 15-man squad and then withdrawn due to his serious hamstring injury, he could not come back regardless of other injuries.

But a week ago, the ICC clarified that their wording was misleading. Now, the official ICC line is "once replaced, a player may not return to the squad save as an approved subsequent replacement for another player". Welcome back, Michael Hussey.

Hussey has proven himself as a finisher - remember the World Twenty20 semi-final? - and as a man who can rescue the innings if the top order fails. He showed against Graeme Swann during the Ashes that when he uses his feet and takes a positive approach against spinners, he can negate their impact, and that's a key factor with a few of his colleagues struggling against quality slow men on the subcontinent, as they did in the warm-ups.

Hussey averages 77 in ODIs in India, and in his ten innings he has never made a single-figure score. When he has visited over the past two years, he has made 73, 53, 81 not out, 40, 31 not out, 35 not out and 69. It would have been a travesty had he remained at home in Perth playing another meaningless Sheffield Shield match while there was a World Cup to be won.

As strange as it seems, given he is now Australia's Twenty20 captain, Cameron White could be the man in most danger of losing his place to accommodate Hussey. The other candidates are David Hussey and Steven Smith, but they both offer important bowling options that Ricky Ponting would be loath to give up, whereas White is in scratchy batting form and hasn't bowled his legspin in an ODI for 18 months.

The selectors also deserve credit for not only sending a standby bowler, but for choosing Nannes. His speed and unusual angle make him a tricky customer in limited-overs cricket, but for some reason he has been viewed as a Twenty20 specialist by Hilditch's panel up until now. But if Johnson, Tait or Lee go down, Nannes is the best like-for-like swap to keep the aggressive approach going.

He might not be needed but if he is, he won't make things easy for the opposition. And by the time the quarter-finals come around, Australia know that it's all or nothing. These selections give them their best chance of progressing to the final.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 28 
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Posted by Chris on (March 9, 2011, 10:56 GMT)

SFay he only said meaningless shield match as NSW and TAS hav already qualified making it meaningless or a dead rubber as he cannot lift WA into the final. First thing the selectors have done right in a while

Posted by Steven on (March 9, 2011, 6:56 GMT)

"another meaningless Sheffield Shield match"

Without Sheffield Shield Australia would never have reached the top of world cricket, you should show a bit of respect

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 8, 2011, 20:29 GMT)

@Itchy - spot on, years ago when the WINDIES ruled the cricketing world, occasionally they'd pick a spinner & it ALWAYS backfired. The point being why weaken a strength when in most cases their strength would cope with any conditions. Lee/Tait/MJ are a strength, there is plenty of instances where they have suceeded in Indian-like environments, go for it! @Biggus/Meety - YES!, we OWN the CUP!!!!!!

Posted by Lou on (March 8, 2011, 18:42 GMT)

So good that Huss is going over there. I don't think the Aussies will win but it would have been a travesty if they didn't select him. The NSP are in my good books for once.

Posted by Steve on (March 8, 2011, 9:44 GMT)

@indian_hero: so the team that beat England 6-1 in a ODI series not so long ago(the same England who drew against the might of India a week or so ago) is finished. Who will knock them out at the QF stage? None of the other teams, save for Pakistan, have looked consistently good enough (and Aus won't be playing them in the QFs). @Chris_Howard: apart from your ridiculous and treasonous comment about Aus winning the whole thing, there is no irony about bringing in a player who is good against spin when they believe pace will be the deciding factor because every other team thinks spin will win it and has brought plenty of spinners. They have brought Hussey out as he is the no. 4 batsman in the world in this form - no irony, just a common-sense tactical decision.

Posted by M on (March 8, 2011, 8:06 GMT)

Good move by Oz selectors. Only SA if they don't choke are good enough to stop Australia in this WC.

Posted by Richard on (March 8, 2011, 6:35 GMT)

@Meety- Dang! You're right. Why all this even handedness? It is ours, well and truly, until someone takes it from us. We've owned it for some time now.

Posted by Andrew on (March 8, 2011, 3:50 GMT)

@ Chris_Howard - your sounding un-Australian!!@SudhirDeshmukr - um wrong! All the other sides ARE in India to lay down thre Red Carpet for Oz - we own the W/Cup - LOL!!!

Posted by andrews on (March 8, 2011, 2:27 GMT)

Indian hero, Mr Fahd and Sudhir Deshmukh, your comments have been noted. As were many comments over the last three world cups. Not to be taken seriously coming from a nation that has not looked like making a final for 28 years....except when they ran into Kenya in the semis. Cameron Petie, there are always going to be wasted players in a 15 man squad unless there is a severe injury epidemic. Johnson Haddin and Clark played one game between the three of them last world cup.

Posted by Mick on (March 8, 2011, 1:01 GMT)

@Sudhir Deshmukh: You see buddy, the thing is, we don't need to dream as we have the REALITY of the past three consecutive world cup victories to think about. The memories of demolishing three subcontinent teams in those finals are still quite vivid. I think it's more likely the other teams/fans who are dreaming of a chance to bring us down. As you can see from the likes of indian_hero, you lot are sounding pretty desperate.

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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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