January 12, 2009

Who after Hayden?

A look at the players in the reckoning to fill the impending vacancy at the top of Australia's order

Matthew Hayden will not be the only opening batsman desperate for the first week of February and the naming of the Test squad for South Africa. Until recently Hayden had the complete faith of the selectors, who wanted him to stay on for the Ashes, but their stance shifted slightly after the Sydney Test. Hayden's second-innings 39 was his top score of the home summer and the likelihood of his career ending on 103 Tests increased when he was cut from the Twenty20 and one-day sides. So who will partner Simon Katich in South Africa? A look at the contenders.

Back in the frame: Jaques has returned after surgery, and if fit, will be up there in the reckoning © Getty Images

Phil Jaques

Age 29, Tests 11
First-class hundreds 35
First-class runs in 2008-09 0

Why should he replace Hayden?
A first-choice player until the India series, when he succumbed to a long-term back injury, Jaques has a hundred in his most recent Test. In nine matches since replacing Justin Langer he has 806 runs at 50.37, but the most exciting thing for him is what happens next. After having surgery he can drive through cover without feeling pain. A solid, sensible and reliable replacement who is young enough for a long career.

Why not?
He hasn't played since he left the India tour with a bulging disc, and his first opportunity to erase the doubts over form and fitness will not come until a Sheffield Shield game for New South Wales on January 30, a week before the South Africa squad is released. With other contenders lining up, Jaques has been forgotten by those looking solely at the run lists.

Hayden-esque quality
Passionate about opening for Australia and knows the team culture.

Chances Will be first-choice if fit.

Phillip Hughes

Age 20, Tests 0
First-class hundreds 4
First-class runs in 2008-09 730 @ 56.15

Why should he replace Hayden?
By picking Hughes the selectors could change the entire outlook of the side. Seventeen years younger than Hayden, Hughes, an attractive left-hander, would make the team fresh, exciting and one for the future. In his second season with New South Wales, he didn't suffer the expected slump and his double of 93 and 108 in a Sheffield Shield game against Tasmania represented 58% of the team total.

Why not?
A conservative panel will see his age instead of potential. While the selectors recognise Hughes' supreme talent, they might be uneasy at relying on someone so raw in A-list series against South Africa and England, especially with more qualified options available.

Hayden-esque quality
Able to sway the local faithful. In New South Wales this summer he is more popular than ice cream.

Chances More likely for the Ashes tour.

Chris Rogers

Age 31, Tests 1
First-class hundreds 31
First-class runs in 2008-09 661 @ 82.62

Rogers: an old-style opener who can do the job on all kinds of pitches © Getty Images

Why should he replace Hayden?
He did last time, scoring 4 and 15 against India in Perth. Since then he has swapped states from Western Australia to Victoria and continued with the heavy contributions that earned him a national contract in 2007. An old-style opener, he builds rather than demolishes, and boasts runs on all types of surfaces.

Why not?
He was forgotten as soon as he arrived in the Test team, losing his contract four months after his debut, mainly because the selectors were sure Hayden would make it to the Ashes. Can't shake whispers he is not as committed off the field, with his exit from Western Australia used as an example. Might be one of those players who is just plain unlucky.

Hayden-esque quality
Likes big runs and tough runs.

Chances Will go if Jaques doesn't.

Shaun Marsh

Age 25, Tests 0
First-class hundreds 4
First-class runs in 2008-09 167 @ 23.85

Why should he replace Hayden?
Marsh covered for Jaques when he was injured in India, an appointment more for getting him experience around the team than because he was next in line. An explosive batsman in the limited-overs games, he could jump into the Test arena via his performances in coloured clothes. In eight ODIs against West Indies and Bangladesh he has been assured, but life will probably be different against South Africa or England.

Why not?
Like Michael Klinger, he has spent most of his time in first-class games not doing much of significance. During eight seasons with Western Australia he has only four Sheffield Shield centuries and an average of 34.01. His best score since coming back from India is an unbeaten 74, and he struggled for impact in four domestic games of his preferred Twenty20. At 25, he has time, and the selectors, on his side.

Hayden-esque quality
Not afraid to thrash the new ball.

Chances Not as good as three months ago.

Michael Klinger

Age 28, Tests 0
First-class hundreds 6
First-class runs in 2008-09 906 @ 90.60

Why should he replace Hayden?
After moving to South Australia in the off-season, he has dominated the competition like Hayden once did. Four hundreds have come in six Sheffield Shield games, including 255 against Western Australia, and he has another 366 runs in the FR Cup. Klinger is in incredible form but seems embarrassed when pushed on his chances of national selection.

Why not?
He spent too much time - almost 10 years - as a fringe state player at Victoria and needs to prove himself for more than a season at his new home. While he opens in the one-day team, he enters at No. 3 in the Sheffield Shield, which makes him a riskier proposition when compared to the specialists.

Hayden-esque quality
Not giving up when ignored by the selectors.

Hodge represents experience, but picking him may also seem a backward step © Gett Images

Chances Highly unlikely.

Brad Hodge

Age 34, Tests 6
First-class hundreds 49
First-class runs in 2008-09 245 @ 35.00

Why should he replace Hayden?
If Australia want an experienced batsman for such crucial encounters, then Hodge will come into contention. The last time the Test team went to South Africa the selectors pushed for Damien Martyn - Hodge was the one cut - for his cool head and consistent output. Three years later Hodge might be the fortunate one.

Why not?
Hodge represents a look back rather than a step forward, and like Klinger he is a No. 3. Despite an early hundred, his first-class season has been quiet, although he has been much more successful in the limited-overs formats. He substituted in the West Indies with 67 and 27 in Jamaica, but needs a few breaks to add a seventh Test.

Hayden-esque quality
Unbending confidence in his ability.

Chances The outsider. Could go as a squad batsman and get lucky.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Susobhan on January 14, 2009, 15:38 GMT

    I think Langer was better opener than Hayden. If Australia can find a replacement for Langer, then they can easily find the replacement for Hayden. My choice is Shaun Marsh or Philip Hughes. They are exciting cricketers. Aussie selectors must not ruin their careers as they did in case of Hussey or Gilchrist( to some extent).

  • Tim on January 14, 2009, 2:57 GMT

    You have to pick players on form. Australia has been caught out of late by playing players who are completely out of form purely to keep the same side on the field. The fact that Hayden and Hussey were able to play the entire summer while averaging under 20 is ludicrous when we've got guys averaging in the 80s and 90s in first class cricket. The fact that McKenzie was nearly dropped before Hayden was shows how stubborn the Australian selectors are. Rogers should be picked for the SA tour and if not him then Hughes or Klinger. None of the other batsmen suggested are in form in the first class arena. Final word, Mike Hussey needs runs on this tour or he shouldn't go to the ashes. We can't simply assume that because someone has made runs in the past that they will be able to magically come back into form, or that a player averaging over 80 in first class cricket, like Klinger or Rogers, is a risk at test level.

  • Wessels on January 13, 2009, 23:27 GMT

    Nobody over 30 - especially not Hodge - no problem with him but at 34 it will just be two seasons (3 if lucky) and he'll retire too. Australia must break the trend of people retiring, otherwise it will continue to haunt them for many years to come. There's only a year or two before the next batch (Ponting, Symonds, Clark etc.) starts going...

  • sam on January 13, 2009, 22:52 GMT

    i think that austrailia need to take Jacques aswell as hughs. Jacques can be the no 1 opener along with katch and hughes can learn the ins-and-outs of test cricket while he is on the tour. Hughs will be the next Matthew Hayden being only 20, he can be there for 10-15 years. If aussie are winny the series and cannot lose int, then they can debut Hughes and if they are losing and cannot win they can debut hughes.

  • Damien on January 13, 2009, 16:58 GMT

    As is the preferred method in Australia, you have to be consistent and in the line to be selected. Jaques deserves his chance, as he was incumbent until very unlucky to be knocked off by another (who had also been dreadfully unlucky not to have been selected earlier). I'm a big supporter for Hughes, but if he is THAT good, he'll get his chance later. Secondly, I have to respond to the rubbish about players being born into privilege. What sort of weird logic is that? Do you really believe that Hayden, Warne and Mc Grath would have been anywhere near their degree of talent without following ridiculously taxing training routines? Hayden practised and practised so much, he became the great player he is. His story about being rejected by Rod Marsh because he wasn't perceived to be start quality is legendary. Warne studied the game so well, that he is regarded by some as having the best cricket brain in history. To think that you can just be born that good, without training- what crap!

  • Imran on January 13, 2009, 16:13 GMT

    Brad Hodge recently allowed his mouth to go where no mouth has gone before.

    "Maybe I'll play for Australia in lawn bowls in the future, maybe tennis, maybe rowing, I'm not sure yet," he said.

    "(I'm) not sure about cricket. I hope not but maybe if this sport doesn't work I'll try another one."

    How about PR-101 at an Australian University?

    I hardly fancy his chances 50 plus average or not.

    Marsh is a 20twenty player not suited to the longer version.

    Some of the others are strangers and rookies.

    Jaques looks the best bet if his back holds up.

    Funny thing is Hayden's failures were not worse than Dravid's, yet they shoved him aside with two big tours coming up.

  • Stuart on January 13, 2009, 10:58 GMT

    Jaques will step in if fit enough - Hughes needs to be in the squad so that he is ready for his chance when it comes, be it against SAf, in the Ashes, or in 2-3yrs time.

    I must point out a few things to TACS.

    Warne and McGrath, although maybe born great, had very high bowling averages in their first years. Hayden struggled early on as well. Any player needs a few games to establish themselves. Also, while SAf are number 1 now IMO, I think that India are at 3 behind Aus, as they still aren't nearly as effective outside the subcontinent. Finally, WIndies decline was more to do with gifted young sportsmen leaving for other sports that offer much more money in the nearby USA. It is wildly speculative to suggest that Australia, with its well paid and coached cricketers, will suffer such a dramatic decline.

    I look forward to seeing SAf, India and Australia go hammer and tongs in good close test matches over the next 3-5 years.

  • Joe on January 13, 2009, 4:22 GMT


    "The then WI team dominated cricket world much strongly than this Australian team did."

    Really? By what criteria? And just remind me, which team won 16 tests in a row twice?

  • Peter on January 13, 2009, 4:21 GMT

    In reply to Zordrac, Hussey's first attempt at opening was when he failed twice at the Gabba, then came his hundred at Hobart. He also stood in for Langer in SA. Anyway, I agree that he should probably open as thats what he does in first class games, however I think the selectors like his experience in the middle order. Jaques must be first picked, as he was there when Hayden was injured and deserves a few tests to prove himself. Then Hughes. Talk of Warner being a Test opener for now is rubbish, he needs a few games for NSW first to show that he can actually do it. And no allrounder. Clarke and Katich can bowl overs, bring someone like Dave Hussey who has an awesome record and can bowl a bit too. We've been able to get by in the past before Gilly without an allrounder, why should it change now? My Aussie team would read Jaques Katich Ponting M Hussey Clarke D Hussey Haddin Siddle Hilfenhous Bracken Clark. No spinner, 3 part timers in SA and England is all you need.

  • gavin on January 13, 2009, 3:41 GMT

    M Hussey to open hughes in middle order for experience and jaques to rejoin team once he has had some match pratice at first class level.

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