The Ashes 2010-11 November 15, 2010

Nerves bring out the best in players - Ponting

ESPNcricinfo staff

Ricky Ponting believes the added pressure of a 17-man squad will be good for some of his side's most besieged members. The extended unit means out-of-form players such as Michael Hussey, Marcus North and Nathan Hauritz will be looking over their shoulder during the round of Sheffield Shield and Australia A games from Wednesday.

"It's a different feel," Ponting said on Fox Sports after the squad was named. "Unfortunately that's what we've got, there's nothing we can do about it. For some reason, Cricket Australia wanted to name the squad as early as they have today. We've just got to get on with it now.

"There's a bit of extra pressure on a few of the guys around at the moment. I'm sure there'll be a few guys who will have lots of different things going through their heads, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of added pressure and a few nerves. I think generally that brings out the best in guys."

While Hussey and North are the most vulnerable members of the batting group, the offspinner Hauritz is another player who needs a strong performance for his state this week. He has struggled for impact over the past month, first with a return of six wickets at 65 in the Test series in India, and then with disappointing match figures of 3 for 141 for New South Wales last week against Victoria.

In an unexpected move, the selectors chose the Tasmanian left-armer Xavier Doherty alongside Hauritz and Steven Smith, and it appears certain one of the trio will play, despite the Gabba's seam-friendly reputation. That makes the Sheffield Shield clash between New South Wales and Tasmania, starting in Sydney on Wednesday, vital for Hauritz and Doherty, while Smith will play for Australia A against England.

"I'm pretty sure we'll go in with one of those guys as our specialist spinner in Brisbane," Ponting said. "It's always my preference to have a specialist spinner in the side. It's a bit of a showdown this week."

Although it seems baffling that Doherty, who has played only nine first-class matches in the past four years, could be in line for a Test call-up, his selection and Hauritz's worrying form makes it a possibility. The batsmen Callum Ferguson and Usman Khawaja would also seem hard-pressed to force Hussey or North out for the first Test, but Ponting said every one of those chosen had a genuine chance of playing at the Gabba.

"They wouldn't be named in the squad otherwise," he said. "That's as simple as it gets. Everyone that's been named in that squad of 17 is a very realistic chance of playing in Brisbane. With a full round of Shield games this week, and the A game, I'm sure the selectors will want to see the guys do well. I'm really excited about the Sheffield Shield game that I've got against New South Wales. I'll get a very close look at Bollinger and Hauritz, and Doherty in our side as well."

Even if there are no surprises in the Gabba side, the selectors have at least shown who will be next in line should any of the established men falter. And if Australia's series doesn't begin with a victory, don't expect a repeat of 2006-07, when their Ashes campaign was completed with only 12 men.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on November 19, 2010, 22:30 GMT

    @Aussasinator - NZ have done well because they batted brilliantly & bowled tighter lines - good on them, they are NOT a better batting unit. Oz were closer to beating India then NZ. Nonsense arguement #2 from you.

  • Andrew on November 19, 2010, 22:28 GMT

    @Gilly4ever - agreed in general. I think that Krezja should of got more of a look in with test selectors though. I don't worry too much about statistics when it comes to Oz spinners. Look @ Hauritz - his domestic returns are quite modest - yet his Test statistics are alot better. I think Doherty would be better on the Test scene as well. I think O'Keefe is shading all 3 at the moment. @Glen Hughes - agreed sort of - except Watson could slot in @ 3, which would take a little pressure of him due to bowling commitments. @Landl47 - LOL! Totally over simplified "analysis". Oz have enough quality to win the Ashes - its just a question of slumps, form bubbles or decline. A slump is something that can be rectified, a bubble is temporary, a decline is terminal. Oz do not have the consistancy of past years, but they definately have the cattle to win this series. @Aussasinator - nonesensical. @Sanj747- big-mouthed like Harbajan Singh hey? @Something_Witty - Poms brought 30 players out!

  • Kell on November 16, 2010, 11:13 GMT

    Aussasinator, Totally agree. I've been watching the Kiwis and they are cracking into it. If North, Hussey etc are still around in another 6 months I think we will just have Bangladesh covered. That would make Aus about 8th. Can handle losing but I need to see the young guys having a go!!!!

  • Subba on November 16, 2010, 3:30 GMT

    The Kiwis stretched India because they are primarily a better batting side than the Aussies, especially the top 4 batsmen. And their bowlers stuck to a well devised plan, again unlike the unimaginative Aussies. Australia is likely to sink to rock bottom soon.

  • John on November 16, 2010, 0:45 GMT

    landl, your comment made me roll my eyes and then yawn. That's how original it was. The poms came over here trumpeting this same rubbish last time "ahh Aus are an ageing, unsettled unit". There had just been controversy over Brad Hodge being dropped and the fact that we'd nearly lost a test match to Bangladesh. Gilchrist had been in rubbish form for ages, Brett Lee wasn't taking wickets, Mcgrath was coming back from injury, JL hadn't made a 50 in 10 innings, the list goes on. I don't think anyone needs any reminder of what happened last series.

  • Sanjay on November 15, 2010, 22:08 GMT

    Should have picked all the 66 shield players in the line up. More choice. What a joke. Australian cricket has lost some of the basics. Look at the Kiwis stretching India in India. Great to see. We have big mouth non performers like Mitchell Johnson who can never walk the talk. Ponting is surely having a lot to say about the selections. His mates are Johnson, Hussey and North.

  • Subba on November 15, 2010, 16:14 GMT

    Pressure on everyone else but no pressure on the captain? He should have been out long ago, so that pressure on everyone else is relieved!

  • John on November 15, 2010, 15:31 GMT

    I love Something_Witty's line. "With the number of injury concerns and a few players struggling for form, it really isn't a surprise to see a large squad like this. Dunno what all the fuss is about really." Let me suggest what the fuss is about- it's the number of injury concerns and a few players struggling for form. In other words, this side has problems and the first test is 10 days away.

  • Rajaram on November 15, 2010, 14:18 GMT

    I simply cannot understand so much talk about Michael Hussey and Marcus North fighting for their places.Michael Hussey is a solid, dependable batsman and the best fielder in the gully.Marcus North just scored a century in the most difficult country - India. North is a useful off spinner too - he took six wickets remember? And north has done very well against the Poms in the last Ashes. The Poms fear him. No change in the top 7. A solid dependable line-up.

  • John on November 15, 2010, 11:11 GMT

    With the number of injury concerns and a few players struggling for form, it really isn't a surprise to see a large squad like this. Dunno what all the fuss is about really. The only real problem I have with it is that Hughes isn't in the squad. Katich is under an injury cloud, so cover for an opener would be good, but Hughes doesn't need to open the batting. He could quite comfortably bat somewhere in the middle order. - He couldn't possibly do a worse job than Hussey and North have been doing.

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