Peter English

XI for '11

Australia have been shedding legends with alarming rapidity. What will their 2011 World Cup side look like?

Peter English
Peter English

Luke Pomersbach is part of the big-hitting brigade in Western Australia, which also includes Luke Ronchi and Adam Voges © Getty Images
In three years Australia will aim for a fourth consecutive World Cup and if half the previous squad is at the tournament in India it will be a satisfying achievement. Guards, faces and results are changing Down Under and the next couple of years will determine whether the team treads water or starts to sink.
By 2011 the side, which should still be led by Ricky Ponting, will know how well it has coped in the Test arena without the batch of greats that took it to record-breaking highs. Since January 2007 the untouchables Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist, have been joined in retirement by the very good Justin Langer and Damien Martyn, and the one-day specialist Brad Hogg.
Already the team's standards have slipped slowly - Australia did not win the final two Tests of the India series and gave up the last edition of CB Series - and the rest of the world is starting to believe they can be beaten regularly. When the 36-year-old Matthew Hayden, whose position in the order has never been more important, steps down in the next year or so the task to stay on top will become even more treacherous.
Now men who have waited years for openings that seemed like they would never appear have a chance. In the mid-1980s the selectors wanted tough and committed players to drive Australia from a slump. Times and criteria have also changed. Aggressive cricketers are the preferred option and they must have consistent, long-term output in the domestic scene. It is great news for the early 30-somethings Chris Rogers, David Hussey, Brad Haddin and Ashley Noffke, but should mean batsmen such as Phillip Hughes and Michael Hill, the most qualified of the Under-19s, will have to wait until the next World Cup cycle.
Phil Jaques has the early running for a long career as an opener and Rogers is likely to have the first Test chance when Hayden goes, but these are inexperienced internationals and it will be a challenge to maintain their standards until the 2011 World Cup. Having spent time with the squad since 2005, Jaques is better equipped to take on both opening roles, although more contenders will arrive next season after the exits of many top-order veterans from the state ranks.
The wicketkeepers Haddin and Luke Ronchi, the huge hitter from Western Australia, will become options at the top in the short forms of the game and playing them both in the same side is attractive. Each gloveman has benefited from Gilchrist's departure, with Haddin ready for a full-time international promotion and Ronchi free to appear in every game for his state. Ronchi already owns the fastest century in Australia's one-day competition, a 56-ball effort against New South Wales, and his contemporaries drool over his ability. They believe he is destined to play for his country.
In 2011 Ponting, Andrew Symonds and Michael Hussey will be on the wrong side of 35 and the event may be their farewell unless they have already decided part-time positions as Twenty20 exponents in India are more attractive. Given Symonds will be getting more than three times the Indian Premier League amounts of Ponting and Hussey, he is the most likely to leave early, especially if his Test form falters.
Hussey's main contender in a couple of years will probably be his brother David, who is two years younger and, like his sibling, has had to wait many years for recognition. David's greater shot range and strike-rate make him an ideal limited-overs candidate if Michael's high-energy returns slow down.

Doug Bollinger is among the top domestic wicket-takers this season and looks a promising medium-term prospect © Getty Images
On present indicators Luke Pomersbach, who picked up 743 Pura Cup runs at 61.91 but was dropped from the Western Australia one-day side, is capable of greater development than his state team-mate Adam Voges (543 at 37.46). Both can muscle balls out of stadiums, appeared in Australia's limited-overs squads during the summer and are prototype batsmen for younger generations. Expect them to battle for the No. 6 position for the next World Cup, two spots behind Michael Clarke, who will be reaching his peak and preparing for the captaincy.
Three years is a long time for bowlers and during that period Brett Lee will have to decide if he can keep up with the pace. Lee, who will turn 35 at the end of 2011, missed the previous global success with an ankle injury and the desire for a departure like Glenn McGrath's Man-of-the-Tournament effort in the Caribbean will act as a spur.
Stuart Clark, 32, is not a first choice in the one-day team at the moment so it is unlikely the selectors see him as someone who will rise as he enters middle age. Mitchell Johnson is improving after his first full international campaign and if he develops like those close to the team expect, he will be a major threat over the next five seasons. He might even been Lee's successor as the attack leader.
The other spots are harder to pick and will be where Andrew Hilditch and his fellow selectors have the most to analyse. Shaun Tait's future is unclear due to mental and physical exhaustion, but even if his mind clears he has to deal with his body, which becomes over-stressed whenever he bowls. Nathan Bracken will hover around the fringes while Noffke and Doug Bollinger, the leading wicket-takers in the current first-class domestic campaign, can expect opportunities to stake medium-term claims.
Then there is the spin dilemma. It's hard enough to know what will happen for the one-dayers in the West Indies, and that tour is only two months away. In three years not even the selectors can be certain who of Dan Cullen, Cullen Bailey, Steven Smith, Beau Casson, Nathan Hauritz, Stephen O'Keefe or Jon Holland will be the standout. Currently Cullen is the safer option, but unlike the batting or the fast-bowling this is the area of most concern in Australia's unsettled future.
An Australian XI for 2011
1 Phil Jaques, 2 Luke Ronchi, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 David Hussey, 6 Luke Pomersbach, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Brett Lee, 9 Dan Cullen, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Doug Bollinger

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo