A LOSING summer campaign is opening fresh opportunities for the fringe players says KEN PIESSE:
NEVER before have I wanted Australia to select anything but its best available XI for any Test match, any time, home and away.
Select those who deserve it. The 450-or-so who have represented Australia are members of the most prestigious sports club of all.
But in the next month with the Test season extending, we have a rare opportunity to experiment, just a little, with an eye on August and the Ashes series in England.
The scheduling of back-to-back Tests against the visiting Sri Lankans in Brisbane and Canberra provides the selectors with the opportunity to go with a hunch or two and promote on potential rather than form.
With the elevation of Ashes tour contenders like Perth-based swing specialist Jason Behrendorff and paceman Jhye Richardson into Australia’s squad for the coming one-day series, they will also automatically be considered for the ‘Gabba Test, belatedly held back to the Australia Day weekend.
The all-round capabilities of the improving Marcus Stoinis are also winning favour. All three could play in the two Sri Lankan Tests, though the injury-prone Behrendorff would have to declare his intentions to once again play red ball cricket, having played just twice for WA in the past season and a half.
Another who could be retained from the Sydney XI is Marnus Labuschagne, despite his wall of early-match critics. Everyone deserves more than one home-soil Test to show if they have what it takes.
Years earlier, especially when Don Bradman was the selection supremo, the final Test of an Australian summer would often be used to blood two or three, especially if an Ashes tour beckoned.
Young ones like a teenage Neil Harvey, Sam Loxton and Ron Archer were all included, maybe ahead of their time for late-summer Tests.
In 1967-68 champion paceman Graham McKenzie was controversially omitted from the final Two Tests of 1967-68 when the Don and Co. wanting to look at pace reserves in Eric Freeman and Dave Renneberg.
Stalwarts in the golden west were livid. At the time McKenzie was more popular than Vegemite.
With Mitchell Starc’s modest returns against the Indians, he could easily make way for a Richardson. Maybe Josh Hazlewood could also be rested.
With the Big Bash taking a priority into mid-February, there are no red ball games for the selectors to more closely assess current form — one of the pivotal complaints of purists.
So, Trevor Hohns and Co. must select purely on the current Test and coming one-day form.
With English conditions requiring those who can swing the ball and bat long periods against a moving ball, those who do win a place for the extended final Tests of the season have a marvellous opportunity to also book their place in the Ashes XVI.
Author: Ken Piesse
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. He has written, edited and published more than 70 sports books. Signed copies of his latest cricket book Heroes of the Hour, cricket’s quintessential moments from Bradman and Lillee to Warne and Steve Smith, is available from www.cricketbooks.com.au