The countdown to the Ashes is on and with the JLT cup nearly completed and the Sheffield Shield about to begin, Darren Lehmann and the Aussie selectors are yet to decide on the number 6 and wicketkeeper who will wear the Baggy Green in the most prestigious series of all.
First, the number 6 position. In the past, Australia have made the mistake of picking a player first and asking them to play a role, rather than knowing the role needed from the number 6 and picking a player who can execute that for the side. The bowling line-up of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon is world class, so a 5th bowling option is a luxury, not a requirement. Steve Smith’s reluctance to bowl his part-timers virtually negates picking a bowling all-rounder. Therefore, I would like to see a batsman picked and if they can bowl, it is a bonus, not a necessity.
Who are the options?
The incumbent who made his maiden Test ton in the tour of India. Since then, however, Maxwell has struggled to make an impact at Test level not recording a half-century leaving his Test average languishing at a tick over 26. Maxwell is the best fieldsman in world cricket and is handy with the ball but I’m not so sure his technique is one of the quality needed to succeed at the highest level.
The forgotten man in the red ball format. Finishing second in the Sheffield Shield top run scorers last season, Cartwright was praised for his ability to shift gears with ease at the crease. Regularly converting cautious starts into big scores by speeding up rapidly once he was set. Watching him live in Sydney last year, albeit late in the day from the member’s bar, you could tell he was nervous but his technique was very correct and hand speed incredible.
I must be honest when I say his bowling at this point of his career is no threat to any genuine international batsmen but he could hold down an end to give the quicks a rest at some point which only helps his cause. If he starts the domestic season well, he’s my front-runner.
Have you ever had that conversation with your parents and they say “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed?”
Nic must get this from the Australian Selectors at least 5 times a summer. He offers so much in the way of buzzwords like “potential, X-factor and talent” but in all seriousness, until Nic enjoys batting tough for long periods of time without getting bored and going to the old hack, he won’t be there. His recent NSW Blues profile photo sporting a mustache, tattoos, and retro glasses may suggest his mind might be elsewhere, instead of using his immense skill to carve out a successful career in the Baggy Green. Few get given what he has naturally, I hope he realizes that soon.
Do we have to?
I’m a fan of the old theory of batting your 3rd opener at 6. Joe is an option in the middle order and it may just be the spot for him considering his technical issues around the moving ball. Starting his Test career at 6 and moving up to the opening slot, some would consider him hard done by being dropped when the “revamp” of the side occurred last summer. A Test average just under 40 with 3 hundreds and 4 half-centuries in 13 Tests shows he could offer something to the side. Whether that’s enough to get him picked I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t discount him.
Coming off a superb white ball series in India and offers the most in terms of bowling of the contenders so far. However his Sheffield Shield season last year was not up to scratch and I can’t see how the selectors could justify picking him at this stage. Stoinis represents a wait and see prospect for me.
645 Sheffield Shield runs at an average of 43 last season including 2 centuries and 3 half-centuries prove Head is ripe for the picking. International experience and the captain of his state at just 23, the left-hander from the Southern state is my choice for the number 6 spot this summer. He can play all around the ground and isn’t afraid to run down the wicket at the spinners when needed. Number 6 would suit Head. Here’s hoping he starts the Shield season well and puts himself in the frame.
Of the wicketkeepers, there seem to be three main contenders in Matthew Wade, Peter Nevill and Alex Carey.
I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of Wade’s. His glove work is not good enough, end of story.
Alex Carey is the young gun from South Australia who broke Adam Gilchrist’s dismissal record in the Sheffield Shield last season mainly on the back of Chadd Sayers’ outswingers nicking a multitude of batsmen off last summer, feeding Carey’s gloves brilliantly.
I know of Carey’s skills, however, his lack of experience could count against him.
Peter Nevill would be my pick for the summer. Nevill’s glove work is exceptional to both seam and spin and he is a real fighter with the blade which would bode well with dashers Starc and Cummins following him in the batting order.
Scouring the domestic squads there are plenty more options to choose from and who knows what the Sheffield Shield season will bring, but one thing for sure is, I can’t wait.
Which players would you like to see play for Australia in the Ashes this summer? Let us know in the comments below.
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