Many selection questions will be answered against Proteas
THIS summer will tell us if we have any chance of regaining the Ashes. It will also tell us how good are our Australian cricket selectors. The selectors have done well since they have been in the job but this summer will no doubt test them.
We are one month away from the first Test versus South Africa and I am wondering what the Australian selectors are up to. Will they just go flat out to win the series versus South Africa or will they select a team with one eye on the Ashes next year?
There are many questions that need to be answered. Can Australia go into next year's Ashes series with three players over 35 years of age: Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin and Mike Hussey? Will they go with Haddin instead of Matthew Wade? Will they stick with Ed Cowan or go with Phil Hughes? What bowling attack will they go with if all the quicks are fit? Does Nathan Lyon still figure in their spin-bowling plans?
Well let's just have a look at how the Test team has gone over the past 10 Tests. They have won eight with one loss and one draw. They have played against India, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies in that time. It's a pretty good result already. They have averaged 386 with the bat in the first innings - and you don't lose too many from that position. Australia has only lost 15 wickets per Test over the past 10 Tests, so they have been batting pretty well.
With the ball, the Australian have been even better. They have knocked over the opposition pretty easily with the opposition only averaging 254 in the first innings. The bowlers also have taken 20 wickets in nine of the 10 Tests, which is outstanding.
Depending on form and fitness, my bowling line-up would be Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson and Lyon. The biggest problem is that I fear we cannot go into the Ashes with two players over the age of 37 - Ponting and Hussey. Form and fitness will probably determine their outcome, but history tells me that either Ponting or Hussey cannot afford any poor form over the next six months. But if one has to go, it will be Hussey.
Already skipper Michael Clarke has opted towards Haddin instead of Wade. But Haddin will be 36 next year and that means there will be too many players over the age of 35.
Selection is about balance. Keeping an eye on bowlers' workloads and rewarding some young batsmen when they make some runs. Hughes is starting to play well and his technique is getting better every time I see him. I know he wants to throw a few punches back at the English attack that destroyed him two years ago. I remember when I first saw young Usman Khawaja. He just needs some love and care and he will turn out fine.
Will Australia beat the South Africans who are No.1 in the world? Yes we will and I haven't looked forward to such a Test series for some time. Bring it on!