There is no plan.

BY DAN

On the face of it, there isn’t much wrong with the Australian squad for the upcoming World T20. For starters they’ve picked an actual spinner – Adam Zampa – as well as two spinning all-rounders (Maxwell and Agar). They’ve picked a bunch of fast-bowling all-rounders, rewarding Mitch Marsh for his stellar performance with both bat and ball in the recent One Day Internationals against India and New Zealand. Leaving out Chris Lynn is disappointing but they appear to have picked Australia’s best six Twenty20 batsmen, while giving themselves the flexibility to start a top order of Warner/Khawaja/Watson without having to go through the ignominy of dropping the captain in order to do it. Peter Nevill, the best keeper in Australia™ has managed to find himself in the side. Hell, they even managed to pick a squad without including Shaun Marsh.

IMG_0397
Shaun Marsh: shocked as you he didn’t get picked

Australian supporters should feel hashtag blessed right?

The problem with this side isn’t so much in its make-up, it’s in the process that led to it.

Despite the unique approach to organisation the BCCI is taking to this World Cup[1], this tournament hasn’t sprung the Australian’s unprepared.

Even though Rod Marsh has said the Test-ODI-T20-Test structure has not been ideal, there’s an entire summer of short-form cricket for the Australian selectors to draw on. And yet despite all of these opportunities, several of these selections remain surprises. What is clear is that the Australian selectors have been unable to plan appropriately, and this will have profound implications beyond this World Cup.

Agar2
Has Agar been annointed?

Let’s start with Ashton Agar. His presence in the squad is presumably because of ability to provide both depth to the batting and bowling. And in India his bowling style adds a degree of flexibility that makes a lot of sense. Agar’s record in the Big Bash League this season has been solid (bat 24.8/128, ball 24/7.66rpo) if not spectacular. After a brief appearance against England after the 2015 Ashes, Agar hasn’t appeared to be in the thoughts of the selectors since. Has he done anything in short-form cricket this summer to earn this spot? Not dramatically– certainly no more than Travis Head[2] has done. But if he’d been thought of as a potential backup spinning all-rounder for the upcoming World Cup, why didn’t he feature in the T20Is against India? An opportunity to test his capabilities against the best players of spin? A chance to see if he could score precious middle order runs against the Indian slow bowlers? Why was that ignored?

Mitchell Marsh is another curious inclusion. Marsh has been excellent in One Day cricket for Australia in recent times, providing critical innings with the bat, and probing overs with the ball. But his presence in the Australian Test and One-Day sides has meant he’s barely got to play T20 cricket in the last year. Could Australia have given him some experience in the India series instead of playing Faulkner (who has done nothing but play short form cricket recently)? Why was that opportunity not taken? Peter Nevill is another example of this.

In fact if you look wider, in Australia’s last T20 international before the World Cup, seven of the starting eleven will not play in this World Cup. In fact, one could argue that if Shane Watson hadn’t made a dramatic and impressive ton in that game it may have been eight.

What this reveals is that even if one considers the selectors have by-and-large go it right this time, it was not due to planning but rather fortune.

And so we must ask – what is the plan beyond next month? Are we to expect Ashton Agar to be around the national make-up more permanently? Should we expect him to push Maxwell, Marsh and Faulkner for all-rounder positions? Is Mitchell Marsh now a three-format player permanently? Will Travis Head and Chris Lynn continue to be ignored? Is Shaun Marsh done? Is Nathan Coulter-Nile now the Shaun Marsh of bowlers, picked because the selectors are aroused more by his potential than his performance?

Unfortunately what this squad suggests is that we’ll never know, because it appears there is no plan.

 

[1] Are tickets for sale yet? Yes? No? Who knows?

[2] Look I don’t know what to tell you, Head has proven capable as a second spinner. And he is an excellent bat in short form.

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