Australian Test Ladder Part Six: The “How Do I Pick All These Bowlers?” Edition
Since its inception way back in the misty past of April 2013, when Donald Trump was a mere reality TV personality and media outlets were whipping themselves into a frenzy over the threat of bird flu, compiling the Australian Test ladder has been a piece of piss. Simply identify the most important player at the time (it was Michael Clarke, briefly Mitchell Johnson, then Steven Peter Devereux Smith ever since), select a core group of about half a dozen players to follow and then fill up all the other spots in random order with whatever trash happens to lie close to hand. Simplicity itself. Not, however, any longer.
An unexpectedly competitive Indian tour, which was supposed to be a complete disaster, has occurred simultaneously with an event even more unlikely: Australia’s fast bowlers have been crawling off injury tables in their droves and actually playing cricket again. So unexpected has all this been we suspect it may be a sign of the coming apocalypse and have taken to waiting for Star Wormwood to appear in the night sky. And it’s not just a couple of fit fast bowlers either, but countless hordes. Indeed you could almost say their numbers are…legion.
Even Glenn Maxwell has come good. Glenn Maxwell! Surely there is no more convincing proof of the End of Days than that.
The question now is how to fit all of this into an actual Test team. A tough proposition, but a far sight better than the usual task of selecting any old dross (Mitchell Marsh says hi) in order to make up the numbers. But ahead of the Ashes (and Australia don’t play another Test between now and then, amazingly enough), the selectors have some serious thinking to do. Because, for the first time in a long time, the Australian Test team doesn’t mostly pick itself.
- Stephen Peter Devereux Smith (1) – Well, this bit is still easy at least.
- Mitchell Starc (2) – Whilst Australia have a wealth of fast bowlers, they don’t have anyone quite like Starc. Even if his performances in India didn’t quite meet those of the Sri Lankan tour.
- Josh Hazlewood (6) – Another who is fast becoming irreplaceable. If only because of the experience he now has of bowling in all conditions.
- Nathan Lyon (7) – After being on the verge of being dropped in Adelaide, Lyon has bounced back in a big way. Dropping him now would invite the wrath of millions of scorned Nice Gary fans.
- David Warner (3) – In the past three Test ladders Warner has slid from second to third and now fifth. If he continues being completely and utterly useless away from home he’ll slide further still. He is not yet at the stage of being considered a home pick only, a la Usman Khawaja, but if this keeps up he mustn’t be far off. If the world was fair Warner would be enjoying the next Australian tour of Asia at home on his OLED TV.
- Peter Handscomb (13) – Aside from one innings, didn’t quite set the world alight in India. Which was one of the main reasons why Australia couldn’t get over the line. But he has done everything else that could have been hoped from him and looks set to be a fixture in the Australian middle order for some time.
- Matt Wade (16) – Was tidy behind the stumps in India and came up with a highly marketable catch phrase. Would be wanting to score more runs but two out of three ain’t bad.
- Matt Renshaw (-) – A bolt from the blue, and an astute call by the selectors. As opposed to Nic Maddinson, but the less said there the better. Despite the plaudits, his performances in India were not exactly earth shattering (although occasionally bowel shattering), but never mind that. It’s runs at home that’ll matter now.
- Pat Cummins (18) – Has risen from the dead, and after surviving two Tests without falling to pieces, also seems to have discovered the secret to immortality. The world should be very afraid.
I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.
- Shaun Marsh (10) – Doesn’t move at all, because he doesn’t deserve to move at all. Seems to always be good for one important contribution a series and does bugger all else besides. Would be very surprised if he manages to hold onto his place for the Ashes.
- Glenn Maxwell (24) – In our Test ladders Maxwell has been all over the place, going from seventh to twenty-fourth and now to eleventh. Which very succinctly sums up both his career and Maxwell as a player. The problem the selectors will have is how to fit him into a team when they also want to squeeze an all-rounder in. It’s probably high time Maxwell gave up those bowling shenanigans and concentrated on purely becoming a batsman.
- Stephen O’Keefe (12) – Another whose position doesn’t change, because for all of his heroics in Pune, Australia don’t need to play two spinners very often.
- Usman Khawaja (8) – Probably could just swap him with Shaun Marsh in this list, as that is almost certainly what the selectors are going to do when Australia next play at home.
- Hilton Cartwright (-) – A strong Shield season with the bat means he is next in line when Australia need an all-rounder. The fact he can’t actually bowl will be regarded as a minor inconvenience.
- James Pattinson (14) – Another who has risen from the depths of Hades, leaving a trail of devastated Sheffield Shield lineups in his wake. His spell in County Cricket ought to do him a world of good.
- Mitchell Marsh (9) – We’d love to put him lower. We really, really, really would. But we have no doubt at all that the Australian selectors are still besotted with him. For reasons that shall forever escape us.
Which leaves the Mitch Marsh fan club with precisely one member.
- Jackson Bird (11) – Despite being on the tour of India, we’re pretty sure the selectors have already forgotten Bird exists. And if they haven’t, they sadly soon will.
- Peter Siddle (17) – Just can’t see him ever playing Test cricket again, even if he successfully returns from injury. There are just so many other shiny toys that are distracting the selectors these days.
- Chadd Sayers (-) – Such as this guy, who just keeps on taking wickets, despite never looking particular great. The selectors will have to give him a go at some point. Probably.
- Peter Nevill (5) – A big fall for Nevill. And all because he doesn’t swear enough, and can’t come up with catchy phrases that sell T-shirts. Cricket can be a cruel mistress at times.
- Ashton Agar (20) – Went to India. Shaved his hair off for some reason. Came back home. Exciting stuff for the one time wunderkind of Australian cricket. Hardly likely to get a chance unless Lyon and O’Keefe are involved in a freak yachting accident or something.
- Marcus Stoinis (27) – He got to meet the Dalai Lama. That counts for something right? It had better anyway, because his First Class record certainly doesn’t amount to much.
- Moises Henriques (19) – Routinely ignored by the selectors, despite having a far better batting average than most candidates for the all-rounder spot. Another who might benefit from giving away the bowling and trying to make it as a batsman.
- Jason Behrendorff (-) – Another who has risen from the underworld to take vengeance upon Shield batsman. Would need a few injuries to open his path to the Test team. But hey, it happens. That’s how Joe Mennie got in after all.
- Mitchell Swepson (29) – Went to India on the back of some pretty rubbish First Class form. Didn’t feature, but the fact that he’s a legspinner means he’ll remain in the picture for a while yet.
- Jake Lehmann (-) – Lehmann’s position in this ladder rather underlies how paper thin Australia’s batting stocks are, plus the fact that the selectors will never look at Callum Ferguson or Nic Maddinson again. An underwhelming Shield campaign hasn’t overly dented his reputation as one of the few promising young batsmen on the circuit.
- Kurtis Patterson (28) – And the same goes for Patterson. A strong Shield season would have put him right in the reckoning, and might even have seen him pip Maddinson to a spot in Adelaide. But as it is he remains a very distant prospect.
- Chris Lynn (30) – Which is also true for Lynn. Only played one Shield game on account of injuries but if he puts one good season together you imagine the selectors won’t be able to resist picking him.
- Jon Holland (-) – Has had a good Shield season after returning from injury, but far too many names ahead of him now. Although his performance in the Shield Final undoubtedly turned heads.
- Ed Cowan (-) – Top run scorer in the Shield this season, with international experience, ready to prove some doubters wrong. All signs point towards the miraculous second coming of Ed.
The time is now. The time is Ed.