The Australian cricket selectors will today announce the 15 man touring squad for South Africa. And with Australia coming off a 5-0 sweep in the most recent Ashes series, the selectors will likely lean towards incumbency.
That said, there are one or two changes that need to be made. Here’s my 15 for South Africa, presented in likely batting order (plus reserves):
4. Clarke (c)
Regular readers of this website will know that I am loathe to pick Shane Watson in any cricketing team, let alone the Australian test side at first drop. But no-one else has stood up to challenge for the #3 position, so Watto gets this by default. Smith, while in form, lacks the technique – and top-order experience – to usurp Watson at 3, while Doolan – who I’ll touch on next – deserves to ease himself into the team at 6, ala Ricky Ponting, before hopefully establishing himself as the long-term number 3.
Now I don’t know much about this Doolan character, but he has been getting a lot of buzz and column inches of late. He’s 28 years of age and has played 36 first class matches at an average of 40, which you might argue is somewhat underwhelming. That said, head selector John Inverarity has hailed his “cool temperament and correct and upright technique” (and Invers would know, wouldn’t he?) and appears to be a long-form specialist (read: terrible at T20 cricket).
Previous attempts to fill the vacant number three position have spectacularly backfired, with Phil Hughes, Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja all given the chance to claim it as their own over the past few years, but all failing to take advantage of the opportunity. And while Hughes did pretty well last time Australia toured South Africa (he was only 20 back then, but did hit a couple of hundreds), I just have the feeling that the selectors don’t rate him as a number 3.
So Doolan comes in for Bailey, who is a good bloke but simply not ready to face Morkel, Steyne, Philander et al in the five-day format. It’s all well and good to plunder second-innings runs against the hapless Poms, but it’s different when taking on the Proteas on South African soil. Because South Africa is a scary place. It’s no place for joking around and “having a good time.” Murder rates are extremely high in some parts and a cheeky grin will get you nowhere. Bailey wouldn’t last a day in Jo’burg.
The rest of the squad pretty much picks itself on form. I’ve included Khawaja as a back up in case Watto/Doolan get injured (or completely suck), while Bird and Pattinson will ably back up the pace cartel of Siddle, Johnson and Harris. Faulkner gets the final slot because he’s tough.