Could inconsistency erode player confidence?
We enjoy a good selection bombshell as much as the next guy but Australia dropping three very different ones in one squad is taking the piss.
Trevor Hohns and company made three surprise selections in their first Test squad but the wildly different backgrounds to each decision throw up questions about succession and selection process.
Have Australia lost the selection plot is a question that would be best answered after the Ashes has concluded but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to take a wild stab at it.
The short answer of course is yes, presented with a weakened English team Australia had an opportunity to name something that resembled a settled squad in their bid to reclaim the Ashes and they grassed it.
Tim Paine returns to take the gloves seven years after playing his last Test in a season where he lost the gloves for his state Tasmania.
Paine has been selected by virtue of the fact that he isn’t a terrible wicketkeeper and he played against England in the warmup games.
He could trot out for the Cricket Australia XI because his state deemed him surplus to requirements for the first three Sheffield Shield matches given the presence of then incumbent Baggy Green stopper Matthew Wade who returned to his state of origin after several years at Victoria.
Presented with three realistic Ashes hopefuls in Wade, Peter Nevill and Alex Carey the selectors decided none of the three had made enough runs and proceeded to select a player who hasn’t scored a first class century in eleven years.
This all comes after coach Darren Lehmann declared that runs were a mandatory requirement to be Test keeper a few short weeks ago.
On it’s own this sort of selection could be forgiven as Australia have struggled for some time to fill this slot but they would display a flagrant disregard for anything that vaguely resembles a selection policy by picking contrasting Western Australians.
Cameron Bancroft has been a regular in the Australia A side for some time now but has never been in the frame for Test selection until he scored an unbeaten 228 against South Australia while his teammate in Perth, Shaun Marsh, has a storied history with the Baggy Green and one that doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence.
Bancroft replaces another young cricketer who had himself vaulted into Test contention out of the blue scarcely a year ago, Matt Renshaw.
Renshaw had made great strides since a gritty debut against the Proteas in a consolation victory in Adelaide last year but struggled for runs in domestic cricket causing Hohn’s and his team to lose confidence in the young man.
Bancroft is no doubt in good nick and he is also a bright prospect but even off the back of a double ton is an Ashes Test the best time to blood a young batsman at the top of the order.
Of course he may not open the batting with Marsh and Usman Khawaja other possible candidates but none of them would provide the solidity at the top that young Renshaw has provided for Steve Smith’s men.
Marsh has endured an inconsistent start to the domestic season averaging a shade under 40 and yet to score a hundred but he comes in at the expense of Hilton Cartwright or Glenn Maxwell depending on your viewpoint.
Cartwright hasn’t piled up the runs in the Shield and bad weather denied Maxwell a final opportunity to press his case.
Most troubling though is the inconsistency in the reasoning behind the picks.
We have searched for some positives in this mess and the only one we can see is that having two wicketkeepers in the squad in Paine and Bancroft and three or four potential openers gives a certain versatility to a squad with just six specialist batsmen.
Bancroft is a bolter with a lot of promise, Paine a seasoned veteran whose chance seemed to have passed him by and Marsh is a man afforded every opportunity to succeed who has yet to repay that faith.
The players who missed out must be left wondering what they need to do to play Test cricket for Australia.
The likes of Cameron White and Joe Burns have been told they are too old to be considered for a recall.
Youngsters like Renshaw have had the rug pulled out from underneath them when others might have been backed.
A year on from the removal of Rod Marsh from the chief selectors post and the cracks are still visible.
Phone calls from selectors do their bit to prevent some players from becoming discouraged but the lack of clarity around places in the team could lead some to seek security elsewhere or simply leave players demoralized.
Australia may yet regain the Ashes this summer but if they fail the first squad announcement could be seen as where things went wrong for them.
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