Bad timing and Aussie bowling worries
Australian convenor of selectors John Inverarity has expressed concern regarding the timing of the Champions League Twenty20 currently being played in South Africa.
Ideally, both South Africa and Australia would have preferred to build up to the all-important test series starting early November by having their key players playing first-class cricket.
Inverarity is talking on two fronts in this respect. One is preparation and the other one selection. Like the Proteas, the Aussies have a number of players involved in the Champions League. They have two of their own teams playing and a number of Australian players in some of the IPL teams as well.
The Sheffield Shield four-day competition is in full swing in Australia. The Aussies are not too worried about the composition of their batting line-up. Their top six batsmen have established themselves. Also, Shane Watson is back playing after injury which gives them a big boost.
They are more worried about the bowling department. The issue for them is that other than Peter Siddle and James Pattinson all the other pace bowlers are currently playing the shortest version of the game. Bowling fitness for test cricket is a real concern for them. There will be a maximum of one four-day match for the remainder of the bowling group to bowl themselves into fitness before the first test in Brisbane starting on November 9.
The other problem for the Aussies is the composition of their bowling attack. They have decided to opt for a rotation policy with their young fast bowlers. Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson fall in this category. The Aussies have bowling depth, but for them the challenge is to select the right combination.
My feeling is barring injury Siddle, Starc, and either Ben Hilfenhaus or Pattinson will play in the first test match in Brisbane. The fourth seamer will be all-rounder Shane Watson. The Gabba in Brisbane is well known for its seamer-friendly conditions. Australia won’t mind that, seeing that they are still desperately searching for a frontline spinner.
South Africa of course have no issues as far as selection for test cricket is concerned. Again, barring injury, the South African test combination is a world-class team that selects itself. The fifteen players picked for the tour contained no surprises and neither should the final eleven when it comes to the first test match.
The only challenge that the coaching staff and selectors face is to balance up the period of preparation and rest for the key players in the South African line-up. Like the Sheffield Shield, the Sunfoil Series four-day competition is being played in South Africa at present. The selectors will be able to use this competition to full advantage should they choose to do so in terms of preparing players for the demanding tour that lies ahead. They got this part spot on for the England tour so there should be no reason why they can’t do so again this time around.
As the test series in England proved, test cricket is the real thing. All the other one-day and T20 tournaments have their place, but give me the test arena every time. Looking forward to this one immensely!