Australia have announced their squad for the first Test against South Africa beginning at the Gabba on November 9. The main point of interest ahead of the selection meeting was whether Matthew Wade would retain his place in the Test squad or if veteran Brad Haddin would be recalled. As things stand, Wade has been picked for the Gabba Test, and deservingly so. During the time that Haddin was away from the squad for personal reasons, Wade has done well enough not be axed. As for Haddin, while he would consider himself unlucky, deep inside he would know that a fair decision has been made since, even before he took a brief break, he wasn’t in the best of form either behind or in front of the stumps.
Apart from some decent performances, Wade has a lot going for himself. He’s just 24 years old and has already played some prime knocks for his team under pressure. Taking over from Haddin in the Tests in West Indies, Wade not only kept wickets well, but also came up with a crucial century in the defining second innings of the final Test. Having passed the Caribbean challenge with flying colours, Wade also played in England, the UAE and Sri Lanka. And while his performances have fluctuated over the period, he hasn’t done badly enough to be dropped. On the contrary, he has fit in nicely into the Team outfit. In contrast, Haddin is now 35, and although the Aussie selectors have stated that he is still in the scheme of things, returning to him at this stage of his career would be a regressive move.
They weren’t any surprises as far as other members of the 12-man squad are concerned. There were question marks over Ed Cowan’s opening position following his on-off performances. However, the selectors are justified in showing faith in him as he has done enough to prove that he has the capability to succeed at the highest level. Considering his continuous recent injury problems, it is understandable that 19-year-old paceman Pat Cummins hasn’t been included. It is important that the speedster plays first-class cricket and proves his fitness before coming back.
The middle-order pretty much picks itself with Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and skipper Michael Clarke taking care of the requisite services. Looking at the bowling department, the Aussies would miss the services of Ryan Harris, who continues to recover from injuries, and remains unfit. The home side, however, would be confident that Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Starc do the job. With the Proteas not known to be great players of spin, Nathan Lyon could also come in handy.
On paper, South Africa still look like the stronger side. But, under home conditions, and with players who have vast experience of pressure situations, Clarke’s men would be confident of putting up a good show starting Brisbane.
--By A Cricket Analyst