Australia Back Form Over Youth

Australia Ashes Squad

Michael Clarke (capt), Steven Smith (vice-capt), Fawad Ahmed, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, David Warner, Shane Watson.

Australians don’t like to hang around. The MCG drop-in pitches have barely taken up their winter residence in Yarra Park, and already their Ashes squad has been named.

17 men have been charged with retaining the urn, which Australia won so comprehensively in 2013/14. The early naming of the squad is evidence of both Australia’s current confidence levels, and also the settled nature of their Test team.

There are very few stand out selections, and even fewer surprises. Michael Clarke will continue to lead the team after his ODI retirement in he wake of his side’s World Cup victory, and his heir apparent Steve Smith will assume the vice captaincy role.

The positions within the side that were up for debate have been allocated to those players who have had a good First-Class season in Australia’s Sheffield Shield. Adam Voges finished as top run scorer in the competition with 1,358 in 11 matches for Western Australia. Voges, at 35, does not represent the future of Australian cricket, but he is very much the form man, and knows English conditions well from previous county stints. Alongside Fawad Alam, he is proof that, unlike England, Australia are not entirely concerned with the age of their side, rather they feel a need to pick the best men for the job. It is also worth noting that Voges call-up leaves Middlesex somewhat in the lurch, as they will now need to find an overseas replacement for their intended captain.

Alam is another name that may not be all that familiar to English fans. He picked up 48 victims in the recent Shield campaign, and is another man who’s hit form at the opportune moment for an Ashes tour. While he will primarily serve as understudy to Lyon, and will come into contention if injuries crop up, or perhaps on the drier pitches at Cardiff and the Oval.

The selections of Alam and Voges, both well into their thirties, are emblematic of the differences in Australian and English selection methods. England appear to invest heavily in youth, whether that be via ‘A’ tours, their own age-group side, or promising county players. These players are earmarked from an early age and are destined to make their Test debuts. But the then system fails them, if they don’t take to Test cricket swiftly a la Ballance or Root, then if can be a long wait for a return. Australia meanwhile, give little relevance to age and look towards form as a better indicator of talent. Tackle the job in hand, and the future will take of itself. It’s a sound policy. If the Test side is made up of a senior group of experienced First-Class players, then it gives the younger players more time to hone their skills in domestic cricket. In theory, this should lead to new Test players finding their feet much quicker.

The only other unfamiliar name is perhaps Peter Nevill, the reserve wicketkeeper, with a First-Class average in the mid-40’s. Needless to say he’s also the ‘wrong’ side of 30. When you throw in Johnson, Haddin, Harris, Clarke, and Watson, you could be forgiven for calling this squad an ageing one.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. This is a quality side packed full of world-class talents. England will need to seriously raise their game to reverse the 5-0 drubbing they received last time out. Starting with a tougher than many think tour to the West Indies in April, and then a superb New Zealand team to contend with in the summer’s opening series.

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