Some friendly advice for Australia

This is a point upon which I touched last night, but now that Australia have announced their squad for the Boxing Day Test I want to go into more detail on it. Specifically I have this bit of advice for John Inverarity and Mickey Arthur: Do not attempt to shore up the bowling by playing one fewer batsman. I know I’m on record as wanting you to fail, but I’m being serious this time. England have been the most successful side in the world over the past two years which is roughly since we started playing just four bowlers. It may not be because we are playing four bowlers (correlation does not imply causation), but it certainly hasn’t been a hindrance. Admittedly, I would actually like Andy Flower to be a bit more flexible about this (since Matt Prior tends to score a shedload of runs and Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan are perfectly good all-rounders we could easily play one fewer batsman; it’s not like we really need all of 710-7 declared), but I think four bowlers will suit you well on Boxing Day.

True, your quicks aren’t as good as Anderson and co, but really only Dale Steyn is that good right now so that’s hardly a criticism of your bowlers. James Pattinson certainly looks very good and the sooner Pat Cummins returns the better, for you. They look like they will form a formidable new ball pairing and Nathan Lyon is a proper world class spinner. Admittedly Siddle, Starc and Hilfenhaus aren’t as good, but they probably don’t need to be. If you watched India over here last summer you will have noticed that their batting occasionally looked a bit suspect. And by ‘occasionally’ I mean ‘anytime the ball was doing more than it does in the subcontinent’. Yes it would be nice if Cummins was fit and if you had a third seamer to match his skill, but you’ve already had Glenn McGrath. Don’t be greedy. Your bowling has not been your problem recently, at least not since the Ashes. Your problem has been your batting, which is why you don’t want to weaken that further to improve your bowling.

Since the start of the previous Ashes series your top seven average a bit over 34. The only countries worse are Bangladesh, the West Indies and New Zealand. England’s top seven average almost sixty in that time, so you are some way off the pace. You’ve certainly made improvements recently; Warner looks good and most of Oz seem willing to canonise you for finally dropping Hughes for Cowan. (Which seems more like a decision that ought to have been a given, but well.) Your middle order does not inspire confidence, however, and the last thing you need is to make it weaker. There is a rumour that you might play Daniel Christian as an all-rounder, but the easiest player for him to replace would be Marsh. Marsh who admittedly has been injured, but who may be the best batsman in the middle order. (It’s either him or Clarke.) Do not do that. If he must play it’s imperative that he replace Ponting or Hussey (where he could not possibly make the batting any weaker), but the wisdom of effectively ending one of their careers for the sake of what is basically an experiment is suspect. I don’t really see that happening anyway, given the support you have given that pair recently.

Ultimately, of course, I won’t mind if you just ignore my advice. You’re being paid to do your job and I’m not, unless you count the revenue I make from ads on this site. Mostly though you’re Australian (or at least working for Australia) and if you lose it doesn’t really bother me. Quite the reverse, actually.

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