Whilst the official Australian Test Squad naming ceremony for this summer’s Ashes Series proceeded today amid a modicum of tittering and wittering among English cricket fans, I for one instead immediately felt The Fear.
Michael Clarke (Captain – 92 caps)
Brad Haddin (Vice-Captain 44 caps WK)
Peter Siddle (41 caps)
Shane Watson (41 caps)
Phillip Hughes (24 caps)
Nathan Lyon (22 caps)
David Warner (19 caps)
Ed Cowan (17 caps)
Ryan Harris (12 caps)
Matthew Wade (12 caps WK)
James Pattinson (10 caps)
Mitchell Starc (9 caps)
Usman Khawaja (6 caps)
Jackson Bird (2 caps)
Chris Rogers (1 cap)
James Faulkner (0 caps)
The Fear is a disease, nay, it is a form of mental disintegration, which can only be caused by (a) being English (b) growing up in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, or early 2000s, and (c) Matthew Hayden, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Michael Bevan, Jason Gillespie, Justin Langer, Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn, Michael Hussey, Brett Lee, Mark Waugh, Darren Lehmann, Ian Healy, Stuart Clark, Mark Slater, Mark Taylor, Andrews Symonds, and in particular Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
Of course, The Fear recognises that there is only one of reason ‘c’ remaining in the Australian squad. Unfortunately it is here that The Fear is most cunning, for The Fear then proceeds to mentally promote others within the Australian ranks to fit seamlessly into the footsteps of those previous tormentors…
“If Nathan Lyon really lets rip and hits the footsteps, maybe he can bowl a delivery on a par with a Warne full toss”
The Fear tells us.
“David Warner, unconvincing start to his Test career and his technique looks shaky, BUT he’s a left handed opening bat with brutal power with meaty fore-arms…just like Matthew Hayden!”
The Fear instils doubt among us.
Of course, rationality is returned to us with a quick look at the sides, where on paper England have the edge. And then a counter rationality (no doubt provoked by The Fear) reminds us that the last time Australia looked this shambolically ‘weak’ was 1989, when they proceeded to quite frankly dish England 4-0. Getting a grip on The Fear here is easy: Just look at that squad above. Chop that good-looking, uber-talented and elegant devilspawn Michael Clarke off the top, and you get an ensemble of ‘cricketers’ better suited to filling milk urns than rescuing cricketing ones.
However, then you begin to formulate the likely XI from the squad, and things begin to take a bit more shape. Warner and Cowan must now be considered a settled Test opening pair and between them combine danger, power, touch and application. Phil Hughes is a danger on a reeeally flat track. I called Chris Rogers here as an experienced willow twirler who would prove more of a headache to England than most of the younger claimants to a squad place. Michael Clarke is really quite exceptional at 4 and Khawaja will come good one day, probably. Haddin is a solid gloveman who has scored a ton in England before, with Wade a pretty decent back-up. It’s not a horrendous batting unit.
The Australian pace battery has more depth than England’s too; Harris is a really good bowler when fit, Bird can hit a line-and-length better than anyone England have, Starc and Pattinson are dangerous strike bowlers whilst Siddle is more potent now he has a bit of back-up than he was in previous series’. Sure, they’ve left Hilfenhaus at home in spite of everything that seemed to point towards him deserving a spot, but they also left that nutjob Mitchell Johnson there too which must surely count for something? Finally I’ve heard that Nathan Lyons, when he really lets rip and pitches it in the footholes, is almost as good as Shane Warne bowling a full toss!