A tweet from CricViz analyst Ben Jones has sparked an intriguing debate: What would the Australia Test XI look like if they had the equivalent of India’s injuries and absences?
The tourists have done well in any case to keep the ongoing Test rubber down under level going into the final match of the series. But considering they have had, at various points, nearly a whole first-choice XI ruled out through a various combination of factors, it has been an astonishing effort.
Forgot Siddle had retired, maybe Boland
— Ben Jones (@benjonescricket) January 15, 2021
With another four players – Hanuma Vihari, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah – ruled out for the fourth Test, they are more depleted now than at any point on this tour. To work out definitively what an Australia side in the same situation would look like, you first need to list out all the India players unavailable.
By the last count, the list stands at the four above, as well as Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, KL Rahul, and Umesh Yadav. Hardik Pandya was able to bat during the limited-overs series but wasn’t selected because he’s unable to bowl, Ishant Sharma is back playing T20 cricket but injury kept him out of the tour in the first place, and Virat Kohli is on paternity leave, so we’ll include those three too.
So we have to rule out Australia’s best batsman – still Steve Smith by a nose – another middle-order player – let’s plump for Matthew Wade – their first-choice all-rounder – sorry Cameron Green – and another back-up batsman. Travis Head, for us. On the bowling front, Australia lose their five first-choice quicks and two first-choice spinners, so Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Swepson.
By that count, we think Australia get to keep Marnus Labuschagne, and it’s only fair if we ‘un-injure’ their currently unavailable players, which means Will Pucovski slots back in. However, since he’s not an opener by trade, we’ll slot Marcus Harris in alongside David Warner and have Pucovski at No.4. Nic Maddinson – in the A squad, and the leading run-scorer in the 2019/20 Sheffield Shield season – pips Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh. Moises Henriques gets the all-rounder spot, though you could pick Mitchell Marsh, who was injured when the series began.
Bowling-wise, we’ll base Australia’s pecking order on a combination of the A team selected ahead of this series and recent Test calls. Sean Abbott was in the actual Test squad, and although he was picked as an all-rounder and has been batting at No.6 recently, we think him playing at No.8 is fine. Jhye Richardson, who made his Test debut at the start of 2019, and Mark Steketee – in the A squad, and with 144 first-class wickets at 26.77 – just edge out Jackson Bird to round out the pace attack. Ashton Agar takes the spin spot.
So that leaves the below as Australia’s Test XI, if they had the rough equivalents of India’s injuries. Of course, in this strange voodoo-doll Twilight Zone scenario we’ve concocted, they are playing in India, and Jhye Richardson gets injured halfway through day one. Good luck.
Australia’s India-absentee-equivalence XI
Tim Paine (C, WK)