The Warner dilemma and bowler balance – Selection questions for Australia ahead of the WTC final
Australia have announced a 17-member squad for the World Test Championship final against India , which starts on June 7, 2023, at The Oval in England. Let’s look at how they shape up ahead of the big game and what selection decisions they might have to make going into the WTC final.
The squad announced by Chairman of Selectors George Bailey is mostly on expected lines. The only eyebrow-raising calls were the non-selection of Cameron Bancroft and Michael Neser. Bancroft was the highest scorer in the latest season of the Sheffield Shield by a fair margin, and Neser was the second highest wicket-taker in the recently concluded Australian domestic season. His skills would’ve been ideal for English conditions.
The 17-member squad will be trimmed for the WTC final as the squad size for ICC events is generally restricted to 15. The same 17 will then compete in the first two Ashes Test matches which follow immediately after the final, with a squad review to be done post-completion of the second Test.
Thoughts on the squad Australia are taking to the UK? #Ashes #WTCFinal pic.twitter.com/W1cKaY51PW
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) April 19, 2023
Should they open with David Warner?
The biggest and most important selection decision that Australia have to make ahead of the WTC final is whether David Warner will retain his spot at the top of the order. Warner has been in an extended run of poor form, averaging 31.37 in this edition of the WTC, with just one hundred in 28 innings. His last outing against India in the Border Gavaskar Trophy didn’t inspire much confidence either, as he registered a highest score of 15 in three innings.
Warner’s record in England is nothing to boast about either. He averages 26.04 over 13 Test matches there, and his last Ashes tour was especially miserable where he couldn’t even aggregate a total of 100 runs in 10 innings. That is perhaps one of the reasons why Australia have picked four openers including Marcus Harris and Matt Renshaw, as they expect them to play a part in the tour sooner or later.
The two things that Warner has got going for him however, are his experience, and that he has been scoring heavily in the ongoing IPL. Playing T20s on the low and slow Delhi surface and playing a Test match with the Dukes ball at The Oval are almost entirely different sports, but runs are runs and the confidence Warner is gaining in the IPL might help him start in the WTC final ahead of his competitors.
Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Green both in the XI?
Mitchell Marsh last played a Test match in the 2019 Ashes tour. Since then he has had several injury concerns but he now seems to be back to his best in terms of fitness and is bowling regularly in the IPL. Australia have picked him in the WTC final squad originally as a like-for-like backup for Cameron Green.
Green is a lock at No.6 and Travis Head should be a lock at No.5. But, if the India tour earlier this year showed anything, it’s that the Australian think tank isn’t afraid of experiments based on conditions. Head averages 27.28 from four Test matches in England with just one half-century in eight innings.
If the conditions on offer are extremely seamer-friendly, there might be an outside chance that Australia choose Marsh over Head, allowing them as many as five fast-bowling options.
Any potential bolters?
If the surface on offer in South London turns out to be extremely dry, Australia could also potentially think about playing Todd Murphy alongside Nathan Lyon. Murphy had a successful debut tour of India where he picked 14 wickets in 6 matches, with four of those being of Virat Kohli. The other extreme possibility is that they go in with all four quicks including Scott Boland if there’s an unusually heavy covering of grass on the surface.
Both these scenarios are highly unlikely though, with the status quo of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Nathan Lyon, expected to be maintained in all likelihood.