For the next 12 months Australian cricket will have to make do without the best batsman in the world. Without Warner and Smith, the batting lineup looks fragile – especially away from home. In order to minimise the damage, what should the team look like?
Three out of our best six batsmen have been banished from the Australian cricket team over the ball tampering scandal. While some are arguing that this is a perfect opportunity to blood new talent, I’m unconvinced that playing in an incredibly fragile top six will be a good introduction to test cricket for any new players.
While Warner seems likely to be gone for good, Smith will almost certainly be back in the side this time next year. Until he returns, it may simply be a matter of plugging holes with whoever is available. Bancroft will be back in nine months, but he will need to earn back his spot. This is especially true considering that opener is a spot that Australian cricket actually has some depth in.
Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns both impressed during the Sheffield Shield, and should retain their places. Renshaw will be one opener, but moving Shaun Marsh up the order to partner him could bring some much needed experience to the top order. Usman Khawaja, despite his struggles away from Australia, is still the best choice at 3.
Deciding who should bat at 4 will be the hardest decision to make. Based on his very impressive Shield season I would put Glenn Maxwell there. Maxwell has finally added the patience to his game that selectors have been craving, to go with his scoring ability. He is the batsman most likely to put in a big score.
Mitchell Marsh should go in at 5. He has also demonstrated his patience this year, and has the ability to both steady the side and go for big totals, depending on the situation. Joe Burns at 6 will also be able to hang around in the event of a collapse.
This batting lineup leaves out Peter Handscomb, who has been a walking wicket this year. His batting technique needs serious work if he is to return to the Australian test cricket side.
And some stability
Captain Tim Paine can be counted on to work with the lower order to add runs from 7. Pat Cummins should be promoted ahead of Mitchell Starc to 8 for the same reason, as well as his ability to stay in. Apart from this change in the batting order the first-choice bowling attack should stay the same.
Australia’s bowlers are very likely to be called on to save matches. Luckily for us, we also happen to have one of the best bowling attacks in cricket. I would like to see Cummins given the opportunity to try the new ball at some point as well, possibly in combination with Starc. The express pace these two bring is likely to rattle quite a few top orders.