I wrote about my predicted 15-man World Cup squad, and, in fairness, I was only 3 players off. The question is how much those players will make a difference.
Predicted Squad: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon
Actual Squad: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Steven Smith, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon
IN: Shaun Marsh, Alex Carey, Jason Behrendorff
OUT: Peter Handscomb, Ashton Turner, Matthew Wade
What difference will those 3 changes make?
As I stated in my prediction post, I didn’t expect either Peter Handscomb or Ashton Turner to play too often, at least not unless someone is injured or loses form suddenly or they want to try something different. I thought that there was a good chance that Turner at least wouldn’t play a single game in the whole series.
They were back-up players, batsmen who were there in case something went wrong, either due to injury, illness, loss of form or a desire to do something different. If the batting conditions were difficult, Peter Handscomb could come in to the side instead of one of the big hitters such as Marcus Stoinis or Aaron Finch. If big hitting was required, Ashton Turner could come in to replace one of the more steady players, such as Usman Khawaja or Steve Smith. That was their role in my squad.
In this squad we don’t have any such options. Instead of Handscomb and Turner to offer much-needed flexibility, we have Shaun Marsh only, a steady player who isn’t really known for his big hitting, who likes to open, at least in ODI cricket, and who is in some pretty bad form, and for him, when he is out of form, he can’t score at all. Shaun Marsh is our backup. If we need a big hitter, bad luck because we’ve only got Shaun Marsh. If we need a steady player but Shaun Marsh is out of form or nervous for some reason, then bad luck.
Shaun Marsh is a terrible choice as the backup batsman, and even worse as the only backup batsman.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where we want Shaun Marsh, other than in case someone is injured.
Now, let’s look at Alex Carey instead of Matthew Wade.
I for one think that Matthew Wade deserved to play in the World Cup and it is one of those daft decisions that just make players angry. This kind of daft selecting has irritated players, as deserving players like Matthew Wade miss out while absolute hunches get extended runs. It makes the players worse and makes our teams worse. While Alex Carey is a great wicket keeper, he should be in the test side, not the ODI side. There’s not much more that Matthew Wade could have done and it’s unfair.
Now we get to the third and final change: the decision to include Jason Behrendorff, as a 5th fast bowling option, at the expense of a 2nd backup batting option.
Now, I like Jason Behrendorff and he sure is a good bowler but he is not as good as Pat Cummins or Mitchell Starc or Jhye Richardson, not in one day cricket. Yes, he is better than Nathan Coulter-Nile, but Nathan Coulter-Nile is more there for his all-round abilities, as a late order hitter.
Are you ever going to want to play 5 fast bowlers in a single team? Probably not, and hence Jason Behrendorff probably won’t play a game.
Now, it is possible, though unlikely, that we might play 4 fast bowlers and leave Coulter-Nile out, but I for one would be nervous about doing that. While Cummins and Starc can hit it a bit, Behrendorff and Jhye Richardson can’t, so you’ll only bat down to 9. I mean, we might do it, but we probably won’t, not when Lyon and Zampa are bowling as well as they are.
The bigger problem with including Behrendorff is that it means that our only back-up batsman is Shaun Marsh, and I’d rather have the balance of two back-up batsmen and two back-up bowlers.
Consider that our standard 4 bowlers will probably be Cummins, Jhye Richardson, Zampa and one other, and consider that Starc was the bowler of the tournament in the 2015 World Cup, while Coulter-Nile offers an all-rounder option and then Lyon means we can play 2 spinners, how on earth do we justify Behrendorff’s inclusion? Only if we dump Zampa and go in with 4 fast bowlers, and even then we’d have to dump Coulter-Nile.
Of course, Behrendorff might play a match or two, but it’s more likely to be when we are giving the other bowlers a break, perhaps playing Behrendorff against lesser teams like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, then bringing in the big guns when it makes a difference. But even then we’ve already got a backup fast bowler, in whoever of Cummins, Jhye Richardson, Starc and Coulter-Nile doesn’t play when we need a spin bowler. We don’t need a second backup fast bowler.
It’s three players, but the quality of the squad and our ability to win goes down significantly because of it. This is a long tournament and we need backup players who are there for more than just a replacement for injury: we need backup players who offer depth and versatility.
We missed a trick or two with this inflexible squad.
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