Prior to the start of the series, several eyebrows, as well as questions, were raised on Australia’s squad selection for the first two games. And then, few more piled up before the third encounter, but each and every question can now be put to rest. There is not even the minutest doubts regarding Australian selectors as most of the moves, or gamble as one may say, paid off.
In cricket, small things off the field make a massive difference. Selection does play a crucial role in any series and on this occasion, Australian selectors did a commendable job in handpicking players for the Ashes.
Australia fought fire with fire and regained the priceless Ashes Urn with back-to-back wins in first three games. They romped home with another emphatic victory at the WACA and did well in thrusting England in the cracks to gain an unassailable 3-0 lead.
Before the start of the series, Australia did have a number issues to be addressed in the line-up and selectors made it very clear about the positions that were there to be grabbed. Speculations were mainly regarding the opening slot, No. 6, 7 and another seamer in the attack.
The selection panel that consists of interim chairman Trevor Hohns, national coach Darren Lehmann, former Australian cricketer Mark Waugh and interim selector Greg Chappell were under the scanner while announcing the squad for the first two games. But saying that the Panel were dead right in making calls would be an understatement. And the results are there for everyone to be seen.
The selectors invested in Peter Bancroft for the opening slot alongside David Warner ahead of Matt Renshaw. The latter showed nerves of steel in India, but parched runs column in Shield Cricket didn’t help his cause.
Bancroft was having a prolific run in Shield cricket and did well in scripting an astute innings in Brisbane. Although he didn’t cross the 50-run mark at Adelaide, but others did well to step up and his failure hardly affected Australia’s run. He did get a fantastic start at Perth, but was outdone by a Craig Overton special.
For the most-debated No. 6 position, the selectors opted for Shaun Marsh, a man who is known for making comebacks. Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright, the two frontrunners for the said position, were overlooked in favour of Shaun Marsh and the southpaw did justify his selection.
Questions were raised against Marsh’s record recall to the national side, but he silent his harshest critics with a tenacious fifty in the series opener under the pump. Along with Smith, Marsh stitched a crucial partnership to sail the ship out of choppy waters. Marsh continued his good form in Adelaide and slammed an unbeaten century to steer his side to command and combined well with the tail. Once again, he was given a nod riding on his excellent form in Shield Cricket.
The selectors dropped a bomb and left many bewildered by drafting Tim Paine for the wicket keeper’s slot. Paine, who had not played any Test cricket for seven years, made it to the team ahead of Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill. Paine cupped a total of 15 catches and effected a stumping in three games, which speaks about his effective keeping skills. He hardly made any mistake and did well in repaying selector’s faith. Also, he did manage to garner crucial runs in the last two games.
Peter Handscomb failed to fire in the first two games and was immediately dropped from the third Test to make way for a firing batsman. Glenn Maxwell, who was in the scheme of things so far, was expected to make the cut. But selectors opted for a seam-bowling all-rounder in Mitchell Marsh. Marsh was having a good run in Shield Cricket, but not the kind of form Maxwell was enjoying.
It was a gamble in roping Mitchell Marsh ahead of Maxwell, but it paid of beautifully in Perth. The lanky all-rounder scored an astounding 181 on his Test return and accounted for a match-winning partnership with Smith only to add misery on wounded England. It was a bold move, but the repository of selector’s faith found form at a crucial time.
In the post-match presentation, English skipper did admit how they were outplayed in all three games, such was the kind of impact the home side had. Root said, “It is very difficult to take. Fair play to Australia, they’ve outplayed us in all three games and we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to go to Melbourne, prepare well and put in good performances there.
Every team have men working behind the scenes other than the 11 battling on the field. They are the unsung heroes and hardly get any recognition. The selectors and the supporting staff have done well and have been absolutely fearless with their calls, this is what Australia is known for. It may have backfired, but it didn’t. This is what Australian cricket is known for, brutal calls and bold selections. With the Urn back to Australia, it’s time we take a moment and applaud the selectors for their heroics off the field.