Aussie Opener Selections:
Opening the batting in red ball cricket is a specialist position, and something of a dark art. A different set of skills are needed to open in white ball cricket.
Since the unexpected and fortunate (it certainly wasn't planned) success of Justin Langer opening with Matthew Hayden (whose games *really* complemented each other), Australia has taken the view that they should select the best 6 batters, then find the right spot for them in the order. Mike Hussey showing a straight bat and good footwork can be even *more* effective at #5 as #1 didn't help this mythology.
This has seen Simon Katich, Shane Watson (WTF???) and Joe Burns elevated to #1 for the first time in their careers at Test level. Being good players, they have all made a modest success of it. Even David Warner falls into this category. He made his name as a white ball opener, selected to open that batting for Australia in Tests having never done so at first class level before.
It's taken nearly a decade, but I think the selectors have finally realised J Langer was just a stroke of good fortune, and not a model to be relied on.
Since Langer and Hayden, Warner aside - the only Opener to survive 2 years in the Aussie team has been Chris Rogers, who was picked reluctantly, and was well and truly the finished article by the time he was given a real opportunity.
Another great example is Phil Hughes (got rest his soul). Clearly a talent, but selected before he was 100% ready and inconsistent as a result.
Everyone else has been either a makeshift opener, or were just not quite ready for Test cricket. Yet all these guys who have been thrown into the role have been discarded within less than 10 tests because they haven't performed like season veterans in their first few games - and sometime (like Renshaw) even when they have.Matt Renshaw:
In my view, given the way we've treated Renshaw already, we need to make sure he's the finished article by the time he comes back to test cricket - which I've no doubt he will. A couple of 1000 run+ seasons under his belt, preferably in Shield, but a good county season or two as well. So when he comes back in at age 25 or so, he can open for us for continuously for 10 years. We can't bring him back again and expect him to perform *and* learn on the job at the same time.Joe Burns:
FC average of 40 and Test average of 36, despite 3 test centuries (2 v NZ, 1 v WI). He's a fairly limited player IMHO, but a decent FC batter and could develop into a capable test player IMHO. But he's clearly not an opening
batter. Despite his record, I don't think he's the future for Australia at #1. He's 29, and still not ready for #1. I'm hoping he can spend 3 or 4 of his good years in the middle order.Marcus Harris:
Made the Aussie team on the basis on one good innings (on a docile pitch against a tired attack), but has a FC average of 35 over 6 seasons, and unsurprisingly a test average to match.
The similarities between him and Cameron Bancroft are remarkable. Similar age (Harris is older), similar FC average, both from WA, and both selected for Australia for making a single big score in batter friendly conditions. Both probably given 1 season only to prove themselves - one way or another.
I've been very disappointed with Harris' footwork. Like most modern players - and most WA players, he doesn't come forward. But he doesn't go back to cut properly either - he just squats down on one knee and slashes (usually in the air). I (hope I'm wrong) but I can't see him making runs on anything but the flattest of pitches.Usman K:
He's our best current opener IMHO (better than Warner), but also our best available
batter, which unfortunately means he has to play at #3 where - IMHO - he's less suited. #1 also suits his weakness starting against spin.
The major technical flaw with his batting is he doesn't have a solid forward defence. As flaws go, this is a pretty big one! On true pitches he can cover drive as well as anyone, but even though he steps forward, he *never* really gets to pitch of the ball, and just uses his god gifted talent to stroke the ball through the off side. He has the smarts to adapt his game to seaming conditions, soft hands in defence and is pretty unflappable.
But the lack of an effective forward defence causes problems. It's the main reason he struggles against spin. He can't get to the pitch of the ball to block it, much less hit it anywhere. His front foot defence is less reliable than his reverse sweep. He has to defend off the back foot too much, and that leave him vulnerable to good length (seam & spin) bowling.As for his slowness earlier in the season pointed out by @Valvegear:
He clearly needed some time in the middle, deprived of him by his knee injury. I'm not at all surprised he's struggled, and rather expected it. He's worked hard, but clearly he's been short of a gallop, at least to take on a quality attack in difficult conditions.The way forward:I think our best opening combo is Finch and Khawaja
. I think we should persist with Finch, and let him develop and fulfil his potential at #1, even if it takes 2 years before it "works". *If* Warner comes back into the team (and until he genuinely fesses up to how long he was sandpapering the ball and exactly who else knew he was doing it, I hope not) then he can be a team player and slot in at #3 with Smith at #4. *If* Marcus Harris is to be a test batter, he can learn/demonstrate his craft at #6 for the time being.
As both UK and Finch are in their early 30s, we need to ensure Renshaw is ready fill the void when it inevitably arises due to injury, retirement, or indefinite detention without trial as the brother of a falsely accused terrorist accuser.