Will Australia's next all-rounder please stand up?

Martin Smith January 8, 2013, 11:34 am

One of most vexing issues in Australian cricket was solved on Monday when Shane Watson put his bowling - and hopefully his injury woes - on the back-burner.

Whether Watson deserves a place in Australia's Test XI purely as a batsman is a debate for another day.

Today we will tackle the issue of who will replace him as Australia's all-rounder.

With a tour of India looming, Victorian off-spinner Glenn Maxwell is hot favourite to be first off the rank. The 24-year-old was surprisingly denied a debut in Sydney, but selectors have been impressed by his brutal batting and handy off-spin. He will be the ideal candidate to bat at No.6 or No.7 in the sub-continent.

The man who batted No.7 at the SCG is Australia's newest 'all-rounder' - Mitchell Johnson. The mercurial Johnson continues to divide fans around the country. Some want him banished from international cricket for good; others want him to be the first picked for the 10 Ashes Tests on the horizon. His performances against Sri Lanka have secured him a seat on the plane to India, but a first-class batting average under 23 suggests he is more suited to the tag of 'handy tail-ender' than 'genuine all-rounder'.

The apparent rise of Johnson to all-rounder status will be a boost to the uncapped trio of Kane Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Ben Cutting. But like Johnson, they are considered bowlers who bat a bit and with Australia's speed stocks rich, they are unlikely to play Test cricket in 2013.

Ditto Victorian John Hastings, the main benefactor of the now infamous 'rotation policy' Test in Perth this summer. Hastings is a good, steady, honest cricketer and the selectors hold him in high esteem. But he falls into the category that doesn't cut it at Test level; jack of all trades, master of none.

Moises Henriques, he of Portuguese heritage and questionable facial hair, has long been considered Australia's next great all-rounder. The 25-year-old has the ability to bat in the top six and bowls handy medium-pacers at first or second change. Despite being woefully out of form in the Big Bash League, he is well in the frame for the tours to India and England.

The thought of Steve Smith on an Ashes tour will undoubtedly warm the hearts of English fans. Along with Johnson, the then 21-year-old Smith was a target for the Barmy Army during the 2010-2011 Ashes series after his shock selection. Now 23, Smith's batting has improved dramatically, but his bowling has gone in the other direction. The leggie even took a break earlier this summer to "clear his mind" after an unhappy time with the ball. He remains one to watch, but 2013 might be too soon.

It's not ridiculous to suggest that Mitchell Marsh could one day be the world's leading all-rounder. The 21-year-old combines a solid technique with often brutal hitting and his bowling is quick and difficult to handle. But the younger Marsh brother has had plenty of issues this summer – thanks to a dodgy hammy and an even dodgier night out in South Africa - so the 2015 Ashes Tour might be Marsh's time to shine.

Andrew McDonald has been a key component of Victoria's dominance of domestic cricket and he was rewarded with four Tests in 2009. The 31-year-old has a first-class batting average of just under 40 and his bowling can be both tight and dangerous. He is currently out of action due to a hamstring injury, but a second Ashes tour - yes, he was there in 2009 - is on the radar if he can get himself fit.

It's easy to forget that Dan Christian was Australia's 12th man for the Boxing Day Test last summer. Often pigeon-holed as a limited-overs player, the NSW-born Christian had a breakthrough Shield summer last season, averaging almost 60 with the bat and bowling better than 10 wickets in five matches might suggest. But the 29-year-old has struck more blows in the change rooms than out in the middle this summer and has even lost his spot in the ODI team.

Lastly, let’s take a look at Tasmanian all-rounder James Faulkner. Still just 22, Faulkner is considered a bowling all-rounder, opening the bowling for the Tigers and normally batting at No.7 or No.8. His raw first-class numbers indicate he's ready for Test cricket - almost 1000 runs at 27 and 107 wickets at 22.82. Yet a lack of recognition from selectors in Australia A squads in 2012 - which were full of all-rounders - indicate Faulkner is way down the pecking order.

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  1. BRIAN12:07pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Whoever it is, let's hope he has more self-control than Warne displayed. The last thing we need is bad sports with fat heads.

  2. Tristan12:11pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    No mention of Luke Butterworth or Steve O'Keefe? Interesting...

  3. Hidden Fortress12:34pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    No mention of Warnie? One of the greatest allrounders averaging 23 with the bat, then theres Hastings averaging 26 and Mitchell Johnson averaging 21. Mitchell might not be as good as Watson with the bat ( Watto ave. 36) but is more than dangerous with the ball. Glenn Maxwell averages 0 with the bat. Do we need 2 spinners in the team and only 3 quicks or is it more balanced to have 1 spinner and 4 quicks, with extra spin from Clarke and Warner? Thats why Glenn Maxwell seems a strange choice, unless hes going to be Lyon's successor.

  4. Robert12:44pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    To keep Bill Lawry happy, the selectors had better make Watson's Replacement a Victorian, or someone who looks like a Victorian!!!

  5. Dan01:34pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Martin SmithJanuary 8, 2013, 11:34 am, I question to whether you know much about cricket ! The Duke is a former junior bradman award winner and the most likely choice ! This guy gives 101% in every game. The other you stated have been tried and failed, the CA selectors should be looking at young guys like NSW's Steve SOK O'Keefe

  6. matty01:41pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Watson has a career average of 36 with the bat, hardly worthy of a spot let alone opening for Australia, Cowan is not up to it, how about putting in Aaron Finch, remember when warner came from nowhere? at least finch is proven as a batting force, a good leader and is only 26... put him in it will pay off he is a MENACE...

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  7. seek1mor02:44pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Whoever they choose must not be an injury prone soft marshmallow like Shane Watson. This palooka does not have the nuts to play test cricket, simply not tough enough mentally or physically.Watson appears more suited to the pages of womens' magazines rather than cricket media.In today's Telegraph there is a picture of him and his missus in the women's section which no doubt he would relish rather than be in the back pages where men should be. Bloody nutless wonder.

  8. Ron02:56pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Anybody who is fit enough to be able to play CONSTANTLY and CONSISTANTLY and not be eternally "injured"

  9. Mmmm03:02pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Bring back "PONT"

  10. MySay05:31pm Tuesday 08th January 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    The premise of this article is mistaken. You don't need to pick an allrounder in a test side. You pick the best batters and the best bowlers in the country (and a wicket keeper). genuine allrounders at test level are rare.




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