Many bloggers will compile lists about this Ashes. Players who did well, players who should have done better, players who will be in World XIs, players who fulfil some obscure statistical criteria. Each to their own.
My Ashes XI is going to be slightly different. Rather than writing a list of the players who have performed, I’m going to put together a team made entirely out of players I want to play in and succeed in the final test.
Let’s be honest, most opinion based writing can be boiled down to two phrases. ‘I like it and want more’ or ‘I don’t like it and piss off.’ I’ve been doing the occasional music review recently, and was surprised on reflection to find that I was biased based on what I wanted to hear in future. It wasn’t just a matter of liking a particular song, it was liking the sound of the band and anticipating what they might do next that coloured my reviews.
So for the final Ashes test, I have a wish list of players that I want to see perform. As Darren Lehmann has said, various Aussies are playing for their careers. Well, call me cruel but there are some careers that I want to see end. Of course, there are some careers that I want to see continue, with the player in question one day getting a testimonial summer that includes a celebratory lap of every ground in the country.
Convention dictates that any list about cricketers must be 11 entries long, so here it is:
1) Ed Cowan. He’s a published writer. Not hard to see why a cricket blogger might have some sympathy for him.
2) Nick Compton. Unfairly cast aside after finding some impressive run-scoring form in New Zealand, Compton seemed to lose his place because he was old and unfashionable. Again, being a cricket blogger, I’m sort of obliged to sympathise with that.
3) Chris Rogers. I love the idea of test cricket as an arena where grit and perseverance will always win out, where a player can get better with age and selection isn’t based on potential. So far, Rogers has actually been fairly successful, so this one might actually come true.
4) Michael Clarke. From being an arrogant twerp in his early years, Clarke has matured into being a leader who shoulders far too much responsibility for his shoddy team. It is quite literally breaking his back. While many of his decisions have been, well, odd, he is in the unfortunate situation where the lack of leadership around him creates a void which he and he alone has to fill.
5) Phil Hughes. Because I enjoy watching middle order collapses, I hope Hughes finds a way to hold his place in the team.
6) Matt Prior. I cannot help but respect him, especially after seeing his match-saving century in Auckland. Any player with that level of grit and strength of will deserves every success that comes to him.
7) Ravi Bopara. Go on, bring him in as a genuine all rounder. His ODI bowling has recently been far better than his ODI batting, so why not? (Disclaimer- there are countless reasons why not, but lets not get into them)
8) Tim Bresnan. He puts the ‘bus’ in ‘bustling’. The most rectangular shaped cricketer in the world works extremely hard, and often contributes immensely in supporting roles. He deserves to star.
9) Graeme Swann. He won’t have many seasons left, but since his return to test cricket has been one of the most exciting bowlers in the world. Sublime when on form, still hilarious when not, Swann is one of the players who makes cricket worth watching.
10) Boyd Rankin. A player who will under no circumstances actually play this match, though such technicalities are irrelevant here. Rankin was incredibly brave to leave Ireland and pursue a career as a fully professional cricketer. While I support any moves to encourage Irish cricketers to stay in their country and earn test status, I sympathise with any player who gets to the stage in their career when there is no longer time to do so. Now he is in the England setup, I want him to show the world that Irish players are capable of test cricket.
11) Nathan Lyon. One of the most jerked around players in the current Australian setup, and that is saying a lot. While his backstory, that of the lowly groundsman who found himself in test cricket, is a romantic oversimplification, he does still come across as a genuinely nice guy who has got to the test team the hard way. The perception of his skill is far lower than the statistical reality. Plus, his success would show the Australian selectors once and for all that they should resign for the good of their country.