The Big Bash League represents a big bother for national selectors mulling Australia’s best possible top six.
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Aaron Finch and Mitch Marsh’s sloppy dismissals at the MCG on Saturday have resulted in calls for both to be axed.
However, the Sheffield Shield’s mid-season hiatus has made it impossible for anybody outside the Test XI to truly demand selection.
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That sentiment applies to Australia’s fourth Test against India at the SCG but also the two-Test series against Sri Lanka that starts in Brisbane on January 24.
Matthew Renshaw, among the leading candidates to replace Finch at the top of the order, currently can’t get a game for the Brisbane Heat.
Marnus Labuschagne, a middle-order option who made his Test debut earlier this year, is also on drinks duty for the Heat.
Even for those playing in the BBL, it’s near-impossible to make a compelling case for a Test call-up.
Peter Handscomb’s polished knock of 70 for Melbourne Stars was an impressive response to being dropped, and the Test squad member may yet return for the series finale.
But the challenge posed by India’s attack at the SCG can hardly be compared to that of the Sydney Sixers in a Twenty20.
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“Because there’s no Shield cricket being played at the moment due to the Big Bash League, it’s hard to pick someone who’s in form in the longer form,” former selector Mark Waugh wrote exclusively for Fox Sports.
“There’s no possible replacement really jumping out of the pack that’s not already in the Aussie Test squad. They’re still probably the best batsmen in the country.”
Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft’s suspensions are also obviously making life harder for Trevor Hohns’ panel.
Ricky Ponting, who nominated former Test keeper Matthew Wade as an in-form old hand capable of shoring up an inexperienced order, highlighted how the BBL is making life hard for Test aspirants and selectors.
“No-one’s played any Sheffield Shield cricket over the last few weeks to try to put up a case to get into the side,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“Some of our Shield players might get on a bit of a run … then Big Bash starts and they’re put on ice for another seven or eight weeks.”
That scenario has frustrated coaches, selectors and players in recent years but it’s unlikely to change given the commercial success that is the BBL.
Shane Warne and Steve Waugh headline the greats to have recently criticised Cricket Australia (CA) for devaluing the Shield, which was one of many topics covered in The Ethics Centre’s independent review.