Sometimes in life, you take a stance that is guaranteed to backfire in a major way.
Think Hitler invading the Soviet Union.
Think Decca Records, who in 1962 rejected The Beatles, saying that “guitar groups are on the way out.”
Think the guy who invented ‘New Coke’.
I’m doing my best to join that ever growing notable list by declaring publicly the following:
Ryan Harris isn’t in Australia’s Best XI for The Ashes.
Now, at this point you have two choices.
Either close down your browser in disgust (Alt – F4 will do it) or take the time to indulge in a little bit of factual analysis laced with a dollop of opinion.
Good. Let’s get started.
Harris is currently 4th in the ICC Test bowling rankings. Unless numbers 1 – 3 are Australian (which they aren’t), he should be a walk up start for the first Ashes Test at Cardiff.
There are not many current day strike bowlers who have an average less than his 23.52.
Dale Steyn (22.55) is one. Philander (21.95) is another. That’s about it.
Harris also strikes at 50. That is 20% better than James Anderson. Against England, that strike rate drops to 43.
If Jimmy is the most skillful bowler in the world, then Harris must be the most talented in the whole entire galaxy. Perhaps even the universe?
Batsmen can’t score off him. His team mates love him.
The English have have hired black magic practitioners to poke pins into his voodoo doll.
Harris is a match winner. It’s likely he could win The Ashes off his own arm.
However, despite this glowing resume, he still isn’t in Australia’s best XI.
Well, he would be if it wasn’t for the form of Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
These three men have just come off a two Test series in the West Indies, using the Duke ball as a weapon of mass destruction. Prior to that, the same three amigos bowled Australia to a World Cup win.
Mitchell Johnson, despite being challenged recently, is still the most feared bowler in the world.
He physically intimidates.
He scares batsmen.
He unleashes the ball like a punt gun. It will come at you from all directions. It will hit your stumps, strike your edge and thud into your pads.
It will hit you. It will hurt.
In his last 5 Test matches, Mitch is striking at 49.5. That’s world class.
He is in good form. Even great form.
Mitchell Starc forced his way into the Test team on the back of being the most damaging bowler in the ODI World Cup.
His 150 kph in-swinging yorker could easily be that of Wasim Akram. It is that beautiful.
He proved in the West Indies that he has built the bridge between white and red ball, Kookaburra and Duke.
His latest tour had 33% of his overs being maidens, a strike rate of 36.00 and an average of 16.00.
Cook and Lyth will fear losing their wicket to Starc more than anyone else. So will Gary Ballance when he strides to the crease at 1/0. Bell might fear it at 2/5. Starc has the capacity to single-handedly have England at 3/10. Mitchell Starc is therefore Joe Root’s worst nightmare.
Josh Hazlewood has been a phenomenon. Like a Glenn McGrath Mini-Me, this 196cm beanpole places the ball on the pitch with the guile of a master sniper.
His West Indies tour landed 12 wickets at 8.83, a strike rate of 28.4 and a ridiculously low economy rate of 1.86.
Hazlewood balances out the raw power and left arm angles of Johnson and Starc with his trampolining right arm.
Combined, this trio is brutal. Magical. Intimidating. Clockwork.
They are also winning and this is important.
The self belief held by this menage a trois is a rare find in cricket.
Fast bowlers usually come in pairs.
Lillee and Thomson.
Ambrose and Walsh
Wasim and Waqar
Pollock and Donald
A successful pace bowling triumvirate is a rare beast. Less sighted than the Yeti. However, in Johnson, Starc and Hazlewood, Australia have found their sasquatch.
There is no need to upset it.
Especially not for a guy that averages 31.4 and strikes at 70.8 in his last 5 Tests. Especially not for a guy who hasn’t bowled at international level since January due to a knee that is held together with cotton thread and a bit of duct tape. Especially when the incumbent bowlers are on fire.
Why take the risk?
This is not a two Test series against Bangladesh in Cairns.
This is The Ashes.
You don’t experiment during this event. Australia learnt that in 2013. Remember Ashton Agar?
Just as Fawad Ahmed will make a great understudy to Nathan Lyon, Ryan Harris will make possibly the greatest understudy of all time to Johnson, Starc and Hazlewood.
Am I saying that the 4th ranked bowler in the world isn’t a starter in the Australian Ashes XI.
Damn right I am.