Being the number six for Australia in the Ashes should be a simple proposition.
According to selector Mark Waugh, all that is needed, in his opinion is, “In the ideal world you’d love an all-rounder at six who bats and bowls, who can score a hundred and take five wickets like Ben Stokes.”
Stokes’ most interesting contribution of late has been being stood down by England for his role in a drunken brawl in Bristol.
Waugh’s criteria do not include that attribute, so given our faith in Waugh, we would have to include it is something not essential to number six success.
Some would like to see the best possible batsman in the slot, in order to bring some gravitas to Australia’s middle order, which is not always provided the desired solidity.
Others would prefer an all-rounder.
There has been discussion about the topic ever since 2005, when England’s Andrew Flintoff tipped the Ashes in England’s favour. He displayed the sort of all-round competence that has defined the role.
Since that time, Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh have been the target of demands by Aussie fans to produce the same sort of performance.
Waugh went on, “Why wouldn’t you want someone like that Stokes)? We’ve tried Mitch Marsh there and I believe he’s still got the potential to do that.”
Others say that the seeming Australian obsession has nothing to do with a desire to have a Stokes, Flintoff or Jacques Kallis-type all-rounder. Rather, it is the simple reality that with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, along with Ryan Harris, all of them dinged by excessive workloads, an all-rounder might relieve them of some pressure.
Other injuries have taken a toll. Quicks Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson have suffered summer-ending injuries.
“(Playing an all-rounder) just gives you a great balance, particularly if you get flat pitches and a long hot summer … you’re putting a lot of pressure on your specialist bowlers if you’ve got none of your batsmen who bowl,” Waugh continued.
A competent all-rounder would give Australia its best chance of keeping its top three pacemen on the park for the entirety of the Ashes.