Ricky Ponting: As usual the Australian skipper must lead the way if the Aussies hope to win back the Urn. At an outstanding Test average of 54, Ricky will need to conqueror the menacing short ball that has caused him much discomfort and strife over the past 18 months. He must make a choice. Either take a leaf out of the Steve Waugh book and remove the hook shot out of his armoury, or risk being the short ball’s bunny. He may need to park his ego in the pavilion. Australia’s fragile and battling middle order places extreme pressure on Punta to produce. Simply he must. He will need to amass 450 to 550 runs in the series for Australia to silence the Barmy Army.
Mitch Johnson: The much maligned and erratic Australian fast bowler will need to straighten up and find his rhythm that he enjoyed 2 summers ago against the South Africans. Even though, in the eyes of many astute judges, Johnson is lucky to be playing in the national Test side, he still remains Australia’s X-factor and sole match winner. Ben Hilfhanous provides stability and a nagging line for the Poms to contend with, while Dougy Bollinger and Peter Siddle provide the grunt work. However, Johnson is a proven wicket taker on the international scene. Yet, he has become a worry for Ricky in the last year or two. Johnson’s tendency to bowl short and wide is C-grade stuff and at times embarasing. His performance at the Lords Test in the last Ashes series was disgraceful and nothing short of the worst display of bowling shown by an Australian “strike bowler” in quiet some time. If he reproduces such wayward form, Australia will struggle to take 20 wickets in a match. His recent strong performance against the Victorians in a Sheffield Shield game suggests his found some much needed touch.
Michael Clarke: The Vice-Captain will need to play a crucial role in the middle order for Australia. He enters this Ashes series with two blaring questions: his fitness and form. Since the Bingle affair at the beginning of the year, Clarke has failed to reach consistent form. With the struggling Mike Hussey and the sometimes inept Marcus North coming in after, Clarke must find ways to score and lend some aid to Ponting in the middle. If Clarke wishes to Captain Australia, he must rise to the occasion now. He has been constantly questioned over his mental toughness and his inability to convert starts to big scores. Clarke doesn’t fit the Border-Taylor-Waugh-Ponting mould of a rugged and gritty Captain. Instead, he is the “model”, a “womaniser” who drives expensive cars. The only way to alter his image is on the field, in a major series. This is the opportune time to answer them all. The second worry for Pup is his back. The rumblings are growing louder that he might miss out on the first Test in Brisbane. Clarke was one of few bright lights out of the previous Ashes defeat with some resolute and fine innings. He will need to reproduce at that hight level again.
Whats your thoughts? Which players for Australia will prove the difference or be most important for the Australian campaign?
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