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Leading contender to replace Warner revealed

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As it stands, Australia’s selectors are backing Warner to find form and lead the charge to India, the World Test Championship and Ashes next year.“I personally think there’s runs around the corner for him,” national selector George Bailey said.“No doubt, and David would be the first to say this, he’d like a few more runs and to be contributing a bit more knowing the importance of that role at the top of the order. But I have full confidence that will come.”Coach Andrew McDonald said last week Warner’s experience would be crucial on such heavy-duty overseas tours. But should things change and Warner consider hanging up the gloves sooner than anticipated, Australia may consider a left-field option in Head to open specifically for Indian conditions, in the belief it could potentially solve two problems:Firstly, he is the most like-for-like option Australia has to fill the shoes of the irreplaceable force of nature that is Warner. Secondly, giving Head the chance to start against pace as he does so destructively in one-day cricket could help him crack the code of Test match batting in the sub-continent.Warner has indicated he is likely into his last 12 months as a Test cricketer and the other leading candidates to replace him when the time comes include more conventional options, Marcus Harris, Matt Renshaw and Henry Hunt.Last week, Australia’s other opening batsman Usman Khawaja warned selectors there are “no David Warners” coming through the ranks in domestic cricket.That is why the concept of Head opening the innings in the sub-continent is intriguing, because the South Australian’s fearless cutting and aggressive overall stroke play makes him a genuine game-changer, in the same vein Warner has been for more than a decade.“I think what Uzzie was intimating there is the way Davey plays, I don’t think that’s going to be replaced,” Bailey said.“The way he’s taken the game on, moved the game forward, the record he has, that’s a challenge that every team faces when you remove someone who in many respects has changed the way the game is played.Warner replacements“I don’t think we’ll be looking to replace David Warner. But I think we’ve got some strong candidates waiting in the wings to bat at the top of the order for Australia.”Warner made a first ball duck and three against South Africa at the ‘Gabbatoir pitch of pain’, but Bailey said he was not counting those failures given how treacherous the deck was for all batsmen.“I don’t know how much to read into this wicket or this match itself and to say whether any batsman, David aside, is in good or bad touch,” Bailey said. “I can’t really add too much more to what was already said about David last week. I still think David is preparing as well as he can. He’s looking fantastic in the nets.“I still think he’s moving well. He’s catching well. When people start to go, for want of a better way to put it, the catching goes, the movement goes. But he’s still an outstanding fielder, still fit as a fiddle.”TRAVIS HEADIf Warner boxes onto the Indian tour, then clearly selectors wouldn’t contemplate moving Head from the middle-order.There is no chance he would be seen as an opener in Australia or in seaming conditions in the UK.But in India there is logic based on his success as a white ball opener in the sub-continent.“My white-ball stuff has been really good on testing wickets in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, I played really well,” Head said.“I just haven’t been able to translate that into red-ball cricket … Maybe I can be a little bit more like my white ball. A bit more positive. There are things you can go back and work on.”MARCUS HARRISThe left-handed Victorian only averages 25.29 from 14 Test matches, but his record as a Sheffield Shield cricketer continues to stand out from the pack.There were good signs for Harris last summer when he was the stand-out batsman of the Boxing Day Test on what was a very trying wicket for all batters.He was ultimately squeezed out of the side after Usman Khawaja’s twin hundred masterclass at the SCG against England, but it’s a testament to the selectors’ faith in Harris that he’s been kept with the squad over the past 12 months as the next cab off the rank.This Australian selection panel is very big on players knowing where they stand in the pecking order, and every indication suggests Harris is the next batter in line should a change be made.MATT RENSHAWThe big Queenslander made an 81 and an unbeaten hundred against the West Indies in a tour game for the Prime Minister’s XI at the start of the summer.Selectors will look on runs in such a selection trial very favourably, particularly when Renshaw has made a Shield double hundred and a one-day ton for Queensland as well this summer.Renshaw is an intriguing proposition. He looked like he had the poise and confidence of a Test cricketer when he debuted as a very young and inexperienced batsman and made a hundred at the SCG.Now he is 26 and a much more mature cricketer with a greater array of scoring shots than what he had when he last opened for Australia.HENRY HUNTThe South Australian who has come into domestic cricket via the NSW system made a one-day hundred this summer and has been a steady performer over recent seasons.Organised player who has been on the radar for some time, Hunt has the game for Test cricket according to his South Australian coach, Jason Gillespie.A young player who has also shown potential as a leader.RABADA GIVES WARNER THE SILENT TREATMENT- Robert CraddockWhen South African destroyer Kagiso Rabada was asked whether he had David Warner’s measure, a firm “no comment’’ was the reply.Rabada may be an emotional man on the field but he has an in-built fire hydrant which hoses down any controversial questions off it. This time he didn’t quite switch on the hose. Much like Warner’s future, he left things hanging provocatively in the air.After dismissing Warner twice in the first Test — for a first ball duck then three — he could have mimicked the great Sir Richard Hadlee who once said mid-series “I’ve got the wood on Dean Jones”.He didn’t fire things up but nor did he extinguish the flame.So does he have a game plan for Warner?“A lot of the time we do have plans. It wouldn’t be a plan if I gave it away. Cricket is a simple game generally — the good old cliche, the top of off and the odd bounce. But with the amount of analysis these days, there are specific plans for certain players, most definitely. But obviously I can’t tell you about them.’’This much is certain. South Africa will attempt to continue their brutal interrogation of Warner, who averages 20 in 10 Tests this year, in Melbourne.Rabada has got Warner out six times in Tests. That doesn’t make him his most feared, for England’s Stuart Broad has that mantle with his 14 dismissals.But he is a ruthless foe. Warner will play his 100th Test in Melbourne and finish the series in Sydney then it is likely the selectors will meet him and discuss whether he has the desire and form to tour India.Because of Warner’s exceptional record he deserves to be given every chance and this selection panel have shown that they like to give experienced players every opportunity.But there is a history in Australia of long serving batsmen retiring soon after their 100th Tests with Matt Hayden (103), Mark Taylor (104), Justin Langer (105) and David Boon (107) all leaving soon after notching three figures.
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