What will be Australia’s starting XI for the first Test versus West Indies?

Australia will begin their tour of the West Indies with the opening Test at Roseau in Dominica and it will be interesting to see what will be Australia’s starting XI for that opener.

It must be said here Australia haven’t played a Test since the second week of January when the Sydney Test against India ended. Since then, they have been involved in an ODI tri-series against India and England and that was followed by the World Cup which ended on March 29.

Many of the Aussie cricketers then joined various IPL teams over the next two months before assembling to rejoin the Test squad for this series.

A lot of their decision-making around their playing XI will be based on what the captain-coach combination of Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann considers to give them their best balance. Most positions are more or less decided but there are a few selection question-marks as well.

First, the certainties.

David Warner can be expected to open the innings with Chris Rogers. Steven Smith and Clarke will form the middle-order while Brad Haddin should take up the gloves ahead of the rookie keeper Phil Nevill unless there’s an injury cloud.

Update: Chris Rogers has been ruled out of the first Test of the series because of concussion after being hit on his head by a bouncer. He will be kept under observation till the symptoms go away and once he is fit again, he will be recalled for the second Test. What that means is either Shane Watson or Shaun Marsh could be sent up the order & one of Mitchell Marsh or Adam Voges could be added to the starting XI.

As far as their bowling attack is concerned, despite his form issues during the World Cup and the IPL, Mitchell Johnson should take up the fast bowling attack. Josh Hazlewood looked good enough during the India Tests and the tour game against West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI to share the new ball with Johnson, making it seven players.

For the two remaining batting spots in the side, Australia have four options but assuming Adam Voges will only be a backup, the three realistic ones are Shaun Marsh, Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh. My sense is playing both Watson and Mitchell Marsh could shorten their batting line-up and Shaun Marsh’s century in their tour game all but seals his berth in the line-up.

Who will they go for out of Watson and Mitchell Marsh? Tough call that but my pick would be Watson – assuming he’s fit after his long trip from India to Australia back to the West Indies following the birth of his second child. Why Watson? Because over the last few months, he looked like he was regaining his long-lost confidence, and dropping him now will all but smash it further.

Plus, Watson’s more a batsman than Marsh, who seems to be a better bowler. But till Marsh cannot start picking up wickets regularly, Watson looks like a better package.

And then there’re those two bowling positions. Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon would have been the front-runners but Mitchell Starc’s solid white-ball cricket form puts doubts over Siddle’s chances. And then there’s Fawad Ahmed pushing at Lyon’s place.

Fawad didn’t exactly set the stadium alight in their warm-up game and my sense is they will continue to opt for Lyon if they decide to play just one spinner. Between Starc and Siddle, there’s every chance that Starc should get the spot on merit, but will Australia prefer the stability of Siddle, especially in the absence of Ryan Harris? Should be an interesting call that.

Here’s my Australia starting XI for the first Test v West Indies:
Warner, Shaun Marsh, Smith, Clarke, Watson, Mitchell Marsh, Haddin, Johnson, Hazlewood, Lyon, Starc

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