Improbable back-up XI is a real act

LATE in March, partly to respond to Australia's dismal Test whitewash in India and partly to pad out its coverage of the Sheffield Shield final, the Fox Sports presenters each produced their preferred Australian Test XI.

Most had merit, most reflected the home state of the chosen presenter and most criminally cast aside Ed Cowan, virtually the only batsman to perform consistently in the sub-continent. Or maybe that's just my own home-state preference coming out.

But all lacked the sort of left-field approach Australian cricket clearly required as it hurtled headlong towards an Ashes annihilation against a team which emerged from the same tour with a series win.

Obviously, in the nine months since, the Aussies have not only won back the urn but, perhaps even more remarkably, done so with an unchanged side.

But with stability assured, and with seasonal spirit kicking in, it's worth considering an unorthodox back-up XI.

There could be few more experienced openers than the Queen and Prince Philip - a veteran partnership who, between them, have opened countless new projects throughout the Commonwealth and could win over a fair few republicans with selection for Australia followed by a double-ton Ashes opening stand.

 First drop is traditionally for the country's most consistent performer, often diminutive like Bradman, Ponting or Boon, but a proven professional with impressive figures over a number of years. Step forward Kylie Minogue.

No.4 is the domain of the team's veteran, the rock upon which the nation relies, capable of producing Husseyesque exhibitions of endurance. Hard to look beyond Edna ``Mrs Cricket'' Everage. We've had the Don, now hail the Dame.

Skippers have a habit of occupying No.5 - think Border, Waugh, Clarke - largely protected from new ball nightmares and able to save the day with the cliched captain's knock. James Cook seems eminently qualified to navigate his way out of choppy waters, the minor setback of having been dead for more than 200 years unlikely to see him fail most  Test nations' selection criteria.

He's also likely to stick around a bit longer than England's captain Cook.

Being as-one with gloves appears to be required for the middle-order wicket-keeper spot, so Mark Schwarzer would appear the ideal candidate to save the day there.

Next in is the all-rounder, the all-singing, all-dancing jack-of-all-trades. Hugh Jackman. Case closed.

Spinners seem to have a monopoly at eight, so it's hard to look beyond Lara Giddings. Anyone who can preach about the unswerving commitment to Tasmania of an AFL team equally happy to play in Ballarat, Canberra, Gold Coast, Sydney or anywhere else gullible enough to pay for the privilege should be able to generate turn on a sheet of glass.

No.9 needs to keep a sound grip on defence, so Stephen Smith stands out.  Obviously that's the departed grey-haired disciple of Gillard as opposed to the blond-haired disciple of Clarke.

Quicks traditionally fill 10 and 11 and Andrew Robinson (more Tassie bias) is sure to provide a more stable partnership with Mark Webber than Sebastian Vettel ever could.

Who better to carry the drinks than Andrew Symonds?

It may be a tad flippant, but in comparison to a panel which this year brought a player back from suspension to be captain, dropped its frontline spinner for a match in Hyderabad and then picked big-hitting Twenty20 specialists to open in the most taxing of Test match conditions, most selections look pretty sensible.

Happy Christmas.

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