The Australian Ashes squad was made official today. Interestingly, 17 men have been included, which made some wag on twitter exclaim, not unfairly:
The squad contains three spinners (Hauritz, Doherty, Smith), but only one wicketkeeper (Haddin). And yes, of course, the inescapable North is there. Also there are Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson in what I consider to be another one of those 'pseudo-selections' of which the Australian selectors have displayed such a penchant recently; I very much doubt that either will play a single game — unless, perhaps, we see a total Australian collapse at the Gabba. I think they have been included for two reasons (neither of them very good ones): to throw a bone to public opinion (for the natives are growing very restless with their hapless cricket XI and their clueless selectors) and to keep North and Mussey on their toes. If, however, a miracle were to occur and either of them do get to actually play, I would very much prefer Khawaja. Apparently, some people disagree (language warning: here). I would just like to point out the following: in First-class cricket, Khawaja averages 55.22; Ferguson 36.35. (For what it's worth, North averages 43.18). And therewith, I rest my case.
For well over a year now, I have said that I will be pleasantly surprised if Australia were to regain the Ashes. Considering the official squad, I stand by that opinion. Painfully.