While you wouldn't say that the Australian A side that visits Derby for a three-day game this weekend is the most star-laden outfit to leave those shores, there are some fine players among them. Indeed, part of the enjoyment will be seeing players who may be in the next generation of international stars, as well as perhaps even seeing some of next year's overseas players on the county circuit. Few of these players would be seen as likely selections for the Australian ICC Trophy squad at this stage, so might be worth a look by a few county coaches.
Given the congested international calendar, the likeliest sources of overseas players in 2013 are likely to be Australia and South Africa, primarily because those countries usually have more than their fair share of top quality players. Of course, to qualify to play over here in such a role, players will need to have played the requisite number of international games, but with countries increasingly selecting different squads for Test and one day games, that is leading to a larger pool being available to choose from.
So who might be in that category?
Of the batsmen, the two I have seen most of have been Ed Cowan and George Bailey, both of who I have seen a fair bit of as they played in Scotland for some time. Cowan is more a dogged player, a grafter, while Bailey is a dasher, albeit one with a reputation of making fancy forties too often for some tastes. I could see the former as a good Championship player, the latter more a good one day bat, although I wouldn't sit either in the very top drawer of Australian batting.
Steve Smith is another good cricketer, a handy, powerful hitter and useful leggie, but for me he hasn't yet got either of the disciplines to a standard where he would be an automatic pick for a county side. Michael Klinger has been a talent for some time and did OK in his short stay at Worcestershire without pulling up any trees. He would benefit from the experience, of course and might come under consideration, as would Mitchell Johnson. The latter is a highly talented yet enigmatic player, capable of spells of genius with the ball either side of wildly erratic bowling that can make Steve Harmison's spell at Chesterfield look like Les Jackson in his pomp. He is also a dangerous hitter and would be a brave, though potentially inspired selection if he wasn't back in the Aussie fold by that stage.
Perhaps the most interesting is a player well known in England, though for his exploits for the Netherlands. Tom Cooper is a fine batsman whose ever-increasing averages and decent experience of these shores might make him the batsman to watch. Tall and powerful, Cooper also bowls handy off spin, but his aggressive batting may well bring him to the attention of counties, not just because he could theoretically play under a Dutch passport, thereby leaving a space at a county for another overseas player.
Of course, a good tour here may see Cooper or any of these players rapidly elevated to an Australian side that is evolving slowly. Older heads like the Hussey brothers will surely be eased out in coming months, leaving vacancies for others to take up. Of course, our own Usman Khawaja will be especially keen to make an impression, both in this match and the remainder of the season. Just as Phil Hughes took up a Worcestershire contract to bring him to the attention of selectors, Khawaja needs a good stint in our colours to do the same.
His century at Chesterfield against the Unicorns apart, Khawaja has had his struggles, although coming from close-season did him few favours. He has potentially twelve important Championship innings to come and from every standpoint probably needs 500 runs from them as a minimum. If he does that, Derbyshire will remain in the promotion shakeup till the very end. That would be richly deserved as only the really churlish would argue that we've not played some very good four-day cricket this summer.
Maybe it needs to get cold again...
Karl Krikken has gone on record as saying he intends to field a strong team and we may see a return for Mark Footitt. For what its worth, this would be my team against the Antipodean visitors:
In the customary manner, I would welcome your thoughts.
Have a good one - see you soon!