STUART MacGILL has backed Marcus North to be retained for the coming Ashes series - as Australia's first-choice spinner.
For arguably the most contentious position for the opening Test at the Gabba, selectors are agonising between maligned offie Nathan Hauritz, NSW teammate Steve Smith, Tasmanian left-armer Xavier Doherty and a host of unproven candidates.
However, MacGill, who bagged 208 Test wickets with his ripping leg breaks, believes the answer could be right in front of their noses.
Advertisement: Story continues below
''I think Nathan Hauritz has done a very good job in a variety of situations and environments over the past 12 to 24 months,'' MacGill told The Sun-Herald.
''But I've said this before the 2009 Ashes, I'm of the opinion that Marcus North can do the job that Nathan has been asked to do.
''If that's the case, then Marcus North plays and Nathan doesn't. It's a very, very tough call, but by picking a No.6 batsman who can do that job, you've got another bowler. If it's not Marcus North [in that role], then he goes, because he's not the best No.6.
''If Nathan Hauritz is your first-picked spinner, Marcus goes and Usman Khawaja comes in and you probably retain Mike Hussey.''
Asked if North's tweakers could trouble England's batting line-up, MacGill replied: ''How good [are they]? If you compare the stats, they do the same job. Marcus's first-class figures and best [performances] are the equal of Nathan's.''
Indeed, North has taken 13 Test wickets at an average of 37, boasting best figures of 6 for 55. In comparison, Hauritz has taken 63 scalps at an average of 35, with best figures of 5 for 53. Surprisingly, North has been better able to tie down an end, his economy rate of 2.80 slightly superior to specialist spinner Hauritz's (3.15).
North has come under pressure for failing to consistently fire with the bat during his 19-match career but seemingly secured his Ashes spot with a century against India. MacGill reasoned the selectors, by giving North the spinning duties, they could pick an extra bowler - underrated NSW quick Mark Cameron.
''I've played with Mark at both Sydney Uni and for NSW and everyone will think, 'Oh well, he played on a greentop in Brisbane last week, he got 11 for 50, big deal,''' MacGill said of Cameron's recent match-winning spell at the Gabba. ''But that's his third 10-wicket haul in four Shield games. I don't think I ever got one 10-wicket haul for NSW; he's got three in four Shield games.
''He [swings] the ball both ways, I think he's a superstar and I believe in picking people when they're hot. He's definitely hot and I'd pick him for the first Test against England.''
MacGill said it was time for selectors to move on Hussey. NSW batsman Khawaja was ready to cement a place in the middle order.
''I love his temperament, his preparation and approach. He does everything he needs to do,'' he said.
''I genuinely believe that his game is well-rounded enough to last the distance and develop further.''
MacGill predicted that Ponting would be crowned player of the series and backed him to retain the captaincy even if England kept the urn. And despite the pessimism surrounding cricket, the former spin king believed the trend could be reversed.
''The game of cricket in Australia is in a position that provides it an opportunity to be more healthy than it's ever been,'' he said.
''But you need to reinforce the traditions, core values and embrace the diversity of the game. Only by doing those things will you capitalise on that opportunity.''