Where does the Australian cricket team go from here?
By Jason Cave, 10 Mar 2008 The Crowd is a Roar Guru
While Australia performed well in the Test series against India, there are some serious question marks hanging over the team-and several individual members as well.
But before we get on to that, let’s have a look at two key areas in which Australia might be vulnerable in the run-up to the West Indies tour in May (providing the Pakistan tour is cancelled).
While the opening partnership of Phil Jacques and Matthew Hayden is going OK, it’s the middle order-position 3,4,5,6-that is a cause for concern. Ricky Ponting had one of his worst summers with the bat. You wonder if the season’s controversies involving India as well as his own batting slump – just one century in the Commonwealth Bank Series – could signal the beginning of the end of Ricky Ponting. No doubt in my mind that the West Indies pace attack will zero in on Ponting’s weakness.
Andrew Symonds needs to have a good look at himself and focus totally on his batting, not get himself involved in matters off the field, as was the case this summer. He needs to make big scores on a more consistent basis.
While Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey had a good summer batting-wise, I wonder how long their good performance will last. Brad Haddin steps into some very big shoes after the retirement of Adam Gilchrist. If Clarke or Hussey has a batting slump during the tour of the West Indies, then maybe it’s time to recall Victoria’s Brad Hodge out of the wilderness, or even give WA’s Chris Rogers another chance.
The bowling department for Australia might look good for now, but there are worrying signs ahead for the Australian selectors. The spin bowling stocks look very weak, with no young spin bowlers on the horizon willing to stand up and be counted. How much longer can Stuart MacGill last?
The pace bowling options are slightly better once Brett Lee retires, with Stuart Clarke, Mitchell Johnson to lead the Australian pace attack in the future, with back-up options such as Tasmania’s Ben Hilfenhaus or Victoria’s Shane Harwood. Cameron White might be another option as far as spin bowling is concerned, but can he stand up to the rigours of Test cricket?
The Australian selectors must address these areas between not just between now and the West Indies tour, but also leading up to the 2009 Australian tour of England. If the selectors don’t tackle these problems head-on, then the next Ashes series might go to England.