HENRY: Selectors and captain lead Australia to T20 demise
A typically bombastic Chris Gayle innings and some astute captaincy from Darren Sammy might not have helped, but some questionable decisions from captain George Bailey were the real catalyst for Australia’s downfall last night.
The selectors had a think. What’s working? What’s not working? And a few ‘whos’ for the ‘whats’. Glen Maxwell wasn’t working mainly because he wasn’t getting a bowl, with two solitary one-over spells in the previous two games.
Maxwell wasn’t making any runs because he wasn’t getting to the crease while David Hussey, one of the premier Twenty20 cricketers in the world, had been gathering backside splinters.
He bats and bowls and knows the game, so in a sudden death match they restored his status.
No matter that two weeks ago he was dropped for being in poor form and hadn’t appeared in tournament match.
Spin was king the previous night in the semi-final between Sri Lanka and Pakistan but Australia were banking on three quicks alongside spinners Brad Hogg and Xavier Doherty.
Doherty, the number 11 batsmen, has been preferred in the latter half of the tournament to Dan Christian’s all-round bowling game and power hitting.
Despite the Australian management stating very clearly that they wanted continuity in the starting XI, they were making a number of alterations.
I’ve got no problem with changing your mind to suit changing conditions, and that certainly has been the case in Sri Lanka but there seems to be fundamental misunderstanding of what skills are needed to be effective in that changing environment.
The West Indies played the perfect game. Winning the toss and letting their batsmen set an imposing total was the cornerstone.
They made 205 through initial patience, Chris Gayle watched and waited and lingered and eventually pounced. He did not set about pounding the opening overs out of the park as David Warner tried to do against low bouncing spin.
Gayle’s approach was very different to that which he displays in the IPL where he will try to hit 36 from the opening over.
Maybe he now feels that playing for your country (region) is more important than turning out for the Royal Challengers even if the paycheck is somewhat smaller. There was no flippancy in this innings.
West Indian captain Darren Sammy stuck with his slow bowlers for the full power play, while George Bailey used only one over from Doherty, of which Gayle sent his second delivery 96 metres away.
The rejuvenated, unretired and reinstated Brad Hogg has been picked for 20/20 so he can bamboozle both right and left handers with either a near-unpickable wrong’un of a big turning legspinner. The idea is to get get the ball leaving the outside edge, drawing more mishits that will fall to the fieldsmen, and the keeper and occasional slip will get their chances.
The most effective bowlers in the Sri Lankan conditions have been the tricky spinners – Ajmal, Narine, Afridi and Mendis. Captain Bailey brought Hogg on in the 7th over with only one wicket down.
Chris Gayle didn’t get much strike early and made 50 off 29 balls – just how does he do that? The boundaries came mostly as sixes.
David Hussey’s return to the big time was not a happy one with bat or ball but having his first outing would not have helped. Mickey Arthur and George Bailey made the initial mistake of leaving one of the best T20 players in the world out of the team and now they compounded the position by bringing him back severely underdone.
With Marlon Samuels joining Gayle the tempo jumped like a tachycardia patient’s heart rate on triple espressos and neither Bailey or his bowlers could do much to staunch the flow.
Pat Cummins’ 150 kph Yorker was deflected with power and precision through midwicket for four by Gayle.
There was very little wrong with the delivery nor with the Mitchell Starc’s opening salvo of the 19th, which thanks to Gayle’s warp-six batspeed travelled flat over square leg for another Dorothy.
Arguably the biggest mistake of the night was throwing the ball to Doherty for the final over especially when the trickier Hogg had one left up his sleeve.
Doherty could not find a yorker among the liquorice allsorts but found plenty of full tosses. 25 runs later the Windies danced off the park, with Gayle unbeaten and Australia more than likely the opposite. Hogg once again doesn’t bowl his full quota.
Has Captain Bailey been blinded by an allegiance to his fellow Tasmanian? Left arm orthodox is exactly that – orthodox, no doosra, no carom ball like an Iverson flicker or Gleeson mystery, its finger-spin or arm balls delivered at varying speeds and arcs.
Unfortunately the arc favoured Gayle’s lefties stance and Doherty lacked the courage to bowl slowly. He speared the ball in and gave both hitters speed to work with, when it landed.
Before the match Bailey reckoned the Australian fielding would be the difference. He was partially right – they were terrible – but a hard uneven outfield didn’t make it easy.
Darren Sammy pulled all the right reins, his bowlers delivered and if Bailey had have been caught by Rampaul in a simple chance at long Australia would have struggled to make triple figures.
Australia can rest knowing that they have elevated their T20 ranking from ten to four in a matter of a few weeks, but there is to be a serious culling of this national team needed if they are to head further up the ladder.
Now is a right time to draw a line in the sand and move forward with a new squad. Picking players in form would be a terrific place to start. Captain Bailey’s late flurry in a hopeless cause may camouflage his real worth to the team but he is not in the top 20 Australian batsmen from last year’s Big Bash League.
Following the English system of picking a captain and then the team has, yet again, proven fatal.
Perhaps a dedicated T20 coach with suitable credentials in tactics and team balance would also help the climb.
Geoff Lawson OAM is a former Australian cricketer and the former coach of the Pakistan cricket team. Nicknamed "Henry" after the Australian poet, Lawson was a fast bowler for New South Wales and Australia.