Don’t Panic: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Australian cricket

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That Australia will lose the first Test against India, let’s be honest, wasn’t completely unexpected.

India have three players in their side with over 100 Tests each (Sachin Tendulkar with 195 of his own); Australia have Michael Clarke with 90 Tests, then Shane Watson and Peter Siddle with just under 40 each.

India went in with three genuine spinners; Australia with one on a pitch that wouldn’t look out of place at Roland Garros.

All in all it looks pretty bleak for Australia – yet salvation is at hand if we follow the advice of an Englishman (not an English cricketer mind you).

In Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, the eponymous book is adorned with the words ‘Don’t Panic’.

Australian selectors would do well to heed those words when they sit down to select the team – and here’s a few reasons why:

Moises Henriques

Anyone picking Henriques as the only Australian batsman to hit two 50s in the match should be every punter’s new best friend. The all-rounder with the first-class batting average of 30 has shown his better-credentialled team mates how to play on dusty, turning wickets.

For sheer grit and determination his efforts are akin to Steve Waugh’s back in 1996, when he too managed to drag Australia away from an innings defeat and back into respectability.

Messrs Cowan, Hughes and Wade would do well to take note.

MS Dhoni

Seems odd to include the man who scored a magnificent double-century against you here, yet the Indian captain’s innings is definitely a reason not to panic.

Dhoni came in with the score 4-196 after Lyon bowled Tendulkar. Had Australia snaffled another quick wicket, India would have been well over 100 behind with only five wickets in hand – a very useful situation to be in.

That they didn’t is full credit to Dhoni and Virat Kohli, but the Indian batsmen aren’t as infallible as some would have you believe.

Young, smart bowlers

For all the collective gnashing of teeth about Nathan Lyon’s efforts, let’s not forget he’s only 25. To use a contemporary example, Graeme Swann was only 20 when first called up to the English side.

More famous for his poor attitude and soaking his fingers in urine than his off-spinning, Swann only came good after moving from his home county of Northamptonshire and learning to listen. Lyon, thankfully, is known to listen and tends to improve over the course of a series.

Likewise James Pattinson, who made a mockery of the slowness of the pitch by pitching it up and bowling fast. Both will need to fire for Australia to come back; don’t bet against either.

India’s team is unbalanced

Can anyone tell me what Bhuvneshwar Kumar does? He’s bowled 13 overs, hasn’t looked like taking a wicket and contributes less than a dead man does to a conversation.

Harbhajan Singh hasn’t bowled that well, and India can’t keep relying on Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to take every single wicket. Dhoni needs more options lest the Australians start following Henriques’ lead and working out their own ways of playing the spinners.

The best players are playing

Of the XI that played this Test, can a strong argument be made that someone better’s waiting in the wings?

If Cowan gets dropped for Watson, then Australia don’t lose much by Khawaja coming in; likewise if Mitchell Johnson replaces Mitchell Starc. But would spinners Glenn Maxwell or Xavier Doherty be a better bet, more incisive than Peter Siddle? I think not.

So if we’re not to panic, what next? Given the news that Jackson Bird is heading home for scans on his back, the only definite change I’d bring in would be swapping the Mitchells around, with Johnson’s experience in India making him the better option for now.

Given the English cricketers came back from 1-0 down not so long ago, it’s important to heed that other Englishman’s advice and Don’t Panic.

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