HENRY: Terrible Australian selections set the tone in India
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Australia's spinner Nathan Lyon. AP Photo/Andres Leighton
Where to start with the dog’s breakfast of a performance that Australia dished up in India?
Coaching, selecting, batting, unbalanced XIs (with an eye and half on the Ashes), inexperienced and unqualified slow bowlers who are asked to open the batting, management, the system?
Not to mention discipline, ‘insubordination’ and a crap attitude.
These would usually be the surgeon’s menu for dissecting a football (insert appropriate code acronym here) team’s ability to finish with the wooden spoon then trash a dressing room/hotel room/library when they mistook it for a fast food franchise.
Australian cricket, at the elite level at least, is in considerable chaos.
The challenges of a Test series in India are always significant, although considerably less so in 2013 from the survivability viewpoint.
In 1959-60 several players returned from India with serious doses of hepatitis. Gordon Rorke, the hulking NSW and Gordon fast – very fast – left-armer lost six stones (almost 20 kgs) and never regained his pace and hostility.
Gavin Stephens never played cricket again let alone represent his state or country. He was very close to death.
Cholera, typhoid and hepatitis were daily threats. Five-star hotels are now the norm for international tourists and cricketers. There are neutral umpires. They have no excuses.
The current Australian team’s greatest threat was cramps from signing too many autographs or texting their sponsors for more freebies.
21st century India is a delight for tourists and a heaven if you might be a cricketer of any standard.
Playing against competent spin – and you wouldn’t put Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja or Pragyan Ohja in the genius pot but certainly in the ‘tough to play on the those made-to-order bunsens’ – was the difficult bit. Not life-threatening but possibly career-threatening.
The Australian XI for the first Test, on a pitch with a surface as readable and dog eared as a Fifty Shades of Grey novel, was seam bowling-heavy and declared the best attack they could muster.
Missing the obvious – that pitches that spin usually make spinners more effective, just as pitches that seam do for seamers.
Nathan Lyon took a ‘seven-for’ eventually, because the pitch at Delhi spun and bounced at varying heights. He would have been expected to take more wickets than anyone else, and he did.
Well bowled Nathan, after he (or his confidants) finally worked out he could be effective bowling around the wicket. This fundamental tactic was ignored for three Tests.
Elite coaches, bowling coaches in particular, are supposed to know this stuff. But can we wave a feather duster at the bowling coach, Allister de Winter, who may not have seen a single ball deviate for the slow men in his playing career at Bellerive?
He could not direct Lyon to pitch wide into the acres of rubble created by follow throughs and batting spikes and Lyon had little knowledge to work his own tricks.
He kept his mantra of ‘keeping it tight’ and monotonous, discarding the taking of risk in search of greater reward.
But one of the main reasons for the lack of experience of any of the slow men, besides their youth and comparatively few matches, is that Australian first class pitches don’t spin any more. Even the SCG has become infected with green grass.
The final Sheffield Shield match pitch at the SCG looked like a putting surface at the Australian Open and promising leggie Adam Zampa was made 12th man – the correct decision for the pitch but not for the future of Australian cricket.
South Australia imported a captain who bowled slow without great effect, hardly a positive for the Redbacks or Australian cricket on a pitch where spin at least has some chance to prosper.
The new drop-ins at the famous ground will be yet another knife between the ribs of spin bowling.
Cameron Boyce bowled only 101 Shield overs this season and Fawad Ahmed has been imported, away from personal peril, having learnt his stuff on the ant beds of Pakistan’s North West Frontier province.
This may be the way toward the next Shane Warne because the pitch makers of this country are certainly not contributing.
It used to be that spinners would always play at Adelaide and Sydney, MCG maybe, but not so much since drop-in pitches aided the centre bounce.
Bellerive was a road, Perth and Brisbane did not suit spin unless you had an all-rounder but the high risk leggies would often get three matches maybe plus a tour game to wheel their wares.
More spinners bowling means batsmen have to learn how to play them, it’s a double whammy. If you played your home games at the SCG or Adelaide Oval then you had better have an idea about how to bat, survive, then prosper against spin.
Slow bowling in T20 and ODI stuff is flat, predictable and appropriate, the method does not help Test or first class bowlers one bit – exemplar Xavier Doherty.
The Australian team have raced backward in India. The batting order and those who might fill it is confused, the best wicketkeeper-batsman-leader and potential captain played one Test, Nathan Lyon did improve, Xavier Doherty plummeted, we found out about Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson’s captaincy.
Australia’s next series will not be carried out on big turning pitches, although you never know what the Poms might produce given their outstanding series win in India.
Whatever they come up with might not matter given the state of the Australians.
Time to bring in players with form, coaches with experience and selectors that can tell an apple from an orange.
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.