How should the Australian cricket team rate their summer?

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Is the 4-0 Ashes series win all that matters from this Australian international cricket summer, or does the lost One-Day International series to England take the gloss off it?

    At the end of the first week in January, there were few problems with the Australian cricket team.

    The bowling unit was – and still is, to be fair – probably the best in Test cricket. Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon took 23, 22, 21, and 21 wickets respectively. Nine England bowlers took 55 wickets between them, by comparison.

    Nine batsmen made more than 300 runs across the Ashes series, and five of them were Australian. Three of those Australians made more than 400. Steve Smith finished with 687.

    With the possible exception of Cameron Bancroft, who has still shown plenty of promise this summer, and perhaps Jackson Bird’s bowling in Melbourne, there really wasn’t much to worry about.

    The selectors made two hugely debateable and contentious calls at the start of the series, and both Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine repaid the faith and had impressive series.

    Peter Handscomb battled early, was dropped – even though the selectors made it sound like it was a horses-for-courses decision – and Mitchell Marsh exploded in his place.

    Mitch Marsh

    (Photo by Philip Brown/Getty Images)

    Even not playing Chadd Sayers in Adelaide was the right call.

    At the end of the first week in January, everything looked pretty bloody rosy indeed. What could possibly go wrong from here?

    Well, in short, everything.

    The rolling back of the all-out attacking batting that had been at the crux of so many Test collapses in the previous few years suddenly meant the one-day batting struggled to finish off promising starts.

    Australia’s tactic of starting strongly in the powerplay, before consolidating and ‘accumulating’ runs through the middle order produced targets that might have taken some getting five years ago, but have become pretty standard and very gettable in the last two.

    The best Test bowling attack in the game, minus its key off-spinning foil, suddenly looked very run-of-the-mill and well, hittable.

    Australia’s ODI game plan which had not that long ago delivered a World Cup, suddenly looked not just old, but ancient.

    And then there was the performances of the senior players; the very same players who were clinical in their dismantling of England during The Ashes were now firing on maybe not even half of all their cylinders.

    Smith struggled for runs. David Warner’s output was even worse. Starc, Hazlewood, and Cummins were ‘managed’ through the series, and though they took wickets at reasonable strike rates and with decent economy, they were all guilty of bowling wrong lines and lengths at times.

    Steve Smith walks off after being dismissed

    (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    And with only one bouncer per over allowed in ODIs, English batsman went after them after said bouncer was inevitably delivered early in an over.

    What became obviously needed after the first loss, and was confirmed mid-series, was that ‘full review’ of how Australia tackles one-day cricket would be conducted. It was the sort of thing usually reserved for not just lost Test series – and lost Ashes series in particular – but heavy Test series losses.

    And everything is apparently on the table: Should Smith remain captain? Are the power hitters needed at the top of the order, or down lower? Are there too many allrounders or not enough? Should Nathan Lyon be recalled (again)? Is there enough variation in the bowling?

    Are the coaches developing the right game plans? Are more specialist players required?

    Are specialist selectors required?

    By the end of the one-dayers, it appears on the surface that Australia put so many eggs in the Ashes basket that minimal thought was put into the ODIs at all. As has been written and spoken of widely over the last month is that England are a much different team playing much different cricket when the colour of the ball changes from red to white.

    Yet Australia either didn’t recognise that – a horrendous failure in planning – or couldn’t see that its’ own tactics since the last World Cup have been ineffective – a horrendous failure in reviewing past performances.

    The Test team looks well settled for the most part. Steve Waugh used to say that it was rare that every player in a Test XI would be in top form, and that the team unit usually had to ‘carry’ a player or two. That’s about where the team is after the Ashes win.

    Shaun Marsh

    (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    But the one-day performances do bring all that down by a good way, and if the Australians are honest with themselves, they must recognise and acknowledge that. England can take plenty of positives out of the one-day series and see if they can be applied to their Test team, which might soon be due for the same kind of overhaul that their one-day side undertook after the 2015 World Cup.

    Australia has no such positives to take out of the ODIs. They best they can hope for is that the promised review really does look at all aspects and identifies some pretty obvious failings a few years out from the next World Cup.

    So how should the Australian cricket team rate their summer?

    A tick above average, if they’re honest with themselves. I don’t think they have the luxury of compartmentalising the ratings, because compartmentalising the planning is what has got them in this current position.

    Performances over the summer started off well; very well in fact. But the dramatic tailing off over the one-day series can’t be ignored, particularly when the biggest drop-off came from senior players.

    The review should make for very interesting reading, if indeed it becomes publicly acknowledged.

    Until then, I think it’s time to start watching some rugby…

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (48)

    • February 1st 2018 @ 7:46am
      Christo the Daddyo said | February 1st 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      All of that and still not one word about the coaching.

      I find the media’s lack of attention to the coaching performance astounding.

      • February 1st 2018 @ 7:58am
        Jameswm said | February 1st 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Why don’t you tell us your thoughts on the coaching?

      • Columnist

        February 1st 2018 @ 9:51am
        Brett McKay said | February 1st 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        “Are the coaches developing the right game plans? Are more specialist players required?”

        Doesn’t that count, Christo?

        • February 1st 2018 @ 9:57am
          Christo the Daddyo said | February 1st 2018 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          OK, I might have exaggerated a little…;)

          But my underlying point remains valid I think. There seems to be a huge focus on the players and the level of performance. And deathly silence around the coaching. Which seems to be the polar opposite of what the general commentary was like under previous coaching regimes. I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but Lehmann’s reign as coach seems to have largely escaped any serious scrutiny – quite different from how it used to be.

          • Columnist

            February 1st 2018 @ 12:19pm
            Brett McKay said | February 1st 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

            Yeah, and I don’t disagree with you, for what it’s worth. I think Hick’s appointment as batting coach has definitely marked some improvements in the Test batting, but I’m not sure that’s continued to the ODI batting as yet…

          • February 1st 2018 @ 12:37pm
            Pope Paul VII said | February 1st 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

            Lehmann is pretty good at playing a deflection.

          • February 1st 2018 @ 1:18pm
            jameswm said | February 1st 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

            I don’t necessarily disagree either Christo – but tell us your opinion on how the coaching has gone/is going.

    • February 1st 2018 @ 7:57am
      Jameswm said | February 1st 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      I think the test team finished off only carrying one player, though the top 3 generally was an issue after the first 3 games.

    • Roar Guru

      February 1st 2018 @ 8:29am
      mds1970 said | February 1st 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      The aim for the summer was to regain the Ashes. Successfully achieved.
      The ODI series was an anti-climax after the Tests. I don’t think we’re any closer to having the World Cup squad worked out yet.

    • February 1st 2018 @ 8:49am
      Peeeko said | February 1st 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      I think they are two different teams and should be judged that way

      • February 1st 2018 @ 9:57am
        jameswm said | February 1st 2018 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        They are and should – but unfortunately Lehmann, Smith and the selectors aren’t seeing them that way.

        • Columnist

          February 1st 2018 @ 12:20pm
          Brett McKay said | February 1st 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

          Entirely my point. And why I lumped them all in together…

        • February 1st 2018 @ 2:50pm
          Perry Bridge said | February 1st 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

          3 separate teams.

          And we saw when S.Smith a couple of years ago – after a fling in the IPL – was recalled to replace Finch as Aust T20 capt (which then saw Finch out of the starting XI at the T20 WC) – only for Smith to need a rest subsequently – illustrating that the load was not sustainable anyway.

          That surely was a clear indication that one nation, 3 teams, one captain wasn’t a comfortable equation.

        • February 1st 2018 @ 6:06pm
          Fionn said | February 1st 2018 @ 6:06pm | ! Report

          Agreed Peeeko and James.

    • February 1st 2018 @ 8:50am
      Brendon said | February 1st 2018 @ 8:50am | ! Report

      We still have the T20 tri-series to go. Considering we’re hosting the T20 world cup in 2020 it is important. If we win the tri-series then its a good summer, 2nd average and if we come last then slightly below average.

      As for ODI cricket Australia has dominated enough for the past 20 years. 4/5 world cups. I’d like to see either England, New Zealand or South Africa win in 2019 world cup.

      Remember Australia lost 2006-07 tri-series to England after beating them 5-0 in the tests.

      • Columnist

        February 1st 2018 @ 9:54am
        Brett McKay said | February 1st 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Yeah, I don’t discount the T20I performances at all Brendon, for the reasons you rightly point out.

        But Mark Waugh is a specialist T20 selector. A very different squad of specialists has been picked, and will be coached by a new-look coaching unit.

        But the Test and ODI sides are much more interrelated in all those areas, hence the timing of this after both series have been completed…

      • February 1st 2018 @ 9:58am
        jameswm said | February 1st 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        “I’d like to see either England, New Zealand or South Africa win in 2019 world cup”.

        OK. I’d like to see Australia win every game and smash whoever in the final.

    • Roar Guru

      February 1st 2018 @ 9:00am
      The Bush said | February 1st 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      As Brendon says – bit early Brett – if we come last in this T20 Tri-Series (a real possibility) then the summer has been a failure to me.

      While we didn’t quite get to a 5-0 drubbing, the Ashes played out exactly as everyone predicted. If people are being honest, this was probably the worst English touring side for a generation or two (ever?). It’s probably worse than anything sent here in the ’90s – at least those England sides had to face up to a giant of an Australian team (something this team is not). As hard as it sounds, beating England 3 or 4 nil is only a pass mark. They did exactly as they should have.

      The ODI series has been a total failure and England were always going to present a much bigger challenge there.

      So if we’re being honest, the summer in total has been a failure so far (one pass and one failure = failure).

      • February 1st 2018 @ 11:55am
        Basil said | February 1st 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

        Rubbish.
        It’s a two horse race. If one fails the other succeeds. If Australia has failed then England are the victors. This just isn’t the case.
        The Ashes was the summer. Everything else is just a sideshow.

        • Roar Guru

          February 1st 2018 @ 4:32pm
          The Bush said | February 1st 2018 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

          Lucky it’s an opinion site!

        • February 1st 2018 @ 6:23pm
          Perthstayer said | February 1st 2018 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

          Basil……………….

          England one day series was the first lost on home soil since 2010.

          Oz have lost 11 of last 13 ODI’s.

          When Australia’s losing all of a sudden it’s a sideshow. Yet punters still buy tickets. Nice

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