Border-Gavaskar Trophy preview

Kersi Meher-Homji Roar Rookie

By Kersi Meher-Homji, Kersi Meher-Homji is a Roar Rookie

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    Mitchell Starc has broken the 160kmh mark. (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

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    Call it a split personality disorder. Call it a home town bully syndrome. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy was inaugurated in 1996-97 and so far 32 Tests have been played with Australia leading India 14-12.

    But wait for the home advantage stats. In Australia, the home team leads 10-2 (with three drawn). Contrast this with India leading 10-4 in India (with three drawn).

    These figures are worth considering as Australia is about to start the tour of India soon with the first Test on the spin-friendly Chennai strip commencing on the 22nd.

    Apart from the omission of NSW off-spinner Steve O’Keefe, the leading wicket-taker in Sheffield Shield so far this season, the team is well-balanced.

    My first reaction on the team selection: why a squad of 17? Will there be the repeat of the rotation policy which divided the nation and weakened the team morale in 2012-13?

    My second reaction: there are too many fast bowlers for a tour of India. It would be OK for England, New Zealand or South Africa. But five quickies for India?

    John Inverarity and his co-selectors should have watched the India-England Test series late last year. It was won and lost because of England’s spinners Graeme Swann and ‘Monty’ Panesar.

    True, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith (who rarely bowls these days) and Xavier Doherty are so far ugly ducklings compared to the match-winning Swann and Monty. But before the recent Test series in India, Monty was not considered good enough and was dropped in the first Test, the only Test England lost.

    Australian off-spinner Jason Krejza was not expected to do much in India but surprised everyone by claiming 12 wickets (including an 8-fer) in his Test debut in Nagpur in November 2008. But in Australia he appeared ineffective.

    So do not give up on Lyon, Doherty and Smith. One of them will surprise us as February turns to March.

    I think five fast bowlers (Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Jackson Bird, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle) is a luxury on India’s grassless tracts. But this is an insurance against injuries. I’ll open the attack with Starc and Bird or Johnson, with Siddle as the first change.

    I predict that Siddle will be an outstanding success on the tour.

    Although Mike Hussey will be missed, Australia’s batting is strong. There are four openers: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes and Shane Watson.

    I’d use Usman Khawaja at no. 3 or 4, followed by skipper Michael Clarke, Glenn Maxwell ahead of Moises Henriques and Smith.

    Matthew Wade is the lone wicket-keeper in the squad. Brad Haddin should be ready with pads and gloves, inoculations, plane ticket, passport and visa in case there is an SOS.

    The best news for the touring Aussie team is that India is in a state of disarray. Their tormentors Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble have retired while Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Harbhajan Singh are in poor form.

    Also their captain MS Dhoni reportedly has been critical of the “selfish” attitude of Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag.

    But somehow the Indian team unites when Australia tours.

    So beware Clarke, of the Ides of March, which falls on the second day of the third Test!

    Kersi Meher-Homji
    Kersi Meher-Homji

    Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.

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    The Crowd Says (57)

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 4:37am
      Jamiej said | February 2nd 2013 @ 4:37am | ! Report

      Well balanced?? I dunno-the selection of Maxwell and Smith is just insane in my books. Smith has got runs in the shield, but there are a lot of better batsmen out there. Same for Maxwell.

      And the notion that they are somehow suddenly ‘all-rounders’ is facile. Maxwell bowls darts and Smith just doesn’t bowl much anymore!

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 5:40am
      AndyMack said | February 2nd 2013 @ 5:40am | ! Report

      Again. Well Balanced??? Then you follow that up with “there are too many fast bowlers”. Thats means it is not well balanced.

      And if you are expecting X to do a similar job to monty this series, you are expecting our bone-headed selectors (yes i will stick with that) to actually pick 2 spinners (im not counting Maxwell as a spinner) and then expecting X to perform about 100 times better than he does in Aust domestic FC cricket. Not going to happen im afraid.

      Sad thing is we have the team to beat India in India, but we wont pick them. No wonder we are a laughing stock internationally – you only need to see the comments on cricinfo articles to see this.


      • February 3rd 2013 @ 11:04am
        Renegade said | February 3rd 2013 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        Regardless of whether i agree with the side picked or not, it’s still good enough to beat India and i think we will beat them.

      • February 4th 2013 @ 11:00am
        matt h said | February 4th 2013 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        I’m pretty sure laughing stock is a bit rich. We got very close the South Africans and cleaned up the Sri Lankans this summer. We beat the West Indies away before that and India at hame before that. We beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and drew with South Africa away. That’s not a laughing stock, that’s solid.

        South Africa proved too good, which was not a surprise with their side. England may also prove too good, especially at home. that certainly does not equal laughing stock.

        • February 4th 2013 @ 1:04pm
          Bearfax said | February 4th 2013 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

          We’ve won recent tests on the back of outstanding performances by Clarke and Hussey and some pretty decent bowling led by Siddle. That’s what saved us otherwise, yes we would have been a laughing stock

    • Columnist

      February 2nd 2013 @ 6:58am
      Kris Swales said | February 2nd 2013 @ 6:58am | ! Report

      All gnashing of teeth about some head-scratching decisions in the Aussie squad aside, the fact that India are rebuilding as well means we should at least get a close series.

      Though I secretly hope this is Sachin’s last hurrah and he turns it on for old time’s sake.

    • February 2nd 2013 @ 7:44am
      Kersi Meher-Homji said | February 2nd 2013 @ 7:44am | ! Report

      Jamiej and Andy Mack, The contradiction in my post can be explained as under:
      I agree having 5 quickies is unwise. But they are selected as an insurance for break down. Therefore a squad of 17 instead of 15. Remove two just-in-case injured / tired quickies, and you have a balanced squad.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 8:10am
        AndyMack said | February 2nd 2013 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        Remove Maxwell, Johnson and Henriques and we have a balanced squad.

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 11:48am
        Jamiej said | February 2nd 2013 @ 11:48am | ! Report

        Kersi, point taken. I actually think that the make-up of the side (if the 3 almost allrounders are left to one side) isn’t too bad. The quicks are a good fit for the conditions. Johnson has actually gone alright in India when he’s been there before and the rest pick themselves.

        It’s just that I can’t understand (1) why Smith and Maxwell are seen as genuine test quality allrounders, and (2) how anyone expects Xavier Doherty to get a wicket. We’re turning into England circa 1990-2002, desperate for an allrounder and picking anyone-Maxwell and Smith are our version of guys like Mark Ealham, Adam Hollioake and Ronnie Irani.

        Just don’t get where the Panel is going!

        • February 3rd 2013 @ 11:07am
          Renegade said | February 3rd 2013 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          Won’t it be funny if Doherty comes back as the leading wicket taker of the series….i’m willing to back him here.

          If he fails, then we know he won’t be near a baggy green ever again.

    • Roar Guru

      February 2nd 2013 @ 8:29am
      sheek said | February 2nd 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      Good morning Kersi,

      I drew flack when I suggested that many of the 17 players to India were in a face-off for tour positions to England, & that the tests in India would be used as trials for Ashes tests.

      At least one respondent was indignant at the thought tests were now being used as trials. But unfortunately, that is how the world is turning. I don’t like it, but there you have it.

      Maxwell & Smith I suspect, are competing for one spot to England as backup spinning all-rounder. An extra paceman will take the other position. Doherty as second specialist spinner will be dropped, His place taken by a second keeper.

      The batting could see one or two changes depending on how those going to India perform.

      Many Aussie fans are trashing the selections. but the alternatives offered are basically a straight swap anyway & come to personal preferences rather than adding quality.

      Aussie fans need to grit their teeth & ride out this low through in quality of the national team. Unfortunately, it is part of the cycle of sporting teams.

      Nevertheless, there are disturbing signs beneath the surface that CA needs to take its concentration off BBL & back to fostering junior cricket. There appear to be problems there with participation numbers & coaching standards.

    • Roar Pro

      February 2nd 2013 @ 8:56am
      aggregated drupe said | February 2nd 2013 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      Why would you pick Doherty ahead of SO’K?????

      • Roar Guru

        February 2nd 2013 @ 9:11am
        sheek said | February 2nd 2013 @ 9:11am | ! Report


        I might have some answers but not ALL the answers……….!

      • February 2nd 2013 @ 2:24pm
        Neil said | February 2nd 2013 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

        Ummm, well, one of the reasons might be that Doherty has a superior average over the past three and half seasons!

        Since the 2009/10 season, when both Doherty and and O’Keefe returned to their state first XIs after three or so years in the first class wilderness, O’Keefe has played 23 shield matches for 63 wickets at 28.4. Doherty has played 20 shield matches for 56 wickets at 27.9. So up until last week’s match Doherty was ahead on wickets as well, and further ahead on average. They have played head-to-head only twice in that time, for virtually identical returns (O’Keefe 1/50 and 3/113; Doherty 0/18 and 3/112). Add to this the fact that O’Keefe’s figures are possibly boosted by playing half his matches at the spin-friendly SCG, and you can begin to understand why the selectors might opt for Doherty in a line-ball decision.

        That said, I agree with Kersi: I think the squad really needs three specialist spinners (including O’Keefe) and one less quickie.

        • February 2nd 2013 @ 2:37pm
          Bearfax said | February 2nd 2013 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

          Interesting points Neil. I think I would still have taken O’Keefe because if they are that close and O’Keefe is way ahead this season, in this case I would have taken the form player. But your comments are quite valid.

          • February 2nd 2013 @ 3:10pm
            Neil said | February 2nd 2013 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

            Agreed Bearfax, but form can sometimes be a hard thing to pin down. I’m not sure that you can really draw a form line to the present time through the limited amount of FC bowling Doherty had three months ago (just 53 overs in four matches, mostly on massively pace-friendly tracks with five totals under 150). For a spinner, as for a batsman, form is a mental thing as much as anything. O’Keefe is clearly in good form, but I don’t think it is that unreasonable to say that Doherty’s current form is OK too (albeit in a different format).

            • February 2nd 2013 @ 3:21pm
              Bearfax said | February 2nd 2013 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

              But then would it not be logical if their bowling tends to be equal, to look at other aspects of their game such as batting. I mean when we take a player overseas we take them as a package deal not just exclusively as a bowler for example. Khawaja for example, despite his fine batting average was being denied a place on the Australian side reportedly because of his fielding. Cosgrove misses out despite having one of the best first class batting averages because of his weight and therefore his speed. Wade’s batting tends to put him ahead of other wicket keepers. Same applies with bowlers who almost always have to bat during a test. Shouldnt the same rule of thumb apply therefore between O’Keefe and Doherty.

        • February 2nd 2013 @ 2:56pm
          Neil said | February 2nd 2013 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

          Sorry guys, I need to make a correction here. Doherty only has 55 wickets since 2009, so his average is also 28.4 (actually still fractionally lower than O’Keefe’s). Nonetheless, it’s still a line-ball decision. O’Keefe is the better batsman; Doherty has more international experience and plays most of his shield matches on tougher tracks. The real point is that the difference between them isn’t as stark as many Roarers believe.

          • Roar Guru

            February 2nd 2013 @ 3:19pm
            JGK said | February 2nd 2013 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

            It is this season though. Hence our dismay.

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