Can Australia get over Homework-Gate?

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Mitchell Johnson must be rested in the last Ashes Test (AAP).

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    The Australian cricket team faces one of its greatest tests of character over the next five days in the wake of the sensational of-field happenings of the past week.

    Trailing 2-nil in the four Test series it must produce an unlikely victory at Mohali to have any chance of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

    Even with a full complement of players to choose from it was going to be a tough assignment but with the standing down of Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson, the task has become infinitely harder.

    On paper prior to the series, Mohali was always going to be the venue that would most suit the Australian attack.

    Unlike Chennai and Hyderabad, and Delhi to come, the pitch at the Punjab Cricket Association ground is not the typical spin-friendly Indian venue.

    While it will provide something for the slow men as the match wears on, history shows that the quicks will relish the surface more than most in India as it will provide more pace and bounce.

    Australia last played at the ground in October 2010 in the first Test of an abbreviated two-match series that coincided with the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

    The match ended in a heartbreaking one-wicket loss with the hosts nervously chasing down a target of 216 to win.

    Of the 39 wickets to fall over the five days, 25 of them fell to the pace bowlers – Zaheer Khan (8), Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger (5 apiece), Ben Hilfenhaus (4) and Ishant Sharma (3).

    That was a far cry from the opening Test of this series at Chennai where the Indian spinners alone captured all twenty Australian wickets.

    Australia’s handling of the ‘homeworkgate’ affair has left the tour selectors – of their own making – with very few pace options.

    With Pattinson and Johnson stood down and the refusal to fly in a replacement for the injured Jackson Bird, there are only two genuine fast bowlers available – Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc with all-rounder Moises Henriques on-hand to provide back-up.

    There are only thirteen men in total to choose from – although that is likely to be reduced to 12 with Matthew Wade struggling to overcome an ankle injury suffered while playing basketball between Tests.

    He was unable to train on the two days leading into the Test with Brad Haddin almost certain to end his 12-month exile from Test ranks having flown in a few days ago as cover.

    Starc will be returning to the side having made way for additional spin resources for the Hyderabad Test after failing to capture a wicket in the opening encounter through 25 overs which cost him 75 runs.

    Siddle, the team’s primary strike bowler over the Australian summer in the absence of an injured Pattinson, has once again been his usual lionhearted self but reward for effort has been scant with a return of 1-162 from 58.3 overs across both Tests.

    Hence, the absence of Pattinson will improve exceptionally telling.

    He has been the only consistently threatening Australian quick with eight wickets across the opening two Tests – the most by a pace bowler on either side – including 5-96 in India’s first innings at Chennai.

    Both Siddle and Starc will need to have a quantum leap in form, especially if Australia finds itself in the field on the opening day, if it is to restrict the Indian batting.

    Henriques, in his debut series, has been steady and economical – 1-93 off 38 overs – but seldom threatening.

    Taking in a pace battery that has just two wickets to its name through the first two Tests is hardly the stuff to inspire confidence.

    And then, of course, there is the spin department.

    Despite capturing four wickets on debut in the last Test, off-spinning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell will likely miss out.

    Nathan Lyon, Australia’s number one spinner for the 18 months leading into this series, was unceremoniously discarded after the opening Test on the back of match figures of 4-244 off 52.3 overs at Chennai.

    Doherty replaced him for Hyderabad and while more economical, he struggled to turn the ball and as a result never looked likely to pressure the Indian batsmen.

    But with Lyon certain to return the selectors are unlikely to want both he and Maxwell in the same XI given their economy rates so far in the series – 4.64 and 4.88 runs per over respectively.

    Doherty is likely to get the nod as the second spinner given he can likely tie up one end and allow Lyon to attack at the other.

    Lyon’s return to the fold will no doubt produce some raised eyebrows.

    After his axing following the first Test, coach Mickey Arthur said that he needed to go away and work on his confidence and his technique.

    Lyon then publicly denied that he had deficiencies in either area.

    The Indian selectors have finally lost patience with 104-Test veteran Virender Sehwag.

    His recent lean form at the top of the order has continued through the opening two Tests with his three innings producing just 27 runs.

    As a result of his absence the Indian top order, with regard to matches played, looks thin.

    While Sachin Tendulkar will be turning out for his 197th Test appearance, the remainder of the top-five number just 41 Tests between them – Virat Kohli (16), Murali Vijay (14), Cheteshwar Pujara (11), while Shikhar Dhawan will be making his debut.

    It may look light on experience but Pujara, Vijay and Kohli have each made centuries in the series and provided Michael Clarke and his men with numerous headaches.

    While the bowling combination that Australia will field poses little threat to India on disclosed form this series, its top-order batting also remains a problem.

    Khawaja’s inability to remember his homework assignment has seen him squander a certain recall.

    His slip-up has paved the way for the woefully out of form Phil Hughes to earn another cap.

    His four innings in the series have produced a mere 25 runs at a strike rate of 30.

    He has been akin to a bunny in the headlights when facing the spinners, falling to them on all four occasions in facing 37 balls without scoring a run.

    He may drop down to number four should Clarke, who has flagged his own promotion from number five, moves up to first drop.

    Openers David Warner (28.5) and Ed Cowan (27.2) have shown some girt at times but both have had several soft dismissals.

    One of the greatest hindrances to Cowan’s game is his inability to rotate the strike.

    His series strike rate of 36 has allowed the Indian spinners to drop seamlessly into a groove.

    Once again so much of Australia’s fortunes at the crease will rest with Clarke who has looked a cut above his teammates with 268 runs at 67.

    For the sake of the team he must approach the crease with a clear and uncluttered mind, despite the turmoils of the week.

    The likely inclusion of Brad Haddin for the injured Wade will bolster the batting as he is a fine player of spin.

    He has been in solid form for New South Wales in Sheffield Shield ranks this season – 468 runs at 52 – but he will need to make a rapid and smooth transition to Indian conditions.

    All in all, I expect the Australian side to show a considerable improvement on its first two outings – admittedly not a difficult task given the extremely low base it is coming from.

    But, victory is another matter.

    It is hard to see them breaking the home side’s unbeaten start to the series.

    One more victory by M S Dhoni’s men will see them regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

    It will be a much enjoyed and triumphal performance given the most recent series, in Australia last summer, was swept by Clarke’s team 4-nil.

    It is a stark reminder of just how quickly the wheel can turn.

    Australia will be hoping it can produce a similar turnaround between now and the end of the Ashes series in a few months’ time.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (34)

    • March 14th 2013 @ 9:29am
      Rock said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      I may just mention with all the talk around regarding Australia’s trouble’s, which no doubt at the moment are plentiful. But I honestly don’t think England have been playing that well, they struggled in NZ to just salvage a draw then there previous two series have been OK without setting the world on fire, plus the Swann injury is a massive loss for them.

      No doubt we are at a very low point in Australian cricket, the lowest point since the 80’s, but there are positives even if only one or two; we have a fairly potent pace attack (when all are fit) & the best batsmen in the world at present. Now the negatives far out way any positives at the present time, but all it takes is a swift kick up the behind/one or two good innings for things to turn around.

      I’m not saying I agree with what has happened, but if it makes our batsmen cherish their wicket and spot in the team so be it. I agree whole heartedly with what has been said about Clarkey’s player management, great tactical captain, terrible with the blokes; Mickey, hmmmm, no doubt he’s a great coach but I just don’t know if he’s suited to the Australian team; now the selector’s, these IMO are the biggest culprits of all and should be scanning for new careers, some of their selections have been diabolical which a 6 year old could do better, until they either pull their heads in a select a PROPER test side we’re going no where, they need the boot IMO with some fresh smart cricket blood in their; also get rid of Pat Howard, he’s useless.

      • March 14th 2013 @ 11:28am
        Disco said | March 14th 2013 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        Playing well or otherwise, England has a mostly settled, experienced team which is going to be massive favourites for the Ashes series regardless of how well Australia is looking.

        Australia would kill for a team capable of emerging with a draw from a perilous situation thanks to long second-innings application.

        Swann’s having an elbow operation. How does that stack up against Australia’s continual injury issues?

      • March 14th 2013 @ 11:40am
        Red Kev said | March 14th 2013 @ 11:40am | ! Report

        You don’t think England have been playing that well hey? Compared to South Africa, perhaps not, compared to everyone else – yes they are.
        They just beat India in India, a team we’ve capitulated to twice in a row, and batted out 5 and a half sessions to salvage a draw against New Zealand. Their batting order is as settled as Australia’s ever was in the 2000s and their brand new opener has just found his feet with a maiden century last match and just notching up a half-century as I post.
        As for Swann – he’s not out of the Ashes yet, I expect to see him at Trent Bridge to be honest, he’ll do whatever he has to do to play.

        • March 14th 2013 @ 11:57am
          Praveen said | March 14th 2013 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          England will be a formidable opposition, no doubt about it

      • March 14th 2013 @ 12:26pm
        dasilva said | March 14th 2013 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        Let’s remember that England fought back to a draw away from home. Yes they struggled and played poorly in the first innings but they manage to redeem themselves. They are not an invincible side but they are a talented side with fighting spirit.

        Australia on the other hand lost to New Zealand at home

        I don’t think anyone barring Clarke (Even then he is more of a counterattacker when the team is in trouble) can be relied on a rearguard effort to save the match. If Australia was in that same position, i would say they would have lost that match comfortably. There’s no one barring Clarke can bat like a FAF or Cook who can be relied to bat all day with patience (even Clarke still hasn’t got the desparate match saving innings in his bank yet either as he doesn’t have the equivalence of the ponting century in the 2005 ashes).

        Before someone mention Cowan, his ability to tough it out for the entire day is mostly theoretical due to his defensive style of play rather than in practice as he normally gets out in the 20s or 30s when set.

      • March 14th 2013 @ 9:34pm
        nickyc said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:34pm | ! Report

        England’s batting line-up is pretty decent.

        Cook 49.38 av.
        Compton 47.22
        Trott 51.41
        Pietersen 48.97
        Bell 46.73
        Root 32.33 (only 2 tests)
        Prior 43.23

        They have 80+ test hundreds to their names.

    • Roar Guru

      March 14th 2013 @ 9:45am
      sheek said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      Glenn,

      I doubt it.

      This is a divided team quickly being diced up into mince meat. Pretty soon it’ll be mush.

      What’s CA’s answer – send in the shrink? (Send in the clowns might have been better).

      Shane Warne has been a bit erratic lately, but I much prefer his advice on this – “Get on the drink.”

      Anyone from my generation or thereabouts (50s through 90s) would understand the significance of his advice.

      • March 14th 2013 @ 9:47am
        Red Kev said | March 14th 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Yeah I saw they’d sent in a shrink to offer counselling to the players. This in addition to the HR goon who was already over there.
        I think Australia might salvage this test to be a loss by less than an innings (oh how far we’ve fallen).

        • March 14th 2013 @ 11:59am
          Praveen said | March 14th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

          Agree with warne, get them all in a room and talk about this over a beer, that’s the way boof suggested as well not the way arthur is doing it

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2013 @ 12:26pm
        Andy_Roo said | March 14th 2013 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        Sheek,

        You must be joking. Get on the drink? That worked brilliantly for our swimmers didn’t it.

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2013 @ 12:40pm
          sheek said | March 14th 2013 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

          Andy_Roo,

          Unfortunately, no-one explained to these modern day, wet-behind-the-ears swimmers, there’s a time & place for everything….. 😉

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2013 @ 1:21pm
            Andy_Roo said | March 14th 2013 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

            Hi Sheek,

            I agree there is a time and place for having a drink to build team spirit. India (or on any tour once it has started) is not the place and now, in the context of the Australian teams situation is definitely not the time.
            Pre-season and post-season and in moderation.
            Unfortunately most of the bad news stories we hear about sports people these days involve alcohol.

          • Roar Pro

            March 14th 2013 @ 11:50pm
            albatross said | March 14th 2013 @ 11:50pm | ! Report

            You’d expect them to be wet behind the ears – they’re bleedin’ swimmers aren’t they?

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2013 @ 6:17pm
        Rabbitz said | March 14th 2013 @ 6:17pm | ! Report

        Well it couldn’t hurt, however it is probably outside the players behavioural code and they would be shit-scared to even look at a beer in the mini-bar…

    • March 14th 2013 @ 10:23am
      Justin2 said | March 14th 2013 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      Terrible headline! As terrible as this whole fiasco is…

      • March 14th 2013 @ 11:26am
        Football_illiterate said | March 14th 2013 @ 11:26am | ! Report

        Can journos get over adding “gate” to the end of the word to imply scandal? Its so tediously repetitive and completely irrelevant. It happened over 40 years ago for *&#@ sake!!

        • March 14th 2013 @ 12:28pm
          dasilva said | March 14th 2013 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

          I never thought the whole -gate thing would get any more sillier when we experience utegate with K. Rudd but this homework gate manage to top that.

        • Roar Pro

          March 14th 2013 @ 1:16pm
          boes said | March 14th 2013 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

          Agreed, Headline-gate is out of control.

    • March 14th 2013 @ 10:54am
      Roger said | March 14th 2013 @ 10:54am | ! Report

      I really want to find out what was submitted by the compliant 11!
      Surely they owe it to the public to release these gems to show the standard that is expected.
      After this I need a good laugh.

    • March 14th 2013 @ 11:01am
      kid said | March 14th 2013 @ 11:01am | ! Report

      Good Mornninnggg miiiister arrrth-urrrrrrrrr…….

    • March 14th 2013 @ 12:22pm
      JamestheOriginal said | March 14th 2013 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

      Insofar as the developing argument about corporate influence let us please accept that modern day sports people performances are well above previous performances in virtually all cases. It is not that previous sporting heroes were inferior. Just that their performances were not as good because of all sorts of thing including management.There are always exceptions of course – Bradman being the stand out in cricket. But do you seriously think he would have performed as well against the modern teams? I think he would still have finished well above anyone else but not with an average of over 99.
      That is the nature of things about evolution. We get bigger, healthier,stronger,live longer,perform better because of better training,nutrition etc. You can write down hundreds of reasons.That is why discussions about who was the best batsman etc are really pointless. Modern day players perform at a much higher level than those in the past.The competitive environment is far more demanding today than in the past. And it will get tougher and people will perform better ad infinitum.(or at least until the viruses and bacteria finally decide to get rid of us!) Keith Miller was one of my heroes but if he turned up today against modern day England or South Africa you may get a shock at how long he would last. Those days are gone forever. I went to school with guys who gave up sport after they left school or Uni and were far better than guys who went on to become famous internationals. Now, because they can earn really big bucks, they tend to stay on and so the competition becomes greater than ever before.
      I hate the corporate logos on the team uniforms, the naming of stadiums for some twaddle corporate entity and all the other paraphanalia that goes with modern day corporate influence on all sport.
      But that is the price of the vastly superior performances we see today.
      The older I get the better I was syndrome is just BS. Today you have to perform at close to your maximum skill and physical ability or you soon fall by the wayside.
      Darwin had good name for it – look it up.

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