Former Australia coach Darren Lehmann reveals who he would select in the team’s top order for the series opener against Pakistan in November.
The backlash against the Australian cricket team is not unlike that against England in the wake of their 5-0 drubbing. Then, an upstart Australian group ended the careers of many English cricketers.
Calls were made to alter the pitches in England to better cope with pace and bounce in Australia. Similar calls are now being made in Australia to cope better with seam and swing. The roles have reversed.
In last few years, both countries have traded turmoil following an Ashes campaign, because the Ashes is the pinnacle of cricket for them.
South Africa often make such noises after their World Cup campaigns, but bar the 2003 debacle, careers seldom end in a heap.
New Zealand changed their system of selection and management during the transition from Ross Taylor to Brendon McCullum in what seems the only example of change providing long-lasting, proven results.
India has had no such troubles – winning and whitewashes are secondary to the money and the previous achievements.
Australia were just awful on the first days of the last two Tests – the bowling was good but nowhere close to what we have seen in last few years. Current bowlers in England, South Africa, now New Zealand are just better equipped to bowl in the seaming-swinging conditions. Even India beat England recently on a green Lord’s pitch. This Australian attack was just not good enough to exploit the conditions.
Mitchell Starc has taken a bucketload of wickets, but they have come with balls where the pitch was hardly in the equation. Josh Hazlewood, for all the talk of being McGrath-esque, has a long way to go.
Winning away from home has always been difficult. Australia needs better preparation for seaming conditions, but this has been the case for over a decade now. More settled Aussie teams have struggled against South Africa, England and Pakistan, so a change in personnel wouldn’t alter that.
There is no quick fix. Pick young cricketers, invest for the long term, lose the cheap talk, and prepare a lot better. Steven Smith was disappointing as captain against India and he will also take time to learn his trade.
Being on the wrong side of 30, this should be the end of Shaun Marsh, Shane Watson and Adam Voges. Selectors have to take a call on Peter Siddle – either play him at the Oval in place of Mitch Johnson or let it go. Pat Cummins should come in for Josh Hazlewood. Mitch Marsh should be given a longer rope.
In familiar conditions, this young group would thrash the West Indies, draw the series with New Zealand, and be ready for their first stern Test in South Africa.
The next Ashes will likely be a hard-fought series between two matured teams. If Australia win, all will be right with the world again.
It is just the name of the game – compressed first-class cricket seasons, the focus on different bowling skills for T20s, the patience expected in T20s, and no centralised agenda over domestic pitches. Case in point – Joe Root for being the leading run scorer could not just abstain from the drive on a seaming pitch against Starc, who was finally bowling in a good channel on the second morning. He played and missed a couple within six balls, couldn’t resist and that was it.
In the words of a great philosopher of our time, Rust Cohle, “Time is a flat circle. Everything we’ve ever done or will do we’re gonna do over and over and over again.”
Keep calm, lose the talk, prepare a hell lot better.