Leave the Australian batting order alone

Red Kev Roar Guru

By Red Kev, Red Kev is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    A run of ducks in India? Doesn't matter, stick with the five blokes we've got. (AFP, Saeed Khan)

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    I’ve checked my article history and it seems that it is time for my annual piece calling for everyone to get their hands off it regarding Usman Khawaja.

    The talk of dropping Khawaja for the India tour is frankly ridiculous. It is indicative of a national cricketing discourse that has given up reason and sense for Twitter-esque instant gratification rather than the time and discipline required to build sustainable success.

    Let’s start here.

    Australia is not going to win in India. This is not up for debate or even in question.

    Playing India in India is the toughest assignment in world cricket. We’ve only won once in my lifetime and have to go back to the 1960s for the series win before that.

    This Australian side might jag a Test win, but expecting them to topple the world’s no.1 side over the course of a series in their own backyard is like expecting India’s batsmen to land in Australia and dominate a pace line-up comprised Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins.

    It just isn’t going to happen.

    Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravinda Jadeja on their home turf are as deadly a force as Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were on theirs. In the last two home series (against England and New Zealand) Ashwin took 55 wickets at 24 striking every 50 balls while Jadeja backed him up with 40 wickets at 25, striking every 65 balls.

    That is 62 per cent of the wickets to fall across eight Test matches. The last time Australia toured India, Ashwin took 29 wickets at 20 (striking every 50 balls) while Jadeja took 24 wickets at 17 (striking every 48 balls) for a total of 67 per cent of the wickets that fell over four Tests.

    These guys are destroyers who know just what to do on the pitches they have grown up playing on.

    Australia are going to lose. What the team needs to be doing is looking to improve on their last tour and ensuring that our best batting line-up of Matt Renshaw, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb gets as much experience as possible in unfamiliar conditions while on the tour.

    After the Indian series there is no more Test cricket until the summer Ashes at home (unless the Bangladesh tour re-emerges), the selectors need to leave this top five alone to bed down because it has the makings of something very special.

    Khawaja himself seems to be the focus of much of the discussion from fans, armchair selectors and so-called experts at the moment. Khawaja is currently the no.11 ranked Test batsman in world cricket. He is the third best of Australia’s batsmen.

    Adaptable and capable across all formats, Warner, Khawaja and Smith are the foundation of the batting line-up and should be listed at 2-3-4 in Tests, and at 1-2-3 in ODIs and T20s for the foreseeable future.

    Since returning from his knee reconstruction approximately 18 months ago, Khawaja’s scoring has been comfortably keeping pace with the best batsmen in the world.

    A Cricket Archive search starting in season 2015 reveals the following across all formats:
    SPD Smith 100 matches for 5645 runs @ 55.90
    DA Warner 99 matches for 5801 runs @ 50.88
    V Kohli 93 matches for 5011 runs @ 60.37
    JE Root 80 matches for 4948 runs @ 52.08
    UT Khawaja 64 matches for 3613 runs @ 50.89

    While I certainly see merit in the selection of Shaun Marsh as the extra batsman in the squad (56 matches for 2899 runs @ 45.29) in these figures, I see none in the dropping of Usman Khawaja from the side.

    Much of the commentary centres around Khawaja’s troubles with spin when playing outside Australia. Make no mistake, Khawaja has little trouble with spinners of any stripe playing on conditions he is familiar with in Australia.

    It is an amusing aside (bordering on cognitive dissonance) that everyone just accepts that Handscomb “looks comfortable” against spin in Australia and that it will therefore translate to success India, yet remains convinced the same is not applicable to Khawaja.

    Usman Khawaja one of the Boxing Day casualties

    Cite the Sri Lankan series as evidence of his struggles by all means, however acknowledge that you’re talking about four innings being all the grace one of our best batsmen is being given.

    Streaks of four single-digit scores have been weathered by both Smith and Warner in recent times without the axe falling. Rather famously a streak of four ducks in a row was posted in Sri Lanka by Mark Waugh without him being dropped from the national side.

    I don’t claim that Khawaja is going to become a dominant batsman on the subcontinent, I do think he has improved since he made his international debut and will continue to improve if he is taken on overseas tours and allowed to play rather than put under pressure for his spot immediately then dropped every time he has a very brief lean period.

    Fans, armchair selectors, and so-called ‘experts’ need to extend the full four Test matches of faith and patience to Usman Khawaja and the entire top five batting order because there really aren’t any better players in Australia that aren’t already in the Test side.

    Unfortunately Khawaja has been the national selection panel’s scapegoat since his debut and it seems unlikely to change.

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    The Crowd Says (63)

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2017 @ 7:43am
      DingoGray said | January 11th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Well said.

      Why can’t we play Shaun Marsh @ 6?

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:37am
        jameswm said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        1. He’s a left hander and ashwin eats them up. We already have 3 lefties in our top 3 and one at 7 (assuming Wade or Whiteman is the keeper).
        2. if India score big, a 5th bowler would help a lot.

        Having said that, Jadeja presumably likes right handers. I’d be very tempted to play Marsh at 6.

        And I do not subscribe to the theory that the series is unwinnable. How defeatist is that?

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:43am
        Matthew H said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        If Marsh is the best Aussie bat in the subcontinent then why can’t Warner and Khawaja open and Marsh come in at 3? Makes more sense than dropping Khawaja and retaining Renshaw.

        • Roar Guru

          January 11th 2017 @ 9:15pm
          Cadfael said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

          How many tests has Marsh played in India? If you said zero, then you are right. He has played two in SL but Sri Lanka is not India. I would leave the top six as they were in the third test. I would ditch Wade and play Whiteman or Nevill.

          • January 12th 2017 @ 12:22pm
            Bob Sims said | January 12th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

            You are sooo close! Whiteman at 6, then a batsman who can bowl or a bowler who can bat (Faulkner/Head/Agar or…..sigh…..Maxwell, White or….sigh….M Marsh, then two spinners and two quicks!

    • Roar Rookie

      January 11th 2017 @ 7:53am
      Tana Mir said | January 11th 2017 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Kev – good points.

      Sitting here in Bay Area, what else to do than pick team against India 🙂

      1. Renshaw/Marsh – I like the idea of Renshaw exhausting Indian bowlers and making them earn his wicket.
      2. Warner – About time he delivers in India.
      3. Khawaja
      4. Smith
      5. Handscomb
      6. Maxwell – just the fact this will demoralize Ashwin and sow doubts in his head even before the first ball is bowled. And the fact he is ridiculously talented, just ask KP 🙂
      7. Anyone but Wade
      8. SOK – Jadegaesque bowler, and fighter with the bat.
      9. Starc
      10. Lyon
      11. Hazelwood

      Lastly, why isn’t SOK, Handscomb, Renshaw and even Marsh in India (MRF academy) preparing for the series…!

      • January 11th 2017 @ 9:55am
        Darren L said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        That would be my team starting wth Renshaw opening and Marsh comes in to open or at six depending on Renshaw and Maxwell and how the team is travelling. I’d also go back to Nevill and just give hm some speech lessons so he can Niiice Garry a bit louder.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 11th 2017 @ 11:11am
        Lancey5times said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        If they decide to play 6 genuine batsman I would like to see Smith & Handscomb push down to 5/6 and Marsh in at 4.

        In saying that I think we need a 5th bowling option so therefore one of the current top 5 makes way if Marsh is to play. Don’t be surprised if we are unchanged from 1-5 for the first test and then potentially a decision is made on Marsh based on performances here.

        • January 11th 2017 @ 11:34am
          Don Freo said | January 11th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

          How about Marsh being picked IF the current test batsmen struggle?

          Shaun has to stand in line now…that’s why we often refer to injuries as “untimely”. I’m THE great Shaun fan…but he needs some cricket before he walks in.

          I’m firmly with Red Kev here. Ussie will do well.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 11th 2017 @ 12:02pm
          Tana Mir said | January 11th 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          Mate – if they want to fit in Marsh somehow that is fine. However, I do believe Maxwell is a must in India to counter Ashwin and Co. And his fielding and bowling is a massive plus.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2017 @ 9:17pm
        Cadfael said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:17pm | ! Report

        What has Maxwell done to even make squad? Nothing, zilch, de nada. He can’t even break into the Vic Shield .

        • Roar Rookie

          January 12th 2017 @ 6:32am
          Tana Mir said | January 12th 2017 @ 6:32am | ! Report

          “He can’t even break into the Vic Shield .”

          Clearly the system is broken. Check his Shield form for last few seasons and you will get your answer. Despite the limited opportunities he gets in Shield Cricket, he has been very good. And the fact his recent indomitable performances in Sri Lanka when everybody else struggled, despite him coming into games with little form.

          The only batsman that scares Ashwin helps as well.

    • January 11th 2017 @ 8:40am
      Matthew H said | January 11th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      Hear hear.

    • January 11th 2017 @ 8:55am
      BurgyGreen said | January 11th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      I firmly believe we need to try something bold for this tour, and part of that is dropping Khawaja.

      I think it’s fairly safe to say that his performance in Sri Lanka was not an anomaly. He looked completely clueless. He had no plan and was a walking wicket. As good as he has been at home, he’s not in our best 6 for India.

      Handscomb gets a chance because he MIGHT be successful in India. We know that Khawaja almost certainly won’t.

      (Also let’s not forget the real selection scapegoat here, poor Joe Burns who only got one chance at home following SL before being ruthlessly dumped).

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:12am
      Nudge said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      Good article Red Kev. Agree with most of it. The only part I disagree with is that I’m giving us an outside chance of retaining the trophy with a 2-2 draw. This will require at least winning the toss twice and obviously batting. Unless Khawaja looks absolutely woeful after 2 tests and the series is still well and truly alive, only then would I consider dropping him.

      • January 11th 2017 @ 10:40am
        jameswm said | January 11th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Yep. Khawaja and Renshaw have earned first crack. Marsh is backup or no.6. I’m tossing up between him and Maxwell for the no.6 slot. Maxwell might worry India’s spinners in their conditions. And Cartwright did well in an A tour over there.

        No.7 – Whiteman or Nevill I think. Does being a leftie count against Whiteman?

        The top 5 and the 4 bowlers pick themselves.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2017 @ 1:27pm
        The Bush said | January 11th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

        What I really hope they don’t do, is drop him after we lose the first two. The most perplexing thing about what happened to Burns and Khawaja in Sri Lanka is that it was pointless, the series was lost. Why not allow two batsmen that we’ve identified as talent for the future, to keep gaining valuable experience.

    • January 11th 2017 @ 9:43am
      bearfax said | January 11th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      I agree. Ussie must stay. Marsh can be played at 6 if necessary, though I would be giving Cartwright first dibs.

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