Australia’s record in Asia over the past few years has been really poor. In the last three years they have played nine Tests in Asia, winning just two and losing six.
This includes a series in Bangladesh which Australia managed to draw. The biggest reason for such a failure over the years has been due to their inability to play spin on turning tracks.
Even though Steven Smith has been brilliant in all conditions, the rest of the batting has struggled to cope in Asian conditions. Australia travels to UAE later this month for a two-Test series against Pakistan.
This will be Australia’s first full series under captain Tim Paine after the bans to Steven Smith and David Warner earlier this year. The team combination is yet to be finalised starting at the top of the order.
While there are many unknowns in regards to the squad, the Australian Cricket Board have taken a great initiative by organising an A tour to India just before the team departs to the UAE later this month.
This is a masterstroke as the players would get a chance to play on Asian wickets against good spinners. This will also give an opportunity for the team to identify the right personnel for the job as they get to evaluate players in similar conditions to what they would get in UAE.
The biggest pluses on this A tour has been the forms of Travis Head and Usman Khawaja. In the absence of Smith and Warner, Khawaja as one of the senior players needs to fire at the top of the order for Australia to put up good totals in these conditions.
Travis Head, who has already made his debut in the limited overs formats, is primed to wear the baggy green cap for the Pakistan Tests. He has looked good on the tour so far and played good innings under pressure in the Australia A team’s win over the hosts.
Travis Head bowls. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
The other impressive audition was of Marnus Labuschagne. He scored a very good 50 in the first innings and an important 37 in the second. The poor returns for Peter Handscomb mean that he stands a great chance of taking that one spot in the middle order.
The opening spot in the Australian Test team is still up for grabs. Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns opened in the last Test against South Africa at Johannesburg earlier this year. Looking at the first unofficial Test against India A, it does seem like Usman Khawaja will be one of the contenders.
The other spot which is open right now is the deputy for Nathan Lyon. Lyon has gone through a couple of spin partners over the last few years and with Steve O’Keefe not in favour anymore, Jon Holland has given a great audition. Holland took six wickets in the second innings to bowl out a talented Indian A team and helped his side win the game.
With that performance, John Holland has made a strong case for himself to be the second spinner on the tour. Ashton Agar is a good bowler but I am not that convinced about his credentials as a Test spinner.
The Australian middle order Test spots are still up for grabs and on this A tour there have been a few who have put their hands up already. This series in India will give the young players a great chance to experience the conditions in Asia and will be a good practice ahead of their series against Pakistan.
If the reports are to be believed, Matt Renshaw will get a chance to open with Usman Khawaja in the second unofficial Test. This will give him the opportunity to make a strong statement. Mitchell Marsh, who did not bowl in the first game, would want to get some runs under his belt as well.
The Australian Test team is basically rebuilding itself. A team which looked quite settled at the end of the Ashes looked in complete disarray at the end of the South African tour.
This series has come at a right time for the Australian Test team. This will give the young players confidence when they take on Pakistan next month.
For most of the first decade of the new century and millennium I was a TESOL teacher, mostly in Jakarta, but also nearly one year in Brisbane, almost to the end of 2008. TESOL stands for ‘Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages’ and it is pretty big business.