A talking point that often comes up regarding the state of cricket is the balance between bat and ball.
The Australian team is on the verge of a series loss to India. Quite a rocky start to Justin Langer’s coaching tenure – batting collapses galore and bowlers not living up to their billings.
There have been pretty terrible surrenders in Melbourne and Dubai between the gritty draw they earnt in Dubai and the fantastic win in Perth.
The side has admittedly undertaken a big change with Steve Smith and David Warner’s bans. This has meant a host of new batsmen have come in and are currently trying to cement their spots in the test line-up.
It’s been a baptism by fire of sorts, coming up against a tough assignment in spinning conditions in the UAE and now against a real top-quality Indian side.
Not surprisingly the batting group has been put under a huge amount of pressure and scrutiny in these two series.
As far as the home summer goes, though Australia had an inexperienced batting line-up, it was expected that the home attack would torment the visitors, who would struggle against the pace and bounce. In reality what has transpired is that the Aussies have had to cope not just with a top-quality opponent but also with some internal foes that have damaged the team as much as the opposition.
1. National selection panel
The selectors have damaged this team as much as anyone in the past few years. Their selection policies seem to change for every series.
I recently wrote an article that highlighted the selectors have been scared to blood in new guys at the right times and have been going back to the same old pool of players who have been tried and found wanting. They have also not stuck with the new players they have picked enough and have been chopping and changing.
The selectors have simply failed to put the best batting group on the park. After the sandpaper saga there was a big exodus at all levels in Cricket Australia. How come these selectors are untouched? Surely they need to be accountable for the mess they have caused and replaced by a panel with fresh ideas.
2. Curators of Test venues
Apart from Perth, the pitches in this series have been average, to say the least. They have been way too slow, sluggish and lacking in bounce.
The uniqueness and that makes it difficult to play in Australia is due to the pace, bounce and carry of the Australian wickets. The surfaces in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney have been more Indian than Aussie.
This lack of pace and bounce is not a phenomenon for this season but has been happening over the past few years. It has contributed a lot in blunting the Aussie pace attack and has made it much easier for the visiting teams.
Good luck hoping that we find Perth and Gabba-like welcoming surfaces when we go to the Subcontinent.
3. Cricket Australia
Cricket Australia hasn’t made it easy for or been particularly supportive of its own team – when some a sports organisation chooses money over performance, what can you say?
There were two big errors committed by CA. The first was the ridiculous scheduling of the BBL in the middle of the season. How can Sheffield Shield prospects have averages of above 40 when the best and most sporting batting conditions in the season are being eaten up by the BBL games?
THe second error from CA is about the itinerary of this tour. Imagine Australia playing the four tests at the Gabba, Perth, Adelaide (day-night) and Hobart instead of the current venues. The Indian tour is always scheduled at the same four venues, extending undue hospitality to the tourists and bowing down to the wishes of the opposite board.
Team strengths and results seem to be of least concern to CA. Something to note is that India did not look at all comfortable in Perth, and that includes Cheteshwar Pujara with 24 and four in that match.
4. Graeme Hick
A batsman who was a domestic bully at best has only six hundreds from 114 Test innings with a Test average of 31. How can someone pick him as the batting mentor of an Australian side? Have there not been Aussie batting greats who could have been picked?
I wonder what advice has Hick got to offer on the mental side of things for the batsmen. The technical side seems to be in shambles for most of the current batsmen under Hick’s tutelage.
Cricket Australia have sold the Aussie cricket spirit in the money market, but hopefully things will start getting better under the incoming regime post-sandpaper-gate. But if it’s not fixed now, Aussie cricket will go the Windies way.
The good thing is that there is lot of talent and a lot of potential in the system. The year 2018 and bans of Smith and Warner have been good in hindsight – it has now laid bare the real root causes of the Aussie cricket decline.
It’s up to CA and the new regime to correct past wrongs.