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Player power: Be careful what you wish for...

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Roar Rookie
11th February, 2023
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1415 Reads

Be careful what you wish for…

It’s one thing to get what you want, it’s another thing entirely to make it work.

The exit of Justin Langer from being in charge of the Australian cricket team has been done to death but there is one clear conclusion that can be drawn from it: the veterans of the Australian cricket team got what they wanted. They wanted an environment of calmness and individualism in preparation and they got it, now they have to live with it.

On face value the transition from Langer to Andrew McDonald has been fairly successful. At Test level there has been a win in Pakistan and a thumping home summer. With the white ball they have been a bit more hit and miss with some struggles away from home and some big wins back in familiar surroundings. As seems to happen with Australian cricketers, they have been lauded more than critiqued and paved their own way as a result.

Paving their own way seems to be the catch-cry of the new administration of the Australian cricket team. Perhaps this is an offshoot of the scraps that some of them had in the precious summer. Perhaps this is just a result of a group of players being so looked after and so pampered that they see any suggestion that they should be questioned as noise from the cheap seats. A cackle that just needs to be ignored.

No one really knows but it is an approach that will be more of a noose than a weapon if Pat Cummins, George Bailey and McDonald aren’t careful.

The T20 World Cup is perhaps our first example of this ‘we know best’ approach. As the rest of the world looks to develop players specific to either white-ball or red-ball cricket, Australia seems to have such belief in their vaunted top echelon that they refuse to really make significant change. Then when they do they do it because their knee jumped and make a hash of it (think Mitchell Starc’s omission).

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Big Bash form was dismissed as worthless while it is blasphemy to suggest some established stars have passed their prime. How did that work out?

So, now the Australians are in India. Chasing the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which we haven’t held for some time, off the back of a commanding home summer. A summer where Travis Head seemingly set himself up for a long crack in Test cricket with some imperial innings. By the end of the South African series he seemed in just wonderful form.

That would surely earn him a run at it until the end of the Ashes, or at least until the start of them. At least it should have.

Travis Head of Australia bats.

Travis Head. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Dropping Head for the first Test in India surely speaks to the environment that Cummins and those mates he stood up for were after. An environment where the elder statesmen in the side get to run their own show and make their own decisions. It’s hard to see how even-handed selection drops Head at all.

If the argument was that his away record is poor, there’s at least one other batsman in the list whose away record is just as poor. So, then shouldn’t the decision be made on form? Oh, that’s right – the other batsman in question was “player of the series” against South Africa, wasn’t he?

Anyone who plays cricket, at any level, should be respectful of the fact that people have come before. Respectful of the fact that what you are trying to do has usually already been done.

As Australia prepared for their tour of India those who had gone before spoke of the need to be patient and wear the Indians down, and the fact that left-arm finger spin had been more successful than not at the venue were two well-held views offered up in the lead-up to the recent Test against India. Australia ignored them both.

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Australia went in with two off-spinners and two batsmen in the middle order who had played one Test between them in the last four years. They put all their eggs in the hands of the two offies with the ball and then backed them up by fielding badly.

There was little to no variety in their attack and little to no backbone with the bat. No one really able to challenge the bat and no one willing or able to really dig in against the spin. They will say that you had to attack or one would have your name on it. If only they could pick a counter-attacking right-hander for their middle order.

Oh, hang on a minute.

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The boys have got what they wanted. They have the leadership that creates the environment they are after. An environment of calm and controlled thought and planning, an environment of cool reaction to failure and back-slapping reaction to success.

Well, the pressure is on now and that environment needs to include some home truths or they should be careful what they may have wished for.

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