While the present Australian team has been dubbed as weakest, what really matters is whether the players despite the challenges at their individual level can stick together as a team and emerge from the situation. Abhijit Banare looks at the key challenge to Australia’s success against the run of play.
Doubt and criticism come in two parts. The outer world that keeps pulling you down, berates and dismisses you. And the second is the inner self where doubt impedes the way of path to success. While the first part is very common in the world we live in, it’s the latter half of the sentence which makes the difference between champions and not so successful teams. As Australia look forward to the Ashes, many have already written them off. However, what really is a matter of concern is the extensive set of issues that plague the team at an individual level and whether that is going to come in way of their performance.
While the team looks at the task of winning the Ashes, there is a sub-category in that riddle which asks for a solution to every player who has had issues at an individual level. Below are a few of them which elaborate the point.
In recent months cricket has taken sidestep when it comes to Australia and controversies have mushroomed on a regular basis. During a crucial tour of England, off-the-field situations can deflate the morale of the players. Someone like David Warner has to be cautious about it while managing the runs. The recent scores haven’t been a upto-the-mark either which further weakens his case. The laborious performance in the ICC Champions Trophy along with controversies completely shifted the focus from the games.
Both Ed Cowan and Philip Hughes have a lot at stake to manage their places in the team.
The pacers too face an issue from an out-of-sorts Peter Siddle who is Australia’s strike bowler in the long form of the game. The spin department has woven itself into a complex web as well. Nathan Lyon is consistently under the radar as he appears to be the only spinner to manage the scene.
Shane Watson has been finally set free to return to the opening slot, where he always desired to be. And he would be itching to vindicate the faith of the team as an opener. Chris Rogers alongside him will be focused on his performance as well having made a comeback after five years after his failure on his Test debut against India in Perth.
The Australian captain —Michael Clarke — has too many things to manage. Firstly he has the most important task of managing his team. Managing his back is of utmost importance since he is the backbone of Australian batting.
And finally Darren Lehmann, despite all the positivity he has brought for the team, ultimately it’s all about results at some point of time. Unless he brings the results on the table there will always be the talk about the Australian cricket decline just a decade after they were hailed as invincible under Steve Waugh’s captaincy.
It’s this fight to perform and deliver within each player which is a potential threat in clicking as a team. Once Rahul Dravid described a good team by referring to it as a pot. Some people put into the pot, while a few others draw from it. Who puts in and who puts out depends on people as well as moment. Ultimately, a team that has more people putting in than taking out is a happy team and more likely to win.
Head coach Lehmann is not averse to dealing with the teams in a state similar to the present Australian squad. He coached Deccan Chargers and Kings XI Punjab — both among the least favourite to win the IPL — with hardly any impact players and relatively fresh faces. Having been through it, he is the perfect personality to influence and carry a mindset which complements the team. Moreover, suddenly out of nowhere, the team appears rejuvenated with the former Aussie player’s presence. As an Indian fan, one can relate it to the exit of a certain Greg Chappell followed by Gary Kirsten.
On the other hand, skipper Clarke has shown enormous resistance through his injury to stay with the team. His presence during most of the important matches shows that he is here to fight it out. Together, Lehmann and Clarke are the ones who will play a key role in removing the doubt within the team and add to the pot which others can draw from. While it appears unlikely that the visitors can push the mighty England off the cliff, this tough moment will also bring with it certain winners who’ll add more value to the efforts by captain-coach and ultimately insert more confidence that others can draw from. Not to forget there’s one more Ashes left.
After all cricket — apart from physical endurance and skill — is also about what goes on in the mind. As the saying goes ‘Give a man confidence and he will walk among the kings, drag him down he will scurry among the crabs.’ In 2005 when Australia toured England, no one gave the home side a chance. Yet the series showed that victories are not always about match-winners but the one that sticks together and covers each other very well in moments of crisis. The Australians will definitely take heart from that moment.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)