The Ashes 2013 is over and certain players have made their mark in the series. Some have exceedingly done well and some have performed according to their potential. But there are some who have not lived up to their reputations or not done justice to their selection in the team. Shrikant Shankar explains who were the flops from the series and why.
England won the Ashes 2013 series 3-0 and the scoreline suggests that they dominated Australia throughout. But in reality that is not entirely true. Some players were above everyone in the series like Ian Bell and Ryan Harris. Others like Chris Rogers, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Peter Siddle performed to their fullest. Tim Bresnan, Steven Smith and Brad Haddin had their moments and made a mark in the series — with ball, bat and with the gloves. Kevin Pietersen underlined his importance to the England team with many crucial innings that helped them remain undefeated in the five-match series.
Then there were the flops. Some did not showcase their full potential for the entirety of the series and some just added up to the numbers. Here is a list of five players each from both England and Australia that were the flops of the Ashes 2013 and why.
The England captain lifted the urn in his very first attempt, but Alastair Cook did not contribute immensely to the success as he would have hoped. With only 277 runs in five Tests and an average of 27.70, Cook clearly had a miserable time with the bat. He only managed three half-centuries with a highest score of 62. These are not numbers that someone who is touted to break Sachin Tendulkar’s batting records will be proud of. Cook will want to reassess his batting in time for the return Ashes in Australia in a few months. He would also like to get back to the kind of form that defined him as a cricketer the last time England played in Australia.
Like Cook, another batsman who did not come to the fore in the Ashes was Jonathan Trott. He scored 293 runs in five Tests at an average of 29.30. Trott managed two half-centuries with a highest of 59. He was at the receiving end of some ridiculous decisions by the umpires and Hot Spot, but that does not give excuse to his highly below par series. The Australian bowlers executed their plans very well against Trott. He would be hoping to change all that in a few months’ time.
Matt Prior did not have a great time with the bat and for a genuine wicketkeeper-batsman that would be a concern. He had a mixed series behind the stumps, especially with his review calls. Prior was named England Cricketer of the Year for 2012-13 and his performances in the Ashes did not live up to the billing. His highest score was 47. And with 133 runs in the series at an average of 19.00, this was not an ideal series for him. He is still England’s best option in his position but needs to drastically improve his performances Down Under to keep his spot in the team.
One big innings does not change the fact that Joe Root did not perform to his fullest in the series. His 180 at Lord’s helped England dominate Australia in the only one-sided match of the series, but that was it from Root. With just one more half-century, he averaged 37.66. His total of 339 runs in the series does not look great when his innings of 180 is removed from it. Maybe opening the innings is not the right option for him, but the advantage is that he has time on his side. With an Ashes series success to go with, we might see a better Root in Australia.
First the inclusion of Simon Kerrigan in the England team for the fifth Ashes Test surprised many. Then Cook’s decision to only allow the left-arm spinner to bowl eight overs (all in the first innings) was even more bewildering. With Australia trying to up the ante and losing wickets in the second innings at The Oval, Kerrigan was completely overlooked by Cook. He was picked because The Oval is traditionally a spinner-friendly track and to give Swann more support. It will not be a surprise if he is not selected in England’s squad for the return Ashes.
A lot was expected of Phil Hughes when he broke through into the Australian team. This was also his second Ashes tour to England. One would think the left-hander would have been Australia’s main trump cards this time around, but it was not to be. His battling innings of 81 not out at Trent Bridge was as good as it got for Hughes, as he only managed a total of 83 runs in two Test matches. He was promptly dropped for the last three matches.
David Warner started his tour of England by punching Joe Root. He was then sent away to Africa to play for the Australia A side. He was later brought back for the third Test at Old Trafford. In three Test matches, Warner only managed 138 runs with a highest of 71. More is expected from this highly talented Australian batsman. He will surely be in Australia’s squad for the return Ashes, but has to do better in home conditions to help his side reclaim the urn.
People might be thinking why Shane Watson is in this list. He scored an emphatic 176 at The Oval and he was also the second leading run-scorer in the series with 418 runs. Only Bell scored (562) more. But that was about it from Watson. For most of the series, there was a lot of talk about his footwork and propensity to get out leg-before. He was also throwing his wicket away on many occasions. Many believed he was in the side primarily as an all-rounder. Although he did bowl well, he only picked up two wickets. He might have sealed his place in the Australian team for the first Test at The Gabba in Brisbane after his century, but that was just one innings and for the whole series he did not deliver on a consistent basis.
The same goes for Australia captain Michael Clarke. He is by far Australia’s best batsman, but apart from the 187 in Manchester at Old Trafford, Clarke had a poor series with the bat. Experts have praised his captaincy and willingness to lose to eventually win, but as a batsman the series was not ideal. Broad made him look ordinary for most of the series and Anderson got him out a few times with some unplayable deliveries. Popular belief is that Clarke had a better series than Watson, but the Australian captain only managed 381 runs in the series. He scored one other half-century. His average is lofty at 47.62 in a low-scoring series, but he also had two not outs against his name. On the captaincy front, not much change is needed. But he will have to do better as a batsman in Australia.
In whichever way one looks at it, Usman Khawaja had a forgettable series. The left-hander played three Test matches, but failed impress on the whole. He scored 114 runs at an average of 19.00. He only managed one half-century. His vulnerability against Swann was highlighted and he did not look comfortable throughout the Ashes. Khawaja’s place for the return Ashes is not guaranteed. What he does from now till then will be very important on whether he will get selected in the squad.
(Shrikant Shankarpreviously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)