By Ian Reid
It’s hard to not feel gutted as an Australian supporter having witnessed the innings defeat at Hyderabad and slide to 0-2 down in the series.
Where has it gone wrong for Australia in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar series?
It would seem the selectors got it wrong, notably on two points: Firstly, the backward step in dropping Nathan Lyon. Secondly, the costly mistake of debuting Glenn Maxwell alongside Moises Henriques. The rest was about the Australian batsmen.
It was a big mistake to drop Lyon and bring in Xavier Doherty. It would have been okay to bring Doherty in, but not at the expense of Lyon. It is simply another step back. Australia may very well find another spinner’s confidence seriously damaged.
Jason Krejza grabbed an eight-wicket haul against India in 2008 on his debut. Despite going for plenty of runs, he managed to get wickets — something Shane Warne states he’d rather see than simply having spinners who are economical but don’t get wickets, vital wickets at that.
A after a poor Test against South Africa at the WACA, Kreza was axed. It was the end of the road for him. Krejza is now regarded as a state-level spinner at best.
Australian selectors’ lack of faith in spinners
The Australia selectors have been quick to axe spinners without giving them a fair trial: Bryce McGain (one Test at age 37 in 2009), Beau Casson (one Test in 2008), Dan Cullen (one Test in 2006) and Michael Beer (injured — two Tests, one in 2011 vs England and one in 2012 vs the West Indies). Only Nathan Hauritz (17 Tests) got a decent run. Australia also experimented with part-time spinners in Marcus North, Steven Smith and Cameron White.
Australia should avoid adding Lyon to that list. Yes, during the summer his lack of effectiveness was costly against South Africa. But it’s still early days and Australia need to persevere with him. In fact, it would have been far more logical to play him and Xavier Doherty together. Another Test in the subcontinent could have only been good for his development. It was a step back in dropping him after just one Test in India.
The effort to improve Australia’s spin department doesn’t rest so much with the technical dynamics; it’s rather in the management of the bowlers in Australia and the purpose of their selection in the post-Warne era.
Debuting Glenn Maxwell as a part-time spinner was another blunder. It’s not so much a reflection on Maxwell, as it is for the fact that Australia have two all-rounders and one spinner, which is in sharp contrast to India’s three spinner policy in the ongoing series.
Remember the Cameron White experiment? As hard as White tried as a part-time leg-spinner, he was an absolute failure. It was a selection mistake.
Maxwell managed four wickets at Hyderabad, one more than Doherty, but that’s not the point. Maxwell didn’t contribute significantly with the bat. As was the case with White, the selectors simply asked way too much of him.
Having not learnt anything after the first Test in terms of using the spinners, the fast bowlers had too much work to do; the intensity proved to be way too much for them. Their pace could not be maintained and they didn’t pose a sustained threat. India’s batting also blunted them by brilliantly pacing their innings. This is not to shift the blame on the Australian spinners. Australia’s biggest problems were their batsmen, who simply didn’t get enough runs.
Experience is quite clearly lacking in this Australia side. Although it is hard to even predict if it would have made a difference had Mitchell Johnson been in the side. But Johnson is one player with experience in the subcontinent that Michael Clarke could use. The issue still lies with the poor batting in the first innings which gave India a license to attack once the lead was in place in the second Test. Australia’s bowling was completely exposed.
The batsmen will know all too well about the problems, but how they address over the next few days — which Michael Clarke has declared as “no rest” period — will not be an easy task.
Clarke can’t be the go-to-guy every time for Australia. But the time has come for him to move up the order. The best batsman in the side cannot be batting at No 5. Sure, his prolific run has been splendid at No 5, but the team needs him up the order.
This still won’t solve the issues of panic and thoughtless application to tackle India’s spin bowling and build an innings. Batsmen are not consolidating on their starts — Clarke being the exception. The Australian captain has seen some big scores go sailing by because of the lack of support from his batting mates. It’s time David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shane Watson and Matt Wade came up with meaningful contributions.
Phillip Hughes, the weakest link, should be given another go — dropping a player is not always the answer. But his shortcoming in handling spin is a massive worry.
Usman Khawaja is not an instant remedy, and there no evidence is there that he will miraculously be able to keep the Indian bowlers at bay. However, there is a chance that he will be tested in the matches ahead in India. Hughes is an excellent batsman, but the mental strength just seems to go when he puts on the white gear.
Reality is that the last two Tests have to be won in order to keep the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia’s possession.
Test cricket in India will always be tough to beat. The nature of the contest is harsh in their conditions. The same as it was for India in Australia.
It will indeed take serious focus and determination to turn things around for Australia. Clarke is a man who shows seriousness in discharging his responsibilities. If he says his team will not rest between the second and third Tests, it won’t. However, it’s going to be lot of hard work for Australia.
(Ian Reid runs http://www.thebaggygreen.blogspot.com. In doing so he aims to encourage other supporters around the world to support the team and open their minds to the challenges Australian cricket faces. He comes from the Steve Waugh era of cricket, so he tends to be very optimistic and enjoys the in-depth aspects of this great game. Ricky Ponting inspires him and states that it has been an honour to have followed his career since 1994-95. Ian is a supporter of the South Australian Redbacks and The Wallabies)
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