Another day and another batting collapse from the Australian Cricket Team. The issues at the top of the chain have flowed down to the bottom and for the first time in a long time, Australia and the love affair with cricket is really being tested. Cricket Australia’s mixed messaging has left fans, players and coaches confused and the result is as embarrassing as ever.
The writing was on the rule really when Rod Marsh stated that Jackson Bird was not picked for the First Test because of his batting. The same Jackson Bird who earlier this year played as well as anyone in the Test Series against New Zealand in New Zealand. He did not even make the squad until Peter Siddle broke down with more of the injuries that have plagued the latter part of his career. By the time this happened they had no choice but to pick Joe Mennie who they had originally placed in the squad. Confusing right?
“I talked to Jackson again this morning, I said to him the thing that probably cost him his place was his batting. We’ve got to get runs at the bottom of the order as well, particularly against a very good attack.”
– Rod Marsh
Bowling is not the major concern though. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Nathan Lyon are all in the best eleven and James Pattinson and Pat Cummins, once fit are certain starters. The only major concerns with Australia’s bowling stock is that there is far too much international cricket being played and this has in turn lead to the hideous idea of having to rest and manage players. The best players should be playing as much cricket as possible and not having to be rested or managed during the Sheffield Shield Competition. The idea of a two-tiered Test cricket system cannot be suggested enough to try to solve this issue and ensure a balance is achieved for the sport world wide.
As a country, we are not used to losing during the summer. It does not happen very often. In fact it seems to only happen against South Africa and every now and then against England. Shudder. There is nothing wrong with losing, but it was the way it was done over the last two Test matches at home and indeed in the recent series against Sri Lanka that spells trouble. Change at the selection table is a must and that change is not just in playing personnel. Move Rod Marsh on now. He has done enough damage to the sport, not only in this series but some of his calls along the journey have been questionable at best. Trevor Hohns and Mark Waugh can go too. Waugh’s media commitments are now far too much of a conflict of interest and all three have shown they do not know the way forward for the Australian Cricket Team.
As sad as it is to say, the days of Adam Voges, Callum Ferguson, Shaun Marsh and anyone else who is the wrong side of thirty are over too. Youth has to be the pathway now and that will cause short term pain. Michael Hussey changed cricket when he was selected at an older age. It really has not been replicated since. Chris Rogers perhaps, but even then did he stop the development of a Joe Burns or Cameron Bancroft as an opening batsman? As a nation we need to realise that short term pain for longer term gain is not the end of the world. Players need to be given more than one Test. Moises Henriques played a Test in Sri Lanka and then was nowhere near the selection news come the home summer. Furthermore for Mitchell Marsh to be told that he was guaranteed selection and then to be dropped is a hugely deflating initiative. Pick a youthful best eleven supported by senior players in David Warner, Steve Smith, Starc and the like and go from there.
The summer layout also needs a major overhaul. James Sutherland said on ABC Grandstand during the Hobart Test that there was nothing wrong with Australia’s lead up to the First Test. This is wrong. Scrap the Matador Cup at the start of the season. Move it to the end or at least play it in the lead up to some One Day cricket. What is the point of playing a big chunk of ODI cricket leading into a six Test summer? There should be at least two, preferably three Sheffield Shield games leading into the First Test every year. In the same interview, Sutherland also said that the best players in the upcoming Big Bash League will play in the Twenty20 Series against Sri Lanka in February. While I am a big believer that International Twenty20 Cricket is a waste of time, this is the same idea behind how the Test and ODI teams should be being picked. Pick the in form, best players from the lead up games with a clear focus on youth and developing a team for the next decade. The Sheffield Shield hence should be featuring the best eleven players for each State including Test players where possible and without being manipulated by player management and any other political motivation.
“I don’t think the preparation is anything Australian cricket can complain about.”
– James Sutherland
Australia look in desperate need of a batting coach too. Graeme Hick is currently in that role, but there does not seem to be anything that resembles batting by most of the Aussie squad in this current series. Michael Di Venuto departed earlier this year and things have not been the same since. David Warner needs to show leadership and get a better feel for the game. By all means let him live and die by the sword, but in an opening over on an overcast moving pitch? Give me a spell. All the Australians need to re-learn the craft of Test match cricket and be able to put the hit and giggle aside for a period every year.
There is so much debate in the world of cricket at the moment. Test cricket is being bashed by every journalist around the country, the Big Bash and Twenty20 tournaments around the world are continuing to grow and day-night Test matches are still finding their feet. There will be plenty of continued debate too about Australia’s most recent performances and also the performances that are still to come. They do say any publicity is good publicity, but you feel the right people need to be put in the right places and soon if we want to see a dominant or even competitive Australian Test team again. It will not take grand scale change to fix the mess, but it will take patience and some pain along the way. Direction and some time is the key, but patience is an aspect nobody seems to have much of anymore and that could be the biggest hurdle to becoming the number one ranked Test nation again. Time will tell.
Picture – The Guardian