Not for a long time, has cricket gripped Australia on the cusp of the winter sporting season. Not like this. Plenty of talking points too.
Test cricket is well and truly alive on the field
Twenty20 cricket has its place in the cricketing world, domestic competitions with a World Cup every four years, but anyone who tells you it is a superior form of the game after the last two Test matches between India and Australia has rocks in their head. It does need more relevance placed on results though and the introduction of more Test playing nations. By all reports that could be coming.
It comes as no surprise really that when a pitch is provided that allows bowlers to play a role in the game, that you get a better game of cricket. It is something in Australia that we probably need to look a bit more deeply into. Some of the flat tracks that allow nothing but batting all day have a place, but not in every Test match. Sure the pitch in Pune looked like a day eight pitch on the opening day, but Steve Smith still managed to score a century on it and it also allowed the bowlers to influence the game. That is how Test cricket needs to be. A contest.
Pat Cummins will almost certainly return to the side to replace Mitchell Starc for the third Test in Ranchi. It still seems a massive risk, but now that he is over there, he has to play. There were probably other options, including James Pattinson and Jason Behrendorff. It just gets the excitement flowing at the prospect of having James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood fit and firing for the upcoming Ashes Series. Let’s just hope that Cummins gets through India first though, before we get too far ahead of ourselves.
The selection panel has been revamped, but from within with Trevor Hohns, Darren Lehmann, Mark Waugh and Greg Chappell to remain in the job, just with slightly different roles. Lehmann will oversee it all, with Hohns and Chappell to do Tests and ODI games and Waugh to focus on the Twenty20 world. There does seem to be a real distinct lack of feel for the game from this particular panel though, none more so than with the selection of an unfit Mitchell March for India, who has since been sent home to have a shoulder reconstruction. How did Marsh get a spot anyway? After two more lackluster performances in India, his Test playing days are now surely over.
What was even more perplexing though was the replacement in Marcus Stoinis who would not have even been in the frame had he not made a shock century in a One Day International in New Zealand a month or two ago. Stoinis’ first class average is currently 15. I am not even sure that with Maxwell and Agar on Tour already, that Marsh even needed to be replaced. If a replacement was to be made though, surely Hilton Cartwright is the next man in, having made his debut in Australia’s most recent Test Series against Pakistan. Where does that leave him now? Never to be seen again? A perplexing decision.
How pathetic are the ICC? Virat Kohli’s cheating allegation against Australia had to be investigated with action taken one way or the other. If Steve Smith’s men were found to be blatantly abusing the DRS system by getting signals from the dressing room, a punishment should have been applied. If they were cleared of this, Kohli should have faced the music for shooting his mouth off in a press conference. Seems pretty simple to me. Instead we are set to get a staged photo opportunity of the two captains shaking hands prior to the third Test. You do wonder what would have happened had this been Australia playing Pakistan rather than India. The ICC need to take more of a leadership role in these sort of situations, because you get the feeling that they are not the ones calling the shots.
Rest of the Series
1-1 heading into the third Test in Ranchi is a mouth-watering prospect. Australia just need one more Test win to sew up the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and it is at that point that the Series can be labelled a success. Team wise, I would bring in Ashton Agar for Mitchell Marsh and Pat Cummins for Mitchell Starc. Agar could be handy with the ball if required and can bat. Cummins is the like for like replacement. The jury is still out on Glenn Maxwell for mine, especially with Steve Smith’s reluctance to bowl him and his lack of Test match form. Agar could be one for the future and has bided his time for long enough now. Nathan Lyon will hopefully recover in time from that finger injury, as he could be crucial, as we have already seen throughout the Series.
It is pleasing to see cricketing bodies recently sitting down and realising that they need to make the results of Test cricket more relevant and have countries playing each other for more than simply ICC rankings. With details still to be finalised, at least there appears to be positive moves being made to ensure Test cricket can attract good crowds and television ratings into the future.
Bring on that next Test, which begins Thursday!
Picture – The Daily Telegraph