Num­bers just don’t add up for hosts

Daily Mercury - - DIGEST SPORT - Rus­sell Gould

CRICKET: Last time the Ashes were fought for in Aus­tralia, in 2013, the home team was vic­to­ri­ous. Eas­ily too.

It was a 5-0 white­wash dur­ing which the Aussie XI did not change from the first match to the last.

Ah, the good old days. That’s the sort of sce­nario the cur­rent crop of na­tional se­lec­tors, headed up by Trevor “Cracker” Hohns, could only dream of.

The re­al­ity is Aus­tralia has been un­able to lock on to any­thing that re­sem­bles a con­sis­tently suc­cess­ful side in its past 15 Tests, and has slumped to fifth on the ICC rank­ings as a re­sult.

Start­ing with the 3-0 shel­lack­ing at the hands of Sri Lanka in the win­ter of 2016, through to the lucky 1-1 es­cape against Bangladesh in Septem­ber, 24 play­ers have worn the baggy green for Aus­tralia.

That fig­ure could reach 25 should the groundswell of sup­port for red-hot West Aus­tralian bats­man Cameron Ban­croft re­sult in his el­e­va­tion to the na­tional team for the open­ing Ashes Test at the Gabba next week.

A week out from the start of the se­ries, we don’t re­ally know who should open, keep, or bat at num­ber six.

The call to arms from se­lec­tors, and cap­tain Steve Smith, to “go forth and get runs” in three straight Sh­effield Shield matches to lock down those spots was heeded by no one other than Ban­croft.

In fact, ev­ery­one else did the com­plete op­po­site, cre­at­ing a week of Ashes Idol au­di­tions. For­mer Test star and Tas­ma­nian skip­per Ge­orge Bai­ley made a hun­dred him­self at the MCG on Mon­day and said his “phone was on”.

He was jok­ing, but so dire was the pre-match sit­u­a­tion, not for Tassie but for Aus­tralia, that he brought in wick­et­keeper Tim Paine, as a bats­man, be­cause if “he or Matty Wade got a hun­dred, they could get the call up”.

What a shock­ing pic­ture that paints of the cur­rent state of our na­tional crick­et­ing af­fairs.

Of course, the se­lec­tors could very well have had their side locked and loaded be­fore all the last-ditch ef­forts to get in this week. You’d hope they would have a pretty clear pic­ture at least. It’s not like the Ashes se­ries has sud­denly popped up from nowhere.

But the chop­ping and chang­ing through the past 15 Tests sug­gests they are not quite sure about their own judge­ment. That lack of con­ti­nu­ity has led to calls for a re­turn to the “pick and stick” suc­cess of pre­vi­ous times.

That was, how­ever, when the team was win­ning.

In the 15 Tests just gone, in which only three play­ers, skip­per Steve Smith, opener Dave Warner and once-ma­ligned but now revered spin­ner Nathan Lyon, played in ev­ery one, the Aussies won six, lost eight, and drew one.

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