Numbers just don’t add up for hosts
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.