A sen­si­ble re­sponse to poor bat­ting

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE -

AUS­TRALIA, THE mighty Aus­tralia, the men from Down Un­der, the boys with the baggy green, one of cricket’s great­est teams, and the most re­cent world cham­pi­ons, have bit the dust, and dis­ap­point­ingly, very poorly at that.

Their long reign, al­most as long and as dom­i­nant as the also once-great West Indies, as the undis­puted world cham­pi­ons has ended, and gone is the swag­ger and the ar­ro­gance of which the world of cricket had be­come ac­cus­tomed.

Out of nowhere, they sud­denly nose­dived, beaten 3-0 by Sri Lanka and wal­loped 2-0, with one to go, and now play­ing, in Aus­tralia’s own back­yard by South Africa in back-to-back se­ries in the space of three months.

And the beat­ings were de­ci­sive in their en­tirety, in­clud­ing los­ing at home by an in­nings for the first time in the last six years.

Against Sri Lanka, it was their first loss, and it had hap­pened so em­phat­i­cally. In a 3-0 white­wash, they were dis­missed for 106 in the first in­nings of the se­cond Test and for 160 in the last in­nings of the con­test as Sri Lanka, routed for 117 in the first in­nings of the con­test, ran out easy win­ners with Sri Lanka’s left-arm spin­ner Ran­gana Herath en­joy­ing him­self with 28 wick­ets.

And against South Africa, the vis­i­tors hit back af­ter they were re­moved for 242 in the first in­nings of the se­ries, claimed 10 wick­ets for 86 runs af­ter Aus­tralia had chipped to 158 with­out loss, and then went on to win by 177 runs.

In the se­cond Test, South Africa ripped Aus­tralia out for 85, then posted 326, and af­ter Aus­tralia had reached 129 for two, grabbed eight wick­ets for 31 to win by an in­nings and 80 runs.

This time, it was the pace of Kag­iso Rabada and the Ver­non Phi­lan­der that led to the sud­den and dra­matic spi­ral dive in the se­cond Test which saw cap­tain Steve Smith, 48 not out and 31, dis­missed at 151 for eight, fum­ing and hit­ting out left, right, and cen­tre.

Un­like other teams, like the West Indies, which have suf­fered sim­i­lar fate, no one, ex­cept for coach Dar­ren Lehman, es­caped his wrath and his anger.

Smith scored a few runs, Mitchell Starc took some wick­ets, David Warner scored a few some runs, and Josh Ha­zle­wood picked some wick­ets, and as Smith launched into the play­ers, none of them, or the of­fi­cials, es­caped his venom.

Min­utes af­ter the loss in the se­cond Test Smith said, “I am em­bar­rassed sit­ting here, los­ing so many wick­ets for so few runs so reg­u­larly. Eight for 30, 10 for 85, and 85 all out. It’s hap­pen­ing too con­sis­tently for my lik­ing.”

He never even men­tioned what hap­pened in Sri Lanka: seven wick­ets for 65 runs in the se­cond in­nings of the first Test, and a lost by 106 runs; 106 in the first in­nings of the se­cond Test, 183 in the se­cond in­nings, and a loss by 229 runs; and six for 62, seven for 46, and a loss by 163 runs in the third Test.

PLAY­ING WITH PRIDE

Smith con­tin­ued: “We are not be­ing re­silient. We are not will­ing to tough it out. We are not han­dling the pres­sure of in­ter­na­tional cricket well enough. We are not play­ing with pride.”

Prob­a­bly re­mem­ber­ing the likes of of Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, and Justin Langer, Smith also said: “Our ap­proach is bad. We are not wor­thy of try­ing to play with the Aus­tralia’s cap­tain Steve Smith.

flair and ag­gres­sive ap­proach of Aus­tralian cricket.”

When asked about the coach, Smith said: “It’s not his fault we are not do­ing well. It is up to us to go out there and do the job. He does ev­ery­thing he can for us in train­ing and prepa­ra­tion.”

Aus­tralia felt so bad about the per­for­mance that two of­fi­cials flew to the ground at the end of

match to speak to the play­ers, and five for­mer Test play­ers were asked to speak to the play­ers af­ter the match.

On top of all that, Aus­tralia changed their nor­mal way of do­ing things and all the Test play­ers were told to turn out for the next round of Sh­effield Shield matches.

With only four play­ers – Smith, Warner, Starc, and Ha­zle­wood – cer­tain of a place in the next Test, the play­ers were told that they needed to find form, or else.

The hint was that they would be re­placed, pos­si­bly by per­form­ing new­com­ers.

Smith has also said that Aus­tralia’s cricket needed to look for some young and hun­gry crick­eters, bat­men es­pe­cially who are knock­ing on the door with three or four cen­turies in a row.

With wick­ets tum­bling all around the world in bunches reg­u­larly and quite re­cently, how­ever, Aus­tralia pan­icked and did make some changes for the third Test, bring­ing in five play­ers, in­clud­ing three bats­men on de­but.

Whether they lose the third Test or not, how­ever, is not so im­por­tant. What is im­por­tant is that they felt the em­bar­rass­ment of los­ing so mush and so em­phat­i­cally, that they re­alised their cricket was fall­ing, that they re­alised that it was prob­a­bly caused by over­con­fi­dence or ar­ro­gance, or by poor se­lec­tion, and that they had to do some­thing about it.

And, un­like the West Indies, Aus­tralia did some­thing about it, or is try­ing to do some­thing about it.

NOT TREATED STARS

The failed play­ers were not treated like stars, like un­touch­ables. The play­ers were not pam­pered. They were told to go and work on their cricket, their bat­ting, and try to come back.

There were no ex­cuses made by the play­ers or for them – there were no blam­ing of the pitches at home, no fid­dling with the points sys­tem to try and cover up the weak­nesses, and no fir­ing of the coaches, among other things.

Aus­tralia sim­ply blamed the peo­ple who they felt were re­spon­si­ble for the em­bar­rass­ment of Aus­tralian cricket, and they dropped some of them.

One se­lec­tor re­signed, they dropped an­other one, they brought in two, in­clud­ing a new chair­man of se­lec­tors, and a few cricket of­fi­cials got rapped on the knuck­les for pos­si­bly mak­ing wrong de­ci­sions.

They may not win the third Test, or the Test fol­low­ing that, or any Test for some time by mak­ing those de­ci­sions, but it is too early to tell.

One thing is cer­tain, Aus­tralian cricket is so busi­nesslike, they love their cricket with a passion, and not only when they are win­ning. Aus­tralians plan their cricket for con­sis­tent de­vel­op­ment, they plan to rise again, and they will rise again.

You can bet your bot­tom dol­lar that within a year or two, Aus­tralia’s cricket will be back. It will not take 21 years with no end of the dis­ap­point­ments in sight.

Ja­maica’s and the West Indies’ bat­ting, and the re­gion’s cricket in gen­eral, is also bleed­ing, and it was nice to hear the Ja­maica cap­tain be­hav­ing not like the team’s PR man­ager, but like one who wants it to change, and quickly at that.

Speak­ing about a team whose bats­men have been fall­ing like man­goes for a few sea­sons now, and whose bats­men so far this sea­son have been shot down for scores of 208 (eight for 34) and 147 (five for 36), for 151 and for 159 (eight for 38), Nikita Miller said, like Smith did a few days ago, “We need to be sen­si­ble about what we are do­ing. I don’t think we are show­ing enough com­mon sense in our bat­ting. We have bats­men who are ag­gres­sive nat­u­rally be­cause that is how we play, nat­u­rally, but what you see hap­pen­ing is we are not find­ing the right kind of blend of at­tack­ing and de­fend­ing.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing, and we need to find that com­bi­na­tion very quickly, or else ... . ”

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Tony Becca

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