A sensible response to poor batting
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 ... . ”