Monthly Archives: August 2017

Not Rocket Science

The post-mortem from the 1st Test against Bangladesh in Mirpur doesn’t need to be long. In fact, it would be a mistake to over-analyse it.

1) Bangladesh are not the easy-beats they used to be. They’ve beaten England and Sri Lanka in the past year. Any cricket ‘writer’ who was surprised by Bangladesh’s victory probably covers the rugby league in the off season.

2) Australia did not prepare. Australia started well in India in February then fell in a steaming heap thereafter. A few of them went off to the IPL, and a few participated in a very half-hearted Champions Trophy campaign. None played red ball cricket for five months. And don’t anyone try and claim that a brief training camp in Darwin represented serious preparation. It was better than nothing, but not by much.

3) Australia is only a mediocre team. Its only world-class Test cricketers are Smith, Starc (currently absent), Hazlewood and Lyon. Warner could arguably now join that list, but if it wasn’t for his 2nd-innings ton in Mirpur, I would not have included him. Warner is mostly a flat track bully who has always struggled against spin, so he actually deserves a lot of kudos for being the only batsman to dig deep and produce a good innings in Mirpur. I honestly didn’t think he was capable of that knock. I would go as far as to speculate that it might prolong his career, coming at a time when his confidence must have been starting to flag after a string of low scores.

4) Bangladesh didn’t play all that well, but Australia played really really badly. I don’t want to be mean to Bangladesh, but they didn’t really play above-average cricket. It’s just that Australia played awfully, specifically with the bat. The spinners on both teams bowled adequately, with the spectacularly uneven bounce helping them a lot. Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al-Hasan, Renshaw and Warner proved that runs could be scored if only one was prepared to work for them, but the Australian batsmen again lacked the skill and discipline. As Smith admitted after the match, they forgot whatever they had learned in India. Why? See Points 2) and 3) above.

The changes required for the 2nd Test in Chittagong are pretty obvious (which doesn’t mean the selectors will make them).

Matthew Wade must go. I don’t blame him one bit for letting through a lot of byes on that nightmare Mirpur pitch but his batting is nothing short of abysmal. He is now a dead weight, and nowhere near the player he once was. Peter Handscomb is by no means a long-term Test ‘keeper, but Australia needs batsmen, and it needs them NOW. Wade must be dropped and Handscomb given the gloves in Chittagong, thereby allowing Hilton Cartwright an audition. Before the Ashes begin in November, the selectors can observe the leading contenders for ‘keeper-batsman in the first three rounds of the Sheffield Shield. Maybe they’ll go back to Peter Nevill, maybe they’ll try someone else, but to pretend Wade is Test standard is to indulge dangerous self-delusion.

Other than that, the only other change to make appears to have been made; i.e. bring in a third spinner and have Cummins as the sole quick.

Glenn Maxwell must also go but that can wait until after this series.

Prepare For the Ashes By Not Playing?

Has anybody else noticed how little preparation Australia’s Test cricketers will have for the Ashes?

I mean, like, almost none.

Australia started out very well in India, winning the First Test in Pune in February against all expectations and fighting hard to stand at 1-1 going into the Fourth Test in Dharamsala in the last week of March 2017. In that match, it all proved too much and Australia fell in a heap to lose the series 2-1.

Afterwards, most of the Australians went off to the IPL. Most then showed up at the Champions Trophy but their heads were obviously not in the game and they crashed out (much like South Africa).

Since then, there has been no cricket for the Aussies.

Instead, the players have been entangled in a bitter pay dispute with Cricket Australia (CA) that has dragged on for months. Claims by the likes of Smith and Warner that they were not distracted by the bizarre fight with CA are simply not believable (but they could hardly say otherwise publicly).

So what remains before the Ashes? A brief tour to Bangladesh, where the Australians will play two Tests. Now, the Bangladeshis are a much improved side, and playing on their home turf could be a real handful. In fact, if Australia does not look out, I would not be surprised to see them get beaten. But the point I’m making is that it’s only two Tests. It’s not a lot of match practice, and the conditions will be utterly dissimilar to what they will face back home in Australia.

After Bangladesh, Australia has no Test cricket to play between 8 September and 23 November. An ODI tour to India is allegedly planned, but the details don’t seem to be available yet. And anyway, what value is there in a tour that includes only ODI matches?

Meanwhile, England has just played a four Test series against South Africa and is about to commence a three Test series against West Indies.

By the time the coin is tossed at the First Ashes Test in Brisbane, Australia will have played two Test matches in eight months.

England will have played seven Tests across two series.

I notice the England press is lamenting the instability of the England top order but I suspect they can afford to be a little more sanguine as Australia currently has similar issues to wrestle with. And if one excludes the top order batting issues, there are other areas in which the England team is looking more formidable than Australia (more about that in the next post).

For now, though, if Australia loses in Brisbane, I can already see the headlines:

“Why did Australia play virtually no Test cricket in the eight months before the Ashes?”

And yet every summer the cricketers say their schedule is too busy and they’re playing too much cricket.

I don’t get it.