Yes! That’s what many of the cricket fans world over might be thinking, seeing the plight of the current Australian side. In limited overs cricket they might still be good (the 5-0 whitewash against the South Africans apart), but in the traditional longer version, nothing seems to be going right for a side that till recently was a real powerhouse of big hitters, classy players, wicket takers – you name it and they had it kind of players! For Australia to lose the last seven test matches on the trot is nothing but appalling to say the least.
Losing in sport isn’t a crime, alright; but the manner in which they have lost is what has evoked such strong reactions worldwide, let alone the team management. To say that the Australians lack players with skill, technique or temperament wouldn’t entirely paint a true picture, especially with the strong domestic setup that they have got, which the cricketing world looks to emulate.
The concern really is that apart from the current bunch of some non-performers, there aren’t many players in the pipeline either who, you can say, are ready to grab the vacant spots. Till just a few years ago, the Australians were known to unearth new talents who would go on to secure their places for good – Michael Clarke, Steve Smith, David Warner being some of the few names that come to mind – but there doesn’t seem to be anybody really at present who seems to be ready to take the baton.
Of late the Australian selectors have shown that their way forward is by selecting horses for courses, in the sense, performance and not age, being their criteria. Though this seems good for the short run, eventually it doesn’t work as is the case presently. Chris Rogers, Rob Quiney, George Bailey, Adam Voges, and now Callum Ferguson are some of the players’ that come to mind who made their debuts in their 30s. It is said age is just a number, but in cricket, leave alone sport, this is a relevant number that matters.
A deeper analysis leads me to some of the players who could/should be in focus.
- Peter Nevill: His debut created a huge furore, as he replaced Brad Haddin in the middle of the Ashes tour of 2015. His continued presence in the side bemuses me, as to what makes him a regular presence in the side despite his regular failures. A batting average about 22 even after 23 odd innings, with just three half centuries and a high score of 66, is abysmal to say the least, especially with keeper-batsmen like Matthew Wade, Tim Paine etc in the fray.
- Adam Voges: He had a dream start to his test career at 35, albeit a little too late a start than he would have liked. He still averages around 60, but with age not by his side, his failures bring the spotlight on him almost immediately. In Sri Lanka also he hadn’t look too assuring against the turning ball, and now after a couple of tests against the Proteas at home, he has looked equally clueless against pace. Thus I have a feeling that his might be one of the earliest places in the side that might be up for grabs.
- Nathan Lyon: He is Australia’s best off-spinner till date, with age still by his side; but with not much impact in the last 5 tests – three of them in helpful Sri Lankan conditions – he is under the scanner. Though replacing him immediately would be sort of a knee-jerk reaction, time off the test team might be good for him to work over his game and come back stronger.
- Travis Head: He seems to be a good young bloke with a good head not only in his name, but also on his shoulders. In the limited overs games that he debuted and played recently, he did look promising, and the Aussie selectors would do well to play him in the longer format as well. His part time off spin would mean having a good all-round player in the side. If developed and persisted with, he could go on to become a good useful cricketer in the mould of a Smith or a Clarke.
- Peter Handscomb: This young bloke averages around 40 with the bat in first class cricket. With age also by his side, he could be given an early looking especially with the team in the rebuilding stage. He’s also a useful wicket-keeper and he has showcased his ability both with bat and gloves in the Big Bash. So an early draft into the side would do him and the Australian team a world of good.
- Glenn Maxwell: Yes, the selectors should remember that this powerful stroke maker plays test cricket and should be given a look in! With a first class batting average around 41, he is someone who has the ability to change games. And not to forget his handy off-spin and superb fielding abilities.
- Adam Zampa: This leg-spinner can be given a chance and nurtured at the test level. He is a handy batsman too. He could be developed into a good test leggie as he has shown in limited overs cricket that he has good character, and is brave enough to attack the batsmen.
Generally aggression is what gets the Aussies going, and at the start of the series against South Africa, too, they needled the aggressive ‘Aussie bad boys’ talk in their media interactions that they are known for. But what has been glaringly found out is that even this aggression couldn’t bail them out of trouble and that when they got a dose of their own medicine, they were just bewildered. After all how can aggression help you out, when your own batting doesn’t!
Well, as fans of good cricket, all we can do is hope that the Australians’ bad run n test cricket comes to an end soon. After all, too much ‘good-ness’ won’t be interesting always; the ‘Aussie bad boys’ stuff is equally essential to spice up enthralling bat-ball contest!