Worse Than it Seems
At the beginning of the Sheffield Shield season the traditionalists were sleeping easy having dreams filled with the good old days. Scorecards were ridiculous, huge totals, big hundreds, big runs and bowlers having to work hard to get their wickets. Pucovski and Green where the next big things and India were going to feel their wrath. Well, 4 tests on and it’s safe to say Australian cricket is in a worse position than they would like to give off.
Batting will be the focus of this post but first a word on the bowling. Australia’s bowling attack is its crown jewel, even if they don’t score big they make sure you don’t either. Well against India it just didn’t happen. Hazelwood was great, Cummins was absurdly good but Lyon was poor and Starc was an image of his old hit and miss self. It says a lot about the state of the Australian bowlers that they don’t trust their backups in the slightest. Michael Nesser has been in countless touring parties but hasn’t even played a test. James Pattinson is the next in line but only played last winter because Hazelwood was injured. Australia's obsession on their front line 4 ended up hurting them and the stubborn attitude of the team was self destructive. Australia where superb in the Ashes as they rested and rotated their seam attack accordingly. But this winter they were too short sighted and the failure to rotate punished them. Why on earth would you not bring in Pattinson for the Gabba, his home ground.
When you think back to the good old days of Australian cricket you think of genuine world beaters barely able to get a test gig. Darren Lehmann only played 27 tests, Michael Hussey only made his debut in 2005. Compare it to now, the current test lineup itself is far too shaky. Wade and Head are the chosen number 5’s but neither are actually convincing in test match cricket. Pucovski and Harris are seen as the next in line to open but both appear to be more suited to a middle order role at test level. Warner looks a shadow of his old self and rushing him back from injury may come back to haunt Langer and coin the long run. Tim Paine is not a test batsmen and if his keeping stays on this trend of declining then he will soon find himself gone. Cameron Green looks good enough and one would imagine he will enjoy a fruitful test career. Here we find the issue; who’s next?
Alex Carey appears to be the one lined up to take the gloves from Paine, Australia again looking for the next Gilchrist, but has hardly played a red ball match in years. Shaun Marsh is too old, Khawaja has had ultimately middling returns, Kurtis Patterson was given a gig and was superb but never to be seen again, Mitchell Marsh was meant to be their number 6 but Cameron Green has taken that role, Peter Handscomb has, sadly, fallen of a cliff and then... Then that’s it, there really is no one else staking a claim to get into the test side. No one they haven’t used already, no one scoring 1000 runs in a season not even getting a sniff. Without this competition and fear of places you don't push people to get any better or improve. How did Matthew Hayden become one of the best to ever do it, well he improved because he knew if he didn't there were 5 other guys ready to take his spot.
The dreams the shield provided earlier this winter of huge totals, the golden age once again were promptly put down by the Indians. Not once in the series did Australia pass 400, something which the home side would’ve expected to do with monotonous regularity. Batting teams into the ground just wasn't there; Australia fell victim to discipline and control and couldn't get on top and then they couldn't deliver the same when they where handed the cherry.
Australia's batting is in a poor state, the test side is weak and the cracks are starting to show, the bowling attack is becoming tired (and rightfully so) but the system doesn't trust their backups. The once great Sheffield Shield has stopped being the conveyor belt of test match batsmen it once was and Smith and Labuschagne can only hold a batting lineup together for so long. Australian cricket is staying a float but they’re tiring and the sharks are circling below. An implosion is inevitable with any side and when you peer beneath the surface the situation is far worse than it seems.