144 for 2 to 207 all-out. 124 for 1 to 160 for 6. You would be forgiven for thinking that these are numbers related to Pakistan’s batting collapses. The fact, though, is that it is the mighty Aussies who have suffered the ignominy of these collapses. The first meltdown occurred in the second ODI against England in Manchester, just a few days after they had lost the first T20I in uncanny fashion in Southampton.
Although in different formats, there were quite a few similarities in the manner in which Australia capitulated in the two contests. Firstly, Australia restricted the Englishmen to an attainable total in both games. Then, they seemed to be cruising during the run chase. Out of the blue, however, they started crumbling and ended up on the losing side.
Australia's performance in Southampton and Manchester is not something we have come to associate with the team over the years. So what exactly is going wrong with the Aussies? Here's an analysis:
#1. Over-dependence on Smith, Warner, and Finch
Over the years, Australia's strength has always been the team as a whole. That is definitely not the case with this present side, especially in the batting department.
The Australian squad is heavily dependent on stalwarts Steve Smith and David Warner to score big runs across all formats while Aaron Finch is massively relied on in the limited-overs setup.
The current batting line-up is nowhere close to the one that they had in the '90s and 2000s, with the likes of the Waugh brothers, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Michael Bevan among others.
It is not a surprise that they struggle when Smith, Warner and Finch get out cheaply.
#2. Backing non-performing players
Selection issues have also haunted Australia for a while now. They have been backing non-performing players for a bit too long. Two names, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh, instantly come to mind.
If we look at the current limited-overs series in England, Maxwell has played one scintillating knock but has been a significant part of the two shocking batting failures.
As an experienced cricketer, it is about time Australia expect a semblance of responsibility from Maxwell. As for Marsh, he keeps coming in and going out of the team and has never been able to secure his place as an all-rounder.
Further, Marcus Stoinis is being groomed to become a finisher in the MS Dhoni mould which is a noble idea. But while the Aussie all-rounder has looked in fine nick since his return to the team, he needs to start converting starts into significant knocks before the pressure starts building again.
#3. Ruthlessness Missing
The Aussies have always been renowned for their ruthless nature. Often, it has been viewed as arrogance. But with a record five World Cup titles to their name and multiple unbeaten streaks in Tests that have lasted over 20 matches, their methods have clearly been justified.
This cut-throat mentality is exactly what seems to be missing in the current Aussie outfit. The Australia of old would not have allowed England any chance back in the game in the aforementioned contests.
Of course, Australia have gone through a lot in the last couple of years, with the ball-tampering scandal and the subsequent bans being imposed on Warner and Smith. But, even after the return of the duo, Australia have failed to rediscover their real self. They had a great chance to prove themselves in the World Cup last year being defending champions. However, despite making it to the semi-finals, they failed to get past eventual winners England.
They were extremely lethargic in the knockout game where, except Smith, no one could stand up to the English challenge. Something similar transpired in the Ashes where Smith almost single-handedly fought for the Aussies with some sensational knocks. In the end, though, England managed to square the series on the basis of their superior all-round strength.
Going forward, Australia must ensure that their do not let the opposition have a foot in the door when they are ahead in the game. They need to seriously look at their batting resources and identify the batsmen who can play the finishing roles. Skipper Finch has been in excellent form throughout the ongoing series against England. However, he has failed to take Australia all the way in both the matches that the Aussies have collapsed in.
A lot has changed in international cricket over the last couple of decades. England, in particular, are not the pushovers they once used to be, irrespective of the format. Teams like Virat Kohli’s India and Kane Williamson-led New Zealand have also taken have taken giant strides. In comparison, Australia seem to have fallen off the radar, even if only by a slight margin. The Aussies must, thus, lift their game that much more to compete with present sides. They need to get the right mix of players first. Getting back the ruthless edge should be their next challenge.Published 16 Sep 2020, 14:12 IST