While England were bringing their harrowed Indian sojourn to an even abject conclusion in Chennai, Australia found themselves trying to stave off an unexpected scare from Pakistan at the Gabba. Even though more than 9000 kilometers separate the two venues, parallels were beginning to be drawn with one eye already primed on the upcoming Aussie tour to India.
Conditions might be completely different but the task facing Steven Smith and his troops seems to have become even harder if that is indeed possible. According to former skipper and outspoken commentator Ian Chappell, Australia need to learn from England’s 0-4 drubbing if they are to compete in their forthcoming 4-Test series in India.
In a column for ESPNCricinfo, the 73-year old has urged his countrymen to not rely on bits and pieces all rounders whilst reiterating the importance of understanding Indian conditions.
Upon alluding to Herbie Collins’ oft-repeated message on team selection, Chappell writes, “Of late, it doesn't seem to matter what combination India utilize, it's the right one. India have a seemingly endless production line of prolific young batsmen; huge totals plus the guile of spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, have proved to be an irresistible combination.”
“The Australian team is resurgent after a horror patch of five successive Test losses. Two good wins followed, but the team hierarchy is still searching for an all rounder and batsmen who might succeed in India. Picking the best six batsmen is a good start and if they can't fathom Indian conditions then the tour is destined to be a lost cause.”
Virat Kohli’s Indian team are currently on a 18-Test unbeaten streak which is already a national record. After whitewashing New Zealand 3-0, they blew apart England on pitches that did not have much assistance for spin. As a result, the well-oiled unit has opened up a 15-point lead in the ICC rankings.
On the other hand, Steven Smith’s Australian side recently suffered five straight Test defeats (0-3 in Sri Lanka and losses in Perth, Hobart) before gaining a consolation victory in Adelaide. They managed to hold their nerve and seal a 39-run win despite a remarkable rearguard from Pakistan in Brisbane. In the absence of a viable all-rounder, there is a concerted worry on the workload of their primary bowlers.
Chappell believes, “India have just sent England packing with their tail between their legs and that humiliation should be a warning to Australia: pick specialists rather than players who do a bit of each. England regularly selected three specialist batsmen and a slew of all-rounders of varying standard. It is asking for trouble to man the crucial No. 4 spot with your main spinner and a player who, in other regions, bats at No. 8.”
He adds, “Undoubtedly, England were handicapped by not having a major spin-bowling weapon in India.” Although Nathan Lyon has been banked upon by the selectors to lead Australia’s spin attack, his record in the subcontinent does not inspire much confidence.
Australia’s woeful record in Asia
In what is quite an embarrassing record, Australia have lost all of their previous nine Tests in Asia and all of their last seven Tests in India. While majority of their problems have risen from inadequate batting, the inability of the spinners to provide regular breakthroughs has also cost them dearly.
As against his home record of 109 wickets from 30 Tests at an average of 34.07 with 3 five-wicket hauls, Lyon has only picked up 42 wickets from 11 Tests in Asia at an average of 42.57. Compare that to the Asia averages of Ashwin (21.44), Jadeja (19.93), Yasir Shah (24.75) and Rangana Herath (25.92). It is increasingly evident from the stats where their issue lies.
India will take on Bangladesh for a solitary Test in Hyderabad on February 8 before the Aussies arrive for a 4-Test series beginning from February 23rd with the venues being Pune, Bengaluru, Ranchi and Dharamsala.
Australia would like Alastair Cook to lead in the next Ashes
On the intense debate surrounding Alastair Cook’s captaincy, Chappell feels that England should replace the beleaguered left-hander in order to address the contrasting methods within the group.
He opines, “Joe Root and Stokes are both aggressive, potential match-winners who are supported by a number of other players with a positive approach. In Alastair Cook, England have an obdurate opener who is invaluable as a batsman but a conservative captain who is badly battle-scarred. Cook's captaincy features an inability to stem the flow of runs once the opposition get on a roll.”
“Anyway, it is not up to Cook to decide whether he remains captain - it is the selectors' job. If they decide Cook is not the man for the job, out of deference to the sterling work he has done as a player, they should give him the option to resign. The England selectors only need ask themselves one question: would the Australians like Cook to captain the next Ashes series? The answer would be an emphatic, ‘Yes’.”
All signs emanating from the England camp currently point to a wait-before-react approach as they are poised to play only limited-overs matches until the start of their next home summer.Published 25 Dec 2016, 20:02 IST