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The freefall of the Oz

Michael Clarke and co. have some soul-searching to do

Michael Clarke and Co. have some soul-searching to do.

When was the last time that Australia crumbled without putting up a fight? Honestly, they have accepted defeat rather than giving the opponents a run for their money. The will to fight back – a trait that Australia always boasts of – was completely missing, and the swagger in their step was nowhere to be seen.

Maybe it is the lack of talent that has put the Australians in this predicament, but looking at the way they have approached the game, one has to wonder why they are still stuck in T20 mode. Back in 2001, when Australia produced champion cricketers, the scenario was completely different. India was hailed for restricting the advance of the Aussies in our backyard, which goes to suggest the kind of domination they had over their rivals.

The Border-Gavaskar series definitely did not create the kind of impact that it was expected to. Australia has not realized the importance of winning this series. They are letting India have their revenge without any fuss and it is quite embarrassing, to be honest. Maybe they have resigned themselves to their fate, having understood that they do not have the necessary fire power in their armoury.

The lack of a genuine spin bowler in their ranks has tormented them in the last couple of matches, as they have finally realized the importance of having a Shane Warne in their team. Maybe they could have seriously considered the option of waking the old horse from his slumber. He would have definitely had more success than his successors.

The more pressing problem, though, has been the decline in form of the batsmen. The Australians, in general, were renowned for the tremendous talent they possessed in their ranks. Being more than just Test players, they possessed the art of playing as team and  had players who were remarkably versatile.

Shane Watson's form has been a major worry for the Australians

Shane Watson’s form has been a major worry for the Australians

The Australian batting consists of a number of newcomers, and a majority of players are still taking baby steps in international cricket. It is hard to imagine their batting order that consists of five new faces has failed them so miserably, not to mention the current form of Shane Watson.

“As an all-rounder, he could pretty much walk into any side, but purely as a batsman he goes into a bigger pool and that makes his selection difficult.” – Michael Clarke.

Matthew Hayden had an average of over 50 and Justin Langer had an average of more than 45. It was the solidity in the top order that kept them afloat in the olden days. But Warner, though he has an average over 40, fails to impress as a Test player as he tries to play too many shots from the beginning. Ed Cowan, on the other hand, is just doing enough to kindle the expectations of the fans, but flatters to deceive in the end. His knock of 44 in his last outing was not fluent at all. He struggled to battle the spinners and misjudged the length on more than one occasion.

The middle order does not even merit a mention. Phil Hughes seemed to have forgotten to carry his form from the West Indies series, and the chinks in his batting have been put on public display. The only saving grace was their skipper Michael Clarke, who played a few captain’s knocks, though no one possessed the courage to follow in his footsteps.

Looking at the things as they are, Clarke would just have to shift a couple of positions up the order to lend stability to the top order. He himself has commented that he is contemplating the move. That means that Shane Watson could wrangle a chance to open the batting, and the casualty would definitely be Phil Hughes. Usman Khawaja would finally procure an opportunity to showcase his skills now that Australia have nothing left to lose.

No major changes can be made in the bowling department, except for a bit of soul-searching after the thorough beating they received at the hands of the Indian batsmen. At the end of the day, all they can do is “hold their head high and claim that they have done their best” like Steve Waugh commented in the 2001 series. The spinners could take a leaf out of Ashwin’s book and try and replicate his performances, though it is easier said than done.

Tinkering with the batting order is going to unsettle the young batsmen, but it is time for them to put the uncertainties behind and look to play positively. The callousness in their approach should be dealt with severely. Instead of looking to take the Indian bowlers on, the batsmen should concentrate on consolidating and be circumspect in their approach.

As a cricket aficionado, it is heart-breaking to see the current state of Australian cricket. They are replicating the West Indies team who fell from grace after the retirements of their star players. That should not be the case with Australia, as they are managing to hold on to the aura that their former players bequeathed. It is slowly fading away with every passing match, and it would take more than one lion-hearted skipper to stop the free-fall.

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