Why have the Australian players struggled in IPL 2015?
Over the previous 7 editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Australian players have had a huge impact for their respective teams. They have always been considered as crucial for the success of the IPL teams they have played for. Shaun Marsh was a very consistent performer for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) for the last seven seasons while Glenn Maxwell won the player of the tournament award in IPL 2014 for his exploits with the same outfit.
Shane Watson resurrected his international career with his performances for Rajasthan Royals (RR) and has been a mainstay of the Australian team ever since. Michael Hussey has been a crucial player for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and was their top run-getter for two seasons – 2011 and 2013. Some other players who have had a substantial impact in the past seven seasons are David Warner, Brad Hodge, George Bailey, Aaron Finch and Mitchell Johnson.
However, having come into this IPL after winning the ICC Cricket World Cup on March 29 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), many of the Australian players have looked jaded and they have been lacking the commitment and passion that they have always been known for. Perhaps, it is difficult to continue playing at a high level for such a prolonged period of time, especially after the euphoria of a World Cup win, but the Australians set themselves high standards and they will be disappointed with their performances.
Apart from Watson, David Warner, Moises Henriques and Mitchell Starc, the other Australian players have been very poor and some of them were even dropped from the playing eleven. Smith, who is likely to be named as Australia's next limited-overs captain, has had a disappointing IPL so far, scoring 281 runs with just two fifties. He will be frustrated with this return given the form with which he entered the IPL. He has not been helped by the uncertainty surrounding the captaincy of Rajasthan Royals.
Smith had led RR to an unbeaten winning streak of five games at the beginning of the league stage but was replaced by Shane Watson when he recovered from his injury. He has now been brought back as captain after Watson decided that the burden of captaincy was taking a toll on his game. The additional pressure has taken a toll on Smith's batting and he has often been found playing irresponsible shots when RR have needed solidity from their star batsman.
Maxwell – The biggest disappointment?
Maxwell, however, has probably been the biggest disappointment in this IPL. He was brilliant last year and KXIP had high expectations from him this year too. However, he went from the high of winning the World Cup to scoring 145 runs at a paltry average of 13.18. His success last season was based on playing an extremely attacking brand of cricket irrespective of the situation, but that backfired this time around with bowlers being more aware of his strengths and weaknesses.
While Maxwell’s poor form was a letdown, what didn’t help Punjab’s cause was that some of their other overseas stars like Bailey and Johnson didn’t contribute adequately either. Bailey managed 259 runs from 13 matches at an average of 23.54 while Johnson picked up only 9 wickets from 9 matches at an economy rate of 9.37, which is simply not good enough for a bowler of his class.
Another prominent Australian player who has simply failed to match his exploits of the past is James Faulkner. Having been one of the star performers for Rajasthan over the past two seasons, Faulkner, after picking up 3 for 26 and scoring 46 from 33 balls in the first match this season, has picked up just five more wickets and conceded runs at almost 10 an over to go with less than 100 runs at a batting average of around 16.
While his struggle with the bat can be put down to the fact that he has often had to come in and play the big strokes from the very beginning, his bowling has had an alarming dip. He has become quite predictable with his slower deliveries and has been unable to bowl yorkers with the accuracy he did earlier. with batsmen able to judge his most effective slower ball.
The gruelling schedule that the Australian players have had recently has also not helped. Josh Hazlewood decided to give the tournament a rest in order to recuperate ahead of the Ashes while Watson and Starc missed the start of the IPL due to fitness concerns. Both of them, though, have come back strongly from their injuries, playing a crucial role in RR and RCB, respectively, qualifying for the playoffs.
Watson scored a crucial century in a must win game against KKR while Starc has picked up 18 wickets in 11 games at an economy of 6.91, showing why he is the best bowler in the world at the moment.
David Warner & Moises Henriques among a few exceptions
David Warner and Moises Henriques, meanwhile, also performed well for Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). Warner was arguably the best batsman in the league stage, scoring 562 runs in total with a strike rate of more than 140. He also showed that he can absorb the pressure of captaincy and not let it affect his batting.
Henriques, rather surprisingly, proved to be one of the best Australian players in the tournament. He wasn’t expected to start for SRH but grasped his opportunity, scoring 287 runs and picking up 11 wickets with an economy of 6.32. Another Australian player who surprisingly impressed was Nathan Coulter-Nile, picking up 15 wickets in 11 games including a four-wicket haul against KXIP. It is important to note, though, that both Henriques and Coulter-Nile weren’t part of Australia’s World Cup campaign and were fresh for the IPL, unlike most of the Australian players who were coming into the IPL on the back of the World Cup win.
With players like Smith, Watson, Faulkner, and Starc set to feature in the playoffs, their teams will be hoping that their patchy form is well and truly behind them and that they can bring out their best. After all, a number of Australian players have featured in the IPL since its inception and while their form might be a bit indifferent this time around, their quality is hard to deny.