Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Solving Australia's Batting Ills For Boxing Day

Time To Go Ricky!
Unless you are talking about Netball or Rugby, then losing to New Zealand for Australia is indeed a cause of great humiliation. When it happens in Test Cricket, and worse still on Australian soil. It is hard to put into words the shame involved.

The hard core fans or true believers will just put it down as a freak of nature that occasionally happens in sport. While also pointing to the absence of Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh from the batting line up as well as Ryan Harris and Pat Cummins from the bowling.

When you look at the current team through objective eyes, the truth of losing to the 8th ranked Team in Test Cricket is much harder to digest for the Aussie faithful. This in view of having a very adequate bowling unit, but offset by a batting line up, and in particular a top 4 that is diabolically bad. If you want proof here are the figures of the Aussie batsmen in 2011

Shane Watson: 11 innings, average 24.09, highest score 88 (1 50)

Phil Hughes: 15 innings, average 26.93, highest score 126 ( 1 100, 1 50)

Usman Khawaja: 11 innings, average 29.22, highest score 65 (1 50)

Ricky Ponting:11 innings, average 26.63, highest score 78 ( 2 50's)

Michael Clarke: 14 innings, average 41.85, highest score 151 ( 3 centuries, 1 50)

Mike Hussey: 14 innings, average 42.21, highest score 142 ( 2 centuries, 2 50's )

Brad Haddin: 14 innings, average 21.57, highest score 80 ( 2 50's)

These figure already damning are given greater weight when you take into account the host of collapses the batting has endured in the recent past. As embodied in this game where they fell from 3/159 to being all out 74 runs later for 233. A top order that has failed to reach 150 on 5 occasion in the last 17 months, and then the embarrassingly low Team scores, that are becoming all too regular to be brushed off as an aberration.

Add to this the immense struggles of the veterans in the line up as emphasised by Ricky Pontings's descent from invincibility into vulnerability. As shown by his burgeoning reputation for falling across the crease to make him be a real target for LBW, and one of his greatest weapons deserting him in his time of need in his backfoot drive. Indelibly shown in the frustration strewn across his face in the realisation that decay was now the reality of his batting after he lobbed that shot so amateurishly into the covers allowing the Kiwis back into the game.

Every cloud has a silver lining even if it is hard to find as in this case. Hope found in Shaun Marsh, who has averaged 56.80, and taken like a duck to water in Test cricket, and Dave Warner, who blew away any conjecture of his suitability for Test cricket with a 4th innings of 123* in the Hobart shame. Sadly, Marsh has a body that has had a career full of fragility, and is already ruled out of the Boxing Day Test against India, and in Warner's case, the lad has a lumberjacks type shoulders, but it is doubtful whether they are strong enough to carry this batting line up after just two Tests

When you take all this on board it makes trying to find an adequate top 7 for the Boxing Day Test against India a real challenge. Though, I am one for challenges, so let us try to discover those 7 names.

Two voices have predominated discussions in the wake of the Hobart disgrace. In the Australian Coach Mickey Arthur putting his full support behind Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, and then Shane Warne calling for the players who are being carried to be dropped, and new blood to be injected. Under the auspicious of it is better to have a young player struggle who might have a future, rather than struggling veterans being allowed to linger in the line up. Which is ok when you are winning, but so offensive to fans when you are struggling

Starting with the veterans, if Australia has any thoughts of beating a retooled Indian line up then Ponting has to go. In the knowledge that he is a ghost of the player he once was and is placing undue pressure on the rest of the line up. As for Hussey, though he has only averaged 11.86 in his past 7 innings he still has credits in the bank after an excellent series in Sri Lanka, and the Ashes previously to that.

As for the rest of the top four, the only certain pick in my mind should be Dave Warner. In the case of Phil Hughes the patience shown to him, and the excuses made for his shoddy technique need to stop, and he be axed. Then Usman Khawaja, who can block all day, and survive, but so struggles in rotating the strike. Duly heaping added pressure on the rest of the line up to make up not only for his inability to score runs, but his incompetence in even rotating the strike.

If Shaun Marsh was fit for Boxing Day, he should be axed, but fate has been kind to Khawaja, and he will have to remain.

Ed Cowan
Shane Watson will be recalled to the line up, but on the back of his struggles against the new ball facilitated by his propensity to be a free flowing batsman like he is in the shorter forms of the game. It would be better for him to revert to number 6 in the line up, and evolve into a Andrew Symonds like batsmen in the line up. Plus a move down the order would allow the team to fully use his excellent bowling skills

Plus with two attacking batsmen opening since the inexplicable axing of Simon Katich, the opening pair has so lacked the balance necessary to succeed in Test Cricket. Ideally, Katich would be recalled, but there is more chancing of me flying to the moon. So, inserting a Katich clone in the excellent Ed Cowan, who has scored three centuries in his last 4 First Class games would be the way I would go. Following on from a very fine 2010/11 Sheffield season with the bat

The two remaining queries are over Brad Haddin's place in the line up, and whether the Team should be propped up by an all rounder at 8 to add the depth to the batting. That Mitchell Johnson represented on occasion. The precociously talented Matthew Wade would be a good reason to drop Haddin, but I would resist this in the respect of Haddins warrior like demeanour that will be so valued against the Indians.

Including an all rounder has merit in place of Mitchell Starc, though I am not sold on Dan Christians calibre for Test Cricket. In the view of him coming to prominence on the back of his mastery in T20, that has brought him to the attention of the Selectors, and then supported by a few handy performances in the Shield this year. Also his batting is propped up by enjoying the batting friendly confines of the Adelaide Oval. I would be more inclined to look at the young Tasmanian all rounder in James Faulkner, who is every bit as accomplished as Christian with the bat, and more so with the ball. Adding to his appeal is his left hand bowling which makes him a like for like replacement for Mitchell Starc.

The fitness of Ryan Harris, and his recall to the line up would scupper the all rounder preference. In the knowledge that this very accomplished bowler would complete a very threatening Aussie bowling unit.

My Boxing Day 11:

Ed Cowan

Dave Warner

Usman Khawaja (If Shaun Marsh is fit, Khwaja out)

Michael Clarke

Mike Hussey

Shane Watson

Brad Haddin

Ryan Harris (If Harris is unfit, I would choose James Faulkner)

Peter Siddle

James Pattinson

Nathon Lyon

1 comment:

  1. Be it as anyone likes, Austrlia will have Ponting at Number 4, as the Aus return for a boxing day duel. This day past year, Aus took their steps to descent and confusion with a back to back defeat at the hands of England at MCG and SCG. To say that they lack the talent will be wrong, but the moving ball has been their undoing. Where they appear to be chinks is their approach and the mental side of the game. No long er can they will themselves out of foxhole, since this team is vastly different from the one that could rush out of foxhole.Perhaps that has effected to the demeanor and the swagger has been replaced by tentative steps. The CA will have to keep their faith, perhaps for the next 4 tests, but it is bit apparent that heads are ready to roll.