Sunday, January 8, 2017

My Blueprint for Australia to be Competitive in India

Eyes automatically turned to India after the new look Australian Test team completed a very impressive 3 Test whitewash of Pakistan.

With fans and players alike talking up their prospects of being competitive against India in the 4 Test series.

Reality tells another tale with the team enjoying a honeymoon period after being embarrassed by a South African unit a mere month ago. Any tour to India at present is Mission Impossible with tourists laid to waste, particularly ones from Western upbringings in the game.

Bringing into question whether the Aussies can be competitive, and if so, how?

Selections will play a huge role, the squad must represent the team's strengths rather than chosen hoping to suit the conditions. Resisting choosing spinners that are not up to the demands of the tour or all rounders who are little more than bits and pieces players needs to govern the choices. Firstly with the spinners, the only one exuding real Test-calibre is leg spinner Mitchell Swepson, but taking him to India would be suicidal in his development. It would be wiser to have him one of the first on the plane for the Bangladesh tour.

As for the all-rounders, none are up to Test cricket standard at present. Fans will point to the likes of Hilton Cartwright or Glenn Maxwell, the former looking very frail against spin with the bat and lacking any penetration with the ball- very much a Moises Henriques clone. As for Maxwell, one needs more than talent to play Test cricket with his temperament light years away. The only real option would be employing Ashton Agar in the role at 6 with him having potential with both bat and ball but at present far from the finished article.

 As a result, the focus needs to be on the high-quality pacemen that Australia has at present and entrusting them as the best chance of success.

I would select this squad:

Steven Smith, Dave Warner, Matt Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscombe, Kurtis Patterson, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood, Jackson Bird, Peter Siddle, Steve O'Keefe, Chadd Sayers, Ashton Agar

My Starting 11:

Matt Renshaw, Dave Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Peter Handscombe, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill (wk), Mitchell Starc, Steven O'Keefe, Josh Hazelwood, Jackson Bird

The focus needs to be on greater respect shown to the pivotal role a gloveman plays. Australia cannot risk going to India with the accident waiting to happen known as Matthew Wade behind the stumps with Peter Nevill reinstated.

The other standout is the absence of Nathan Lyon. My main premise on his omission found in an article I penned for ROAR previously. Since writing this in October Lyon's situation has become grimmer with it apparent Captain Steven Smith has little faith in him. In India where the Indian bats will attack him trying to exploit his fragile mindset, his selection will put the team at a disadvantage.

At the top of the Indian order, Murali Vijay is arguably Test crickets best player of spin with his style to the tweekers being governed by attacking intent. He will completely obliterate one as tepid as Lyon

As for the spinners and tactics, it would go against the grain of Australia's attacking mindsets, but I would tap into South Africa's/England's tactics in India from the past. Conceding lacking a spinner able to be an attacking force and reverting to using them in a cynical defensive sense. Following suit from the likes of Paul Harris/Ashley Giles bowling flat and fast into the rough a foot outside leg to the right-handers with stacked leg side fields in support.

The ploy would suffocate the scoring challenging the natural desire of the Indian bats to dominate spinners. Leading to taking chances to make the scoreboard tick over accentuating the threat of the spinner.

Steven O'Keefe with his laser-like accuracy ideally suited to this role.

The bonus of the tactic seen in allowing the pacemen to attack with venom from the other end facilitated by the pressure the spinner is exerting.

With the duo of Hazelwood/Starc employed, in short, sharp spells supported by Jackson Bird, or Peter Siddle in the stock role. The vastly underrated Bird entrusted with longer spells where his ability to be miserly while maintaining threat will be crucial.

If Steven Smith with his handy leg-spin could step up to the plate contributing five overs a day, it would be the perfect accompaniment to the main bowlers.

One can invest a fair bit of trust in the bowling to perform putting the focus on the batsmen and whether they can.

Logically how they fare against spin after being ruthlessly exposed by it in the past will be crucial. As pivotal is similar respect shown to the threat of the Indian fast men represent, particularly Mohammad Shami who is sincere calibre ably supported by the very able Umesh Yadav.

Automatically the top 6 needs to have six specialist batsmen with one of the few proven against spin in Shaun Marsh one of the first picked. Any temptation to drop Matt Renshaw scoffed as insane ramblings with the youngster looking very equipped to face the demands of the tour.

Pivotal in the prospects of the batting will be the pillars in the top three in Dave Warner and Usman Khawaja. Both are coming off dominant performances recently at home but having question marks against their names after being exposed by spin in Sri Lanka. India's spinners are far more accomplished than the Sri Lankans as well as supported by very able pacemen and a high calibre batting line up meaning real acid will fall on both.

In the case of Khawaja, after his clueless display in Sri Lanka the leash needs to be short. If he is similarly incompetent, automatically Shaun Marsh replaces him at 3 with Kurtis Patterson debuting at 6.

Leading us to Steven Smith after another 'Bradmanesque' performance in home confines.

Can he translate this to dominating a series away like he does at home?

He has a lauded reputation for his skill in playing spin but his performance recently in Sri Lanka where he only averaged 41.16 leaves a question mark against his calibre. A series average propped up by scoring a century in the dead rubber where his chief tormenter Rangana Herath was severely limited.

If he can dominate, it could lead to the Aussies exceeding all expectations.

Series Prediction 

Australia is on the right path by investing in youth with them looking very accomplished in obliterating Pakistan at home.

India in India is a whole different kettle of fish.

I can see their bowling being threatening if they pick the right attack but they will once more be let down by their batting being exposed by India's spinners.

Counter to this is undermining their chances by selecting players not up to the demands of the series with the focus on out of their depth spinners and bits and pieces 'all rounders'.

The coup de gras of gaffs will be if Wade remains as keeper for the series

India to win 4 nil

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