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Australia's problems start at the top

Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 7:00 AM
Source: SportsFan
Author: Bradley Dawson

WHAT WE LEARNED: Australia's selectors need to calm down, James Pattinson's fitness is key, and batting is the real problem...

Australia's Test selectors are in a spin

Near-sighted panic, perhaps hysteria would seem the only justification behind the dumping of Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc for Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell after Australia lost a whole one Test in a row. All the talk from captain Clarke about 'playing to our strengths' when he explained the selection of three quicks for the Chennai match appears just that, with Starc axed after just one poor innings. But the replacement of match-proven-but-down-on-confidence Lyon with tame Tassie trundler Doherty is even harder to fathom and sends the wrong message both to Australian players and their opponents – that Australia don't really have any confidence in their team selections. Constant reactive team tinkering is not the way to set about regaining the Ashes.

Our current top four are not up to the task

Is this the weakest top-order batting line-up in Australian Test history? The poor techniques of flat-track bullies David Warner and Phillip Hughes are matched by the mental weakness of Ed Cowan and Shane Watson; once things get a little hard, such as against the swinging delivery or on wickets that keep low and take spin, Australia are pretty well a shoo-in to reach four wickets down with not very many runs on the board. At the very least, Usman Khawaja must be installed at three or four, with Hughes making way. Shane Watson's hold on his position is almost untenable now that he doesn't bowl – and isn't really batting. He deserves just one more Test – this time as opener. Shaun Marsh appears over his mental demons and deserves another go at Test level, while Chris Rogers, at 35, still looks a better bet to open for the coming Ashes series than either Warner or Cowan. If the two incumbent openers don't get some runs quickly, Nic Maddinson might also be worth taking to England.

James Pattinson is just as important as Clarke

While he wasn't quite as effective in Hyderabad, Pattinson (along with Clarke) is still the key to our chances in this series, England and beyond. Australia must do everything it takes – bowl him more, bowl him less, get him to take up yoga, stay out in nightclubs until 3am, toss cabers, whatever – to keep him on the park. With such a flighty batting line-up, Australia needs to be regularly bowling sides out for 250 or less to have any chance against quality Test teams, and the big Victorian is the one Aussie bowler who genuinely and constantly threatens to take wickets no matter the conditions.

Warnie's legacy has amounted to very little

How can Australia have produced perhaps the greatest spinner of all time in Shane Warne, only to find six years after his retirement that, instead of being passed on, his skill and knowledge appears to have vanished into the ether along with his wrinkles? The best tweaker in the land may well be Fawad Ahmed, a political refugee from Pakistan. Not only does the lack of quality spin options country-wide guarantee Australia will struggle to take wickets on turning pitches in the sub-continent or anywhere else, but it has also helped produce a generation of batsmen who have no idea how to use their feet against slow bowling. The world's best off-spinner Graeme Swann will simply make mincemeat of our top order, assuming he is fit and able to play in the Ashes.

Stray thoughts

- This was the first Test in history that a side lost by an innings after declaring its first innings closed. Way to get your name in the record books, Clarkey.

- Ravi Ashwin is cashing in against the Aussies, picking up his third five-wicket haul for the series. He now has eight five-wicket hauls to his name in just 14 Tests.

- Chet Pujara and Murali Vijay scored 371 runs in their mammoth partnership. Both of Australia's innings only produced 368 runs.

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The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of SportsFan.

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