Australia’s second innings of the third Test against Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground this year was a clear indication that the Australian batsmen were in for a torrid time on their tour of India. It was a warning sign about the Australian batting in the first two Tests, which has been ignored by the hierarchy of Cricket Australia.
It is easy to point fingers at the lack of spinners in Australia, but at the end of the day, batsmen need to score runs. Australia have batted first in both Tests in India and have failed to take advantage on both occasions. The issues started right at the top.
Shane Watson’s demotion in the batting order was a terrible move considering he had scored a hundred and two fifties in his four innings as an opener last time around.
Watson is a genuine opener and since he was never going to bowl in India, his demotion was a conservative move.
Also, captain Michael Clarke batting at No 5 gave an impression that he was to perform a rescue act rather than counter attack, a defensive approach rather than an attacking one.
Australia play their best cricket when they are aggressive and in both Tests (in Chennai and Hyderabad) their fast bowlers or close-in fielders are yet to even whisper at the Indian batsmen.
Although the pitches have not been conducive, rarely have they employed the short ball around the wicket “in your face” tactics.
It is an indication that this Australian team lacks confidence and is playing away from their natural strengths.
Apart from their tactics on the field, the planning ahead of India tour has been poor.
Firstly, Michael DiVenuto, hired as a batting coach, has no experience of playing in the sub-continent. He never played a Test for Australia and is as raw as Phil Hughes or Matthew Wade. So what was the reason behind making him the batting coach?
During the Hyderabad Test, Matthew Hayden spent a considerable time with the Australian batsmen discussing methods to tackle the Indian spinners.
Wouldn’t a person with experience in the sub-continent have been a wiser choice? One of the secrets of England’s success in India was that they chose six genuine batsmen plus a wicketkeeper.
Australians, on the other hand, have picked multi-skilled players instead of specialists. An Usman Khawaja, given his sub-continental wrist work, would have been an asset at No 6 with the comfort of Wade at seven. Australia have looked to fill the voids by multi-skilled cricketers rather than Test match
specialists. Glenn Maxwell’s part-timers could easily have been delivered by a David Hussey, a specialist batsman, right-hander and an accomplished player of spin bowling.
Australians have always looked suspect against spin bowling and they were always going to be exposed in India, but playing conservative cricket along with poor planning and selection have led to their downfall quicker than most expected.