Focus on Ashes bogged down Aussies in India: Geoff Lawson

Former Australia fast bowler and more recently coach of Pakistan, Geoff Lawson has slammed his country’s selectors for the cricketing carnage on the current tour of India. Australia surrendered the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Mohali last week when they lost their third Test in a row.

Sydney-based Lawson (55) believes the team had one eye on the Ashes series to be held this summer in England rather than on the all-important series here.
Excerpts from an exclusive chat:

Geoff Lawson
Geoff Lawson. Pic/AFP

What ails Australian cricket?
We have obviously not replaced the great players we had for a long time. Some retirements — like Mike Hussey’s — came as a surprise. We thought he had another year or two left in him. The inconsistency of young players (is another factor). I think there is a certain impatience over waiting for younger players to find some form. Sometimes that it justified, sometimes it is not justified.  From a batting point of view, there are some players of talent but they are just not playing consistently. You need to build scores and be able to defend them.

Frankly, did you expect Australia to triumph in what is probably the hardest place to win in cricket?
No, I didn’t. I thought they didn’t choose the right attack. They haven’t got the best spinners over there. If they thought they were going to be successful with fast bowling that was sadly wrong. They must have not watched the India vs England series which was dominated by spin. They knew they were going to play in Chennai first where it spins so much. They should have had the players of IPL experience saying, ‘look, we need to play two if not three spinners in Chennai.’ But what do they do? They play one and unfortunately with Michael Clarke’s back injury, he couldn’t bowl (much) and he could have been quite effective. They played with the wrong team in Chennai. The premise of how they were going to play in India was completely wrong. Unfortunately, I think they had their eye on the Ashes and not on the India series.

What’s your view on the sacking of four players?
If players are not doing the right things, they need to be punished. I don’t have a problem with that, but the fact that they did it so publicly was more a reflection on management failures than the players. There were better ways of handling this: Privately. It should have been kept within the team.

Should Ponting and Hussey have quit only after the India tour; taken this tour as their last challenge?
Look, I think Hussey’s retirement was very sudden. He was in such good form. Ponting was out of form for a couple of years. It would have been better for Australia had he retired earlier. Ponting was not playing well for sometime so that (his presence in India) would not have made a difference. Hussey on the other hand, was in superb form and no one was expecting him to retire.

Now there is talk about Hussey being asked to comeback for the Ashes...
It’s a good move to ask him to return (laughs). He was in good form for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield. I have no problems in them (selectors & Cricket Australia) asking him, but he has declined.

What would you fix right away if you were in charge of Australian cricket?
I would certainly be asking my selectors, ‘what are you doing? Why did you select these people? They are not the best ones on form. Aren’t you taking notice of what is happening in first-class cricket which is the ultimate gauge.’ I would also have a good, long talk to my sports science people because they seem to have got it wrong in the rotations (of players). They don’t understand what they are doing. There is a lot of confusion — the selectors and sports scientists. I’d want to clear the air and sort that out.

Where has skipper Michael Clarke got it wrong?
He hasn’t got too much wrong. He’s obviously playing very well and his captaincy has been outstanding — very creative. He has been doing lots of real good things and impressing a lot of people. The suspension of players is mystifying to so many. I am only assuming that Mickey Arthur has got more to do with that than Clarke.

Is there too much emphasis on the coach in Aus cricket?
A coach has a very important role to play. Like in business, sport or life, you must have the right people in the right positions. Coaching at all levels is very important to develop or improve their game. Maybe Cricket Australia have made a mistake with this one.

Do you find it amazing that Australia’s last Test win in India was nearly a decade ago?
Well, it’s tough to win in India. India haven’t won a Test match in Australia for several years now too. India lost 0-4 in Australia (in 2011-12) when we all thought they had a strong batting line-up. Both sides are not being able to adapt to the conditions of the other country.  

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