Australian cricket team are currently in panic mode

Updated: Dec 22, 2016, 14:03 IST | Michael Jeh

No one in Sheffield Shield cricket knows what to expect from the selectors anymore. They talk about rewarding runs and wickets, but they also select players on the mythical X-factor

Steve Smith's Australia recently lost a Test series to South Africa and now face a tough challenge against Pakistan whom they take on in the opening Test at Brisbane today. Pic/Getty Images
Steve Smith's Australia recently lost a Test series to South Africa and now face a tough challenge against Pakistan whom they take on in the opening Test at Brisbane today. Pic/Getty Images

Form is temporary, class is permanent. Don't read too much into Australia's Test performances this summer. They played poorly against South Africa, will probably triumph quite easily against Pakistan and that will count for nothing when it comes time to board the plane to India. Their issues run deeper than can be analysed in a snapshot. The lesson that India can take from it is that when you are No. 1, there is no time for complacency.

Systemic issues
Australia has systemic issues that will take more than cosmetic changes to fix. On the plus side, in Peter Handscombe, they have the makings of a future star. Everything about him, attitude, work ethic and skill, point to a career in the ascendancy.

His twinkling feet will be on show against the spinners in India and whilst he may not score a mountain of runs on his first tour, mark him down as a future great. If his wicketkeeping is allowed to flourish, that may be Australia's long-term answer to a problem that is no closer to being solved with the selection of the feisty Matthew Wade.

Since when was Test cricket simplified to the extent that it can be fixed by picking players who can "trash talk" (Wade)? Call it by any other name but they picked Wade because he can apparently sledge better than Nevill. His batting is no better, his 'keeping is significantly worse but he's more skilled at 'chat'.

If cricket can be reduced to that level of simplicity, we don't need to worry about runs and wickets — just go down to the local pub and pick the most foul-mouthed hooligans and give them a baggy green.

On that theme, Peter Nevill was pretty stiff to be dropped. A bad decision in the first innings in Perth (no reviews left to refer it), a brave not out in the second innings and two failures on a green pitch in Hobart, when everyone else failed too. Players are now very nervous because they feel that there is no loyalty in this new climate of panic.

Complete confusion
The problem is that no one in Shield cricket knows what to expect from the selectors anymore. They talk about rewarding runs and wickets (Matt Renshaw and Handscombe) and then they also select players on the mythical X-factor (Nic Maddinson). Complete confusion — for some players, the benchmark is form/performance, for others like Mark Waugh's favourite (Maddinson), they opt for something intangible like potential/magic/X factor.

Maddinson averages mid 30's in domestic cricket, he failed in the game leading up to his selection and then gets selected. The selectors are panicking and it shows — they're hedging their bets.

How can someone like Callum Ferguson, who has consistently scored heavily in Shield cricket, be good enough to be in the first XI one week and on the basis of a run-out and a poor shot on a green pitch in Hobart, suddenly drop that far down the pecking order?

What sort of message does that send? Either the selectors got it wrong when they picked him in the first place or they were panicking when they dropped him a week later after one poor innings.

How can he go from being one of the best six batsmen in Australia to not being in the team on the basis of one innings? Poor Joe Mennie. He was told to rest after the Hobart Test and was not allowed to stake his claim in the selection trial round of Shield matches.

Presumably, if you are ordered to rest and not allowed to fight for your spot, you can assume that your spot is safe. The much-vaunted Shield cricket, touted as the best first-class competition in the world is a joke.

Players are being substituted halfway through a game. It's being treated like a practice match and then they expect cricketers to perform to get selected? Club cricket is heading the same way. The fast bowlers are not allowed to bowl more than a few overs.

How does this prepare batsmen or bowlers for the step up to Test cricket? The batsmen aren't facing the best bowlers so no wonder they get found out when they face Stuart Broad, Vernon Philander, Sean Abbott etc on a pitch that has a bit of life.

The Futures League is full of young players (U-23) so the hardened veterans are being excluded from the next level down.

Michael Jeh is a Brisbane-based former first-class player

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