Australia should pick up specialists for India tour: Ian Chappell

Updated: 28 December, 2016 11:14 IST | Ian Chappell |

Kohli & Co. just sent England, which always selected three specialist batsmen and a slew of all-rounders of varying standard, packing and that humiliation should be warning to Australia

Indian team members celebrate after winning the Test series against England in Chennai last week. The hosts won 4-0. Pic/AP

It was Herbie Collins - a successful Australian captain in the 1920's - who wisely decreed: "Getting the combination right is the most important thing in selection."

Of late it doesn't seem to matter what combination India utilises, it's the right one. India has a seemingly endless production line of prolific young batsmen and huge totals plus the guile of spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, have proved to be an irresistible combination.

The Australian team is resurgent after a horror patch of five successive Test losses. Two good wins followed but the team hierarchy is still searching for an all-rounder and batsmen who might succeed in India.

Picking the best six batsmen is a good start and if they can't fathom Indian conditions then the tour is destined to be a lost cause. The choice of an all-rounder for India is a far cry from what's required in Australia, as the batsmen who bowl (Steve Smith and David Warner) are both part-time spinners who can offer a few overs of variety and relief.

India has just sent England packing with their tail between their legs and that humiliation should be a warning to Australia; pick specialists rather than players who do a bit of each.

England regularly selected three specialist batsmen and a slew of all-rounders of varying standard. It's asking for trouble to man the crucial number four spot with your main spinner and a player who, in other regions, bats at number eight.

England is blessed with a lot of very talented young cricketers and a world class all-rounder in Ben Stokes. However, Collins would've been appalled at the imbalance of the combinations England used in India. They have to decide if Moeen Ali is a number four or a front-line spinner and batting 'keepers at five and seven resembles an order akin to asking for a honey and Vegemite sandwich.

Undoubtedly, England was handicapped by not having a major spin bowling weapon in India. There's also no question England is well-equipped with pace bowlers and will be a serious threat at home and in places like Australia and South Africa.

However, England's potential won't be realised until they stabilise their top-order and appoint a captain who fully utilises the assets he's handed.

Joe Root and Stokes are both aggressive, potential match winners who are supported by a number of other players with a positive approach.

In Alistair Cook, England has an obdurate opener who is invaluable as a batsman but a conservative captain who is badly battle scarred.

Cook's captaincy features an inability to stem the flow of runs once the opposition get on a roll. While the England players may publicly say they're behind Cook as captain, the next time it starts to go pear-shaped they'll be thinking: "Here we go again."

At the conclusion of the Indian series Cook said; "It's the wrong time to make those decisions (about continuing as captain) as energy is low and you can make foolish decisions at those times."

On the contrary, it can be the right time. If he continues as skipper and then has another horror day or two in the field he'll be right back where he was following the Chennai debacle. Then he'll wonder; "Why did I continue."

Even worse, his teammates will be thinking exactly the same and valuable time to bed in a new captain will have been lost.

Anyway, it's not up to Cook to decide whether he remains captain; it's the selectors job. If they decide Cook isn't the man for the job, out of deference to the sterling work he's done as a player, they should give him the option to resign.

Richie Benaud, another wise former Australian captain, once told me; "Retirement is the easiest decision you'll make." He was almost right; resigning the Australian captaincy when I was mentally knackered was even easier.

The England selectors only need ask themselves one question; would the Australians like Cook to captain the next Ashes series? The answer would be an emph-atic, "Yes."

First Published: 25 December, 2016 08:47 IST

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