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Beware of Indian pace trio

Updated on: 26 March,2024 07:00 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ian Chappell |

Oz will be undoubtedly challenged by India, the holders of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy next summer and it will be a concern if Marsh as well as Head have to dig the hosts out of trouble against a fit and firing Bumrah, Shami and Siraj

Beware of Indian pace trio

Mohammed Siraj celebrates the wicket of Australia’s Travis Head during the second Test at Melbourne in December 2020. Pic/AFP

Ian ChappellAustralia's bowling which features a settled and successful top four is a major plus, but the batting is a concern for the current World Test Champions.
They are missing the ebullient David Warner’s ability to harass opponents with his aggression as an opener. There is no like-for-like opener to replace Warner and what Australia has now is an unbalanced batting line-up.

By promoting Steve Smith to open so they could include two all-rounders they are now left with a query at the top and an over-abundance of aggression in the middle-order. 
The preference is to have a strong top six but it’s ideal when that batting order is balanced.

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Smith is still Australia’s best batsman, but at No. 4, not opening. As former Australian captain Tim Paine wisely noted; “If I’m the opposition I want him [Smith] opening.”

Jasprit Bumrah and Mohd ShamiJasprit Bumrah and Mohd Shami

Smith—like all players—is more vulnerable against the new ball. He’ll occasionally succeed because he’s a very good player, but he’s unlikely to produce the consistently high scores he did in his hey day at four. An Australian order with Smith at four has the solid look that provides confidence things will still be okay even if they go astray at the top.

The problem is if Smith bats four where do you play Cameron Green who is a must for Australia. Who would then open? Australia’s most perplexing selection headache is the opening situation—there are no obvious replacements for Warner.

Australian opener Usman Khawaja—a middle-order batsman for his Sheffield Shield side Queensland—is proof there is a paucity of top order candidates at State level. However, if you pick a new opener and play Green while batting Smith at four, then the likelihood is you have to omit Travis Head. Head has had success in the Test side, but Green is a better proposition both for the present and the future.

The pairing of Head and Mitchell Marsh means Australia’s middle-order is heavily reliant on attacking batting. The fall back position that Smith provided—an ability to rebuild methodically—is missing.

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The reason both Marsh and Head vigorously attack the opposition is because their aggression covers up their technical failings. Their aggression has worked against the lesser sides, but will it succeed against strong sides like India? 

If Marsh and Head have to try and dig Australia out of trouble against Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj (in next summer’s Test series Down Under) that’ll be a concern. Rest assured a vulnerable Australian top order will find itself in trouble if that Indian trio is fit and firing.

This is a situation with which the modern bowlers have to cope. They are going to face more aggressive batting from the opposition and that is a part of a modern Test bowler’s life. At the moment the best bowlers are most likely to cope, but teams need to focus on unearthing lesser performers who have found a method that deals with the aggressive approach.

Relentlessly attacking the new ball and succeeding against good bowlers is an extremely rare skill and this was one of Warner’s strengths. That’s why Australia is desperately missing his undoubted talent.

Another aspect of the Australian team that will encourage opponents was their batting failure against the West Indies pace attack, especially newcomer Shamar Joseph. Once that type of susceptibility is established it’s very difficult to reverse the trend, as it encourages opponents. This was a situation that rarely existed when Smith [at four] and Warner were dominating Australia’s batting.

The Test success of India, Australia and more recently England highlights the financial problems that torment the long form of the game. If the Big Three are able to continue rewarding their Test players handsomely, but the remainder struggle financially, it’s does nothing for the competitiveness of an already ailing long form of the game.

The Test World Championship is a grand idea. However, it will quickly lose glamour status if the Big Three dominate the coveted battle for the winner’s mace.

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