Apologists for depreciating cricketing standards in India have finally run out of excuses. Some of the post-mortem findings, coupled with ‘expert’ opinions, are the kind of things ardent fans want to stay away from – the media bringing out character-revealing natures, some fabricated and some true, of our heroes’ personalities and core interests.
But what, unjustly, is getting camouflaged is the lack of coverage by the Indian media on rising Australian standards. After all, Michael Clarke, amidst immense pressure during the build up to this series, had artillery with young, raw and largely untested players coupled with a few experienced seniors going through lean patches. That the Aussies decimated the Indians the way they did is a credit to their attitude and work ethic.
Barring Shaun Marsh and Brad Haddin, every Australian can afford to hold his head up high. Marsh has age on his side, whereas Haddin appears to be at the twilight of his career and much of it is stuff that he already knows – the willow isn’t generating enough sound to undertone his “be afraid … very afraid” warnings through politically correct advertisements in television media. His keeping skills, in addition, have been subject to much criticism over the best part of the last year.
Unlike India, the imbalances that need to be unwound in the Australian squad are far lesser. For one, albeit the talent possessed by Shaun Marsh, he doesn’t appear to be a Test number three. He is an organized batsman, no doubt, but he often bails out to deliveries outside off stump – those he’d have happily dismissed in the shorter formats. Test Cricket is a different ball game all together, and it might help him if he polishes his Sheffield record (not a mandate these days) to grab the spot with both hands with significant 4/5 day experience. After all, history has shown that even batsmen with unlimited talent but insufficient temperament have created their own recipes for prolonged failure in Test Cricket.
Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja are examples of two batsmen from the very recent past who are busy reworking their techniques, temperaments and whatever else it may take to cement a spot in the Australian XI. Marsh isn’t far behind in terms of ability, although his domestic record may not seem all that overwhelming when compared to the other two youngsters. After all, Marsh looked a certain fit at three before he succumbed to injury in South Africa. This could, for all, be a bad phase he’s going through but when everyone makes merry and you miss out, you certainly feel the pinch a lot more obviously than otherwise.
Haddin’s story is a different one. The injury to Tim Paine may have created a sense of false security that he isn’t ready to be overthrown yet. He certainly isn’t moving as well as he’s expected to behind the wickets, and looks lost as a batsman. Poor shot selection has been his nemesis on many an occasion. He could place his faith in the confidence angels but his sustenance, despite the excellent team results, will only border on optimism if he doesn’t make a mark at Adelaide.
It would only take a radical reversal of course for the Aussie to potentially falter at Adelaide. Despite the middle order misgivings at Perth, the Aussies will feel that there is no willingness to face up to the necessity of having to face a threat at Adelaide given how the visitors are wounded and beaten – and that some of them may just be a touch too old to get up and resume battle.
The Indians, on the other hand, claim to have made plans to gradually phase out the senior players to accommodate the influx of youth from talent pools around. The reluctance to phase all of them out at once compares to a family that takes out too large a mortgage to consequentially suffer from making the monthly payments. However, with the Test Cricket schedules looking sporadic over the next couple of years to come, there is sufficient time to gauge the prospect of more than one veteran being replaced pre/post Adelaide.
Whoever comes in at Adelaide will be well aware that the Australian bowling unit missiles are as good, and potent, as any other subsonic missile around. Nothing has deterred the attack from disciplined bowling. It only took Mitchell Starc a few sessions with Wasim Akram to do what he did at Perth – and that spells trouble for any opposition. Neither did Ryan Harris show any signs of a bowler who’d just returned from a long lay-off due to injury. The Aussies, in a nutshell, have demonstrated that the ingredients for success are blatantly obvious: discipline, channeled aggression, enviable work ethic and consistency across the unit to build a competitive squad. This has got Australian cricket moving again – and all the Australians moving again.