Tests 3rd, ODI 1st, T20 6th
West Indies (A) – Tests won 2-0 (3), ODIs drew 2-2 (5), T20s drew 1-1 (2)
Commonwealth Bank Series – Winners
India (H) – Tests won 4-0 (4)
New Zealand (H) – Tests drew 1-1 (2)
Twelve months ago Australian cricket was staring into the abyss. An abject humiliation at home against England was followed by a meek exit from the World Cup at the quarter final stage. Their Test ranking plummeted to fifth, their lowest ever standing. The players were at war with the administration (it later emerged that at one stage the selectors were refused entry into the dressing room) whilst consistent injuries and poor form indicated that there was a desperate need of an overhaul of personnel.
Fast forward to the present and after a comprehensive inquest into all levels of Australian Cricket (the Argus Review), a new coach, a new selection panel, and a new captain (look out for an article in the near future where we will discuss Michael Clarke’s performance to date and poke fun at his dress sense), things are looking up. After a profound period of soul searching, Australian cricketers are quickly regaining their confidence. Which in practical terms means they are starting to sledge everyone with gusto again.
This current Australian team may be a poor shadow of the team of the last decade, but it’s recovering its knack of winning consistently. Their results over the Southern summer included a mixed performance at home to New Zealand followed by strong showings against India and the West Indies. Whilst problems still remain with the balance of the side, performances have been generally good. Which is always a positive sign.
The sometimes erratic displays over the past few months can be partially explained by the high player turnover. Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger, to name a few, have all gone. In their place Australia has handed out a staggering ten baggy greens since the end of the Ashes series. Not all of those have been a success (Trent Copeland anyone?), but a few, such as David Warner and Nathan Lyon, look like they’re here to stay. The blood letting is set to continue too, with the old guard in the middle order nearing the end of their careers, but the sheer lack of up-and-coming batsmen means they will probably still be kicking about by the time the nest Ashes series rolls around.
In the limited overs format results have been generally good, but there are similar problems with the team’s balance. Xavier Doherty had a strong domestic summer, but his distinctive brand of left arm filth makes him easy prey for anyone prepared to use their feet. Peter Forrest made an impressive debut, replacing the axed Rickey Ponting, but has since fallen away and it appears the selectors are less than convinced by him. Whilst the less said about Clint McKay the better. Like the Test squad, it is clear that the selectors are not yet entirely convinced of their best lineup, and will continue to experiment with its makeup over the next six months or so.
Results in the T20s were typically poor, and Australia still waits for its first series win in this format since 2005. The introduction of the Big Bash and the creation of an entirely new national squad, including handing the captaincy to George Bailey before he had even made his international debut, indicates a new approach on behalf of the administrators and selectors. The World Cup in Sri Lanka will provide a good barometer of how successful they have been. At this stage they look like rank outsiders to win their first T20 World Cup, but they still have time to get Steve Smith back into the team.
Looking forward, the Test team now has a long break until the tour by South Africa in November, which will provide a strong examination of the rebuilding work thus far. There remain serious issues with the batting line-up, in particular the constitution of the top three, that Steyn et al will be looking to ruthlessly expose. The ODI squad, however, is preparing to drag itself through series away against England and Pakistan (hosted in Sri Lanka) in the near future, which will probably serve to provide little other than further opportunities for more Australian fast bowlers to break down. Of more interest in the near future is the Australian A tour of England in July/August, which will provide an opportunity for some fringe Test players to impress in English conditions ahead of the 2013 Ashes.
All in all, there are still plenty of issues to confront in all formats of the game in Australian cricket, but however formidable they may be, things are looking a hell of a lot better than they did this time last year. Personally my gin consumption has nearly returned to manageable levels at last. Although they tend to shoot up again whenever Ed Cowan and David Warner stride to the crease.