One of the many plus points that comes from attempting to watch every game of cricket ever is being ‘there’ at some of the game’s most significant watershed moments. Like that time that David Hasselhoff’s singing single-handedly brought the Berlin Wall crashing down, this latest defeat may well prove to be a defining moment for the current Australia side, with an utterly abject performance bringing a huge defeat and exposing the fact that no-one in or around the squad seems to have any idea of what they’re doing. And they can’t even hide behind having a fantastic jacket with its own light show:
There really isn’t much to say about India. Two batsmen got in and made the most of conditions, while the bowling attack shared the wickets around. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was rather splendid and even Ishant Sharma made a contribution, which was a nice change. Now let’s get onto the fun stuff.
Make no bones about it, this was an absolute horror show from Australia. The batting was terrible in both innings, with just a single partnership of note (Clarke and Wade), while the bowling has never looked weaker than it did while Pujara and Vijay gorged themselves on the second day. Add in some horrible fielding – Wade’s keeping was about as tidy as Tokyo high street after a Godzilla rampage – and you have the full set of failures.
The top order has been horribly exposed in the two games so far, to the extent that Michael Clarke has already confirmed his intention to move up the order to try and bail them out. Phil Hughes has yet to score a single run against spin in the series, while Shane Watson’s scores of 28, 17, 23 and 9 have merely emphasised what we already know – while Watson the allrounder does enough to justify a place in the side, Watson the batsman does not, with no Test hundred since October 2010. Quite why no-one else seems to have picked up on this is a mystery that would tax Scooby Doo and friends. Indeed on the final day there was a genuine discussion amongst the commentary team along the lines of ‘if Watson can’t get in this side as a batsman, this must be the strongest batting lineup in the world’. Even after one of our famous all-night gin-tasting parties, we couldn’t come up with anything more ridiculous.
One of the many comedy hallmarks of England in the 90s was the scattergun approach to selection: perform well in a Benson and Hedges game on the telly and there was every chance of being in the next Test squad; perform badly there and there was every chance you’d never be seen again. That now seems to sum up Australia’s selection policy (although the sponsorship by cigarette companies is a thing of the past, replaced by more healthy options, such as KFC. Seriously kids, eat more KFC. It’s loads better for you than smoking).
For the past eighteen months, Australia have backed Nathan Lyon to basically learn his game in the public eye. You can argue the merits of that decision either way. For us it actually makes sense, given that every other Australian spinner makes Ian Salisbury look like Shane Warne. However, to then panic at the first sign of trouble and throw Lyon out, only to bring in the hapless Xavier Doherty, is madness, completely undermining all that effort. However, that decision was partly driven by the failure of the batting. The desperation to pad out the lineup with as many allrounders as possible (none of whom are good enough to bat in the top six), led to a side being picked with just three front line bowlers. Just think about that for a minute: three front line bowlers after they struggled to bowl India out in the first Test. Three front line bowlers of which Xavier Doherty makes up more than 33%. Three frontline bowlers including two that have to regularly have 7/11 slushies injected directly into their bodies, lest they spontaneously combust during their runups.
Australia are now in a selectorial death spiral, chasing their tails after their ill-conceived plans for this tour have spectacularly fallen apart. Regardless of whether it makes sense, after a result like this there will have to be changes, otherwise those in charge look like they weren’t even watching the calamity unfolding before their eyes. But where can they turn? Don Khawaja is the obvious option to come into the top order. Hughes should really make way, paving the way for Clarke to move up to number four. That would leave two options for number five: Watson or Steven Peter Devereux Smith. Do we think he’s a Test quality number five? No, not really. But that’s what happens if you forget to pick your squad properly.
Either way, Australia can’t justify having two bits and pieces allrounders at seven and eight, particularly when it forces Matt Wade to bat higher than he should. One of them will need to go, replaced by a fourth front line bowler, quite possibly the second spinner that they so brilliantly forgot to include. Fuck knows what they’ll actually do. If we were them we’d be hiding under a large pile of coats and hoping everything turned out okay.
Australia to win the third Test. 51allout to go into hiding.