This past week has provided further hilarious evidence of the complete inability of Australians to play spin. But it would be remiss to assume that is the only thing they are completely hopeless at, and the first Test in Sri Lanka provided object lessons of a few of their other common, and crippling, failings. And so in the spirit of fairness, and not at all to give them few further kicks while they’re down, we thought it right and proper to list some of these failings. Perhaps in the hope they might learn from them.
But mostly because it’s funny. [Let’s not get ahead of ourselves – Ed]
Australia sledge. Australia sledge a lot. Unless you are one of those sad types who goes all moist at the eyes at the thought of anybody not playing cricket entirely within the spirit of the game (whilst simultaneously forgetting that such archaic philosophies are entirely at odds with what is now a thoroughly globalized, professional sport, as opposed to something aristocratic wankers did of a weekend), there is nothing at all wrong with sledging. Except when you are shit at it. And Australia are pretty shit at it. A fine example of which was presented by Josh Hazlewood when, after the first day’s play, he claimed the Australian bowlers had exposed mental scars amongst the Sri Lankan batting.
Aside from the irony that it was Australia’s scars that were most prominently exposed by the end of the Test, Mendis’ dig in the second innings rather put paid to any premature crowing from the Australian attack. Again, it’s okay to sledge, just make sure you do it well. And preferably leave the gloating till the end of the Test, rather than at the end of the first day.
Australia seem to stuff selections up quite a lot. From the Shaun Marsh/Mitchell Marsh debacle during the last Ashes, to picking injured bowlers and resting fit ones, some of their decision making borders upon the bizarre. But near the top of that list must come the selection of David Warner in this Test. On the back of zero red ball cricket since the home summer, which includes skipping the warm up game, Warner faced a total of 17 deliveries for the Test, scoring one run. He, simply put, should never have played in this Test if he had been unable to prove his form beforehand.
Succession planning is, as a general rule, a complete nonsense. Nobody knows who will retire when or how, or how their replacements will do. For all the guffawing England did about Australia’s rubbish attempts to replace Shane Warne, they have done an even worse job of trying to replace Graham Swann. But for all that, Australia are still pretty shit at this whole succession planning stuff. The obvious example is the call-up, out of the blue, of Jon Holland to replace Stephen O’Keefe. Holland, who has never played an international game at any level, will now be expected to perform the vital role of left arm spinner in what are now two must-win Tests. Sure, injuries have not helped them, but the whole thing screams of poor planning. And what was the point, then, of picking Moises Henriques in the touring squad?
Honestly, we could have bundled this in under succession planning, but it deserves its own spot really, for the question must be asked of what exactly Darren Lehmann is doing to help improve the fortunes of the Australian Test side, especially in foreign conditions. Australia have lost their last seven Tests in Asian conditions, but three of those have been under Lehmann. He had Mickey Arthur’s experiences in India to draw upon, but the series against Pakistan, and the selection of Glenn Maxwell, showed he had learnt precisely nothing from that. And here again Australia are proving utterly incapable of adapting to foreign conditions, throwing their wickets away, and showing a complete inability to bat for time, except as a very, very, last resort.
Why not, then, accept that Lehmann cannot solve this riddle and, in another example of succession planning at work, bring in Justin Langer to either replace or assist him? Langer did brilliantly in the short period he was in charge of the team in the West Indies, and from this evidence he should have been kept on for this series too. Perhaps Cricket Australia needs to accept that in foreign conditions at least, Lehmann can’t take the team any further on his own, and a different approach is needed.
How many times in recent history have Australia collapsed in a heap when asked to bat under grey skies, or lost a Test, only to see the heavens open mere moments after shaking hands with the opposition? We don’t know the answer, but it’s surely a bloody awful lot, and it most likely happens to them far more than any other Test team. This, as again this Test showed, shows how shit they are at playing to conditions. Australia only play one of either two ways, either ‘gung ho’, or ‘Ohshitohfuckwhatdowedonow, ah, letsjustblockeverything’ mode. In fact, until this Test, we weren’t even aware that second option existed for them. But they only chose it when up shit creek, when such an approach might far more judiciously have been applied far earlier in the innings.
Australia play very, very, dumb cricket. It’s a style that, when it works, allows them to dominate rubbish sides with ease. But when it doesn’t work, well, it results in them being rolled over by the seventh ranked side in Test cricket, despite holding a handy first innings lead.