The second test against India is shortly to start in Hyderabad. The first test in Chennai was a comfortable win to the home team. All 20 Australian wickets were taken by Indian spinners on a dusty red pitch that was likened more to Roland Garros than what we expect of a cricket wicket. The Indians have come under some criticism for the blatant doctoring of pitches to suit their side, but who really expects anything else? Until there are safeguards preventing it then it’s just the way it is, and get on with it.
The Australian selectors were criticised also for the make-up of the first test team. It’s always easy in hindsight, but perhaps a thorough examination of the Chennai pitch might have made it clear that pacemen would struggle. And so it proved. Still, the selectors problems start with the squad picked.
The word is that the Hyderabad pitch will be more sporting, and the rumour is that Australia will go in with an unchanged side. That doesn’t surprise me altogether – selectors are innately conservative, and loathe to admit they got it wrong – but would disappoint me.
I’d have had Maxwell in the first test team on the strength of his spin bowling, but that would have been in place of Henriques, whio had an outstanding debut and was one of the few to do himself credit. I’d still be inclined to play Maxwell in this match, but in place od Starc, who was a big disappointment (though still a major talent). Siddle was pretty ordinary too, but you get the feeling that Siddle is a favourite who will have to do a lot wrong to be dropped. I’m an admirer too, and for the same reasons – he’s got a massive heart. On skill though he’s behind the leading pack, and I expect will be on the outer edges of the team within 18 months as Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Cummins and Hazlewood fully emerge.
Back to this game. I’d have Maxwell in ahead of Starc, but if they’re determined to go the three pacemen then I’d elevate Johnson for Starc. Johnson has experience of Indian conditions and taken good wickets. Plus he can bowl all day – and is capable of the mercurial, with either bat or ball.
There’s talk of Doherty coming into the team, but I don’t even understand why he’s in the squad, He’s a canny and competitive limited overs player, but that’s his limit. He’s well behind Lyon, and Lyon is no more than mediocre. I don’t see the point of picking a player just because he can spin the ball unless he does it well. Lyon went the journey, so will Doherty if picked. The mistake the selectors made was in not including Beer in the squad. I know he was injured, but he’s just about right now, but with his height, his accuracy, his temperament, and his style of bowling he’d be ideal for Indian conditions. Instead they picked Doherty and, outrageously, Steve Smith. If they’re serious about winning they ought to get Beer on a plane now.
I expect the batting line-up to be unchanged, though I have serious doubts about it both short and long term. It’s clear that Watson should open, and given that Cowan is a battler there’s a spot to be had. I have to admit I can’t take to Cowan as a person, no matter how intelligent or well spoken. I think he’s a prig. As a cricketer he has clear limits. He’s a plodder of a batsman, which is fine if you have the superior technique of a Lawry or a Boycott, but he hasn’t. I don’t think he’s a long term proposition, and he doesn’t have to be with watson in the wings. Warner picks himself.
I support Hughes getting another go, and clearly he does have talent. I really doubt he has the goods against quality spin bowling in India, however. He’ll be retained, but I don’t see him making a lot of runs.
Clarke should be batting next at 4. He’s the best batsman in the team, and probably in the world, but he comes in too late. In my world with Cowan out I’d be batting Khawaja at 5. He’s got great technique, and great potential. I think he might be coming into his own in the next few years, and I think his technique would hold up a lot better than others in the team.
I’d have Maxwell in next (in place of a quickie). Great fieldsman, mercurial batsman, and a handy bowler on the improve. He bolsters our batting and gives us another spin option. Long term I think he has the capability to be a regular player, my only query on him is the dodgy judgement and mind explosions he’s prone to batting. On his day though, a big match-winner.
Henriques is in then, a more than handy batsman, and a handy bowler good at reverse swing. He’s the third pace option. You could swap him with Maxwell in the order.
The wicket-keeper is Wade, a player I don’t rate even if he is a Victorian. He’s an average keeper prone to bad mistakes. He can be a devastating batsman, but can be all at sea also, particularly against spin. I think he’s got away with a lot thus far, but will be found over time and against better teams.
If I’m agin Wade I’m very much an advocate for Tim Paine. He’s probably the best pure wicket-keeper in the country, and much more nuanced as a batsman than Wade. He can hit a hard ball, but equally he can shut up shop when the situation demands it. He has technique, great temperament, and a good cricket brain. And he’s done it before for Australia until injury intervened. I think, given the opportunity, he’s an Australian captain in the making
I dream – he’s not in the squad either, though with reports that Wade is injured he might be a light replacement (though tend to think the selectors will go for Haddin).
I could be completely off kilter, but that’s my take on things. For the record, if there is a change, I think they’ll bring in Doherty for Starc. Which will do little for our chances I think, but what do I know? I’m just one of the thousands of Aussies who have an opinion on the team, a national pastime.