Australia’s batting options: lessons from past champions

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As the Ashes heats up it is interesting to note the differences between the two teams. In the recent edition of our podcast ‘One Hand One Bounce’ the boys noted that other than Mike Hussey, none of the Australian players would make it into the English side on current form. What this, of course, says is that England are a very strong team at the moment, whilst on the other hand the Aussies are in serious trouble.

One way that this becomes apparent is by glancing at the ‘substitutes’ ready to enter the Australian side. Much has been written and said about Australia’s use of nine different spin bowlers since Shane Warne’s retirement, and the same could certainly be said of the fast bowling stocks. Another part of this issue, which has also been discussed in length, is the relative lack of change in the batting line-up, even though Australia have been so un-successful of late. With Simon Katich exiting the series through injury it is interesting to look at possible replacements and see whether they could make a difference to the series.

What really got me thinking about this issue was a

      1. FANTASTIC podcast
I heard during the week from the folks at the BBC. The ever-charming Jonathan Agnew, during one of the rain breaks in the Adelaide Test, hosted past opening partners Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer and conducted one of the most relaxed, humorous and enlightening chats I have ever heard. In and amongst the great anecdotes of facing up to the likes of Curtly Amrbrose and Shaun Pollock in their prime was a genuine and lasting understanding and friendship between the two great combatants. What also came across was the state-of-mind within the Australian camp during that era, and how any new player had to meet very high expectations before they even made the side. As a result, when newer players such as Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist replaced legendary figures such as Mark Waugh and Ian Healy, they were ready and had proved themselves at the domestic level over a long period. The mindset of the team was therefore always one of winners; these were all true champions.

It is extraordinary to look upon the current series then, and to see how different the situation is. In place of Katich, and the soon-to-be dead duck Marcus North, the selectors are focusing on players that have promise, but certainly are not peak domestic players slamming down the door. Whilst the likes of Brad Hodge, David Hussey and Phil Jacques continue to pile on the runs on the local scene, the selectors focus their gaze on the out-of-form and technically flawed Phil Hughes, the still very raw Usman Khawaja, and a man who averages in the mid 30’s for his state, Calum Ferguson. Unlike the Australian team of not too long past, these players, if selected, will come in not as natural champions, but as players looking to prove their worth.

What is certain is that the natural feeling of confidence that engulfed the Australian team during Hayden and Langer’s tenure is long gone. Both men spoke candidly about how they conquered some of the most trying conditions through mental aptitude. It may well be time for the selectors to look to the young talent to take Australia forward. However, they must also realise that by doing this they need to give these players time to develop their own feeling of confidence, and until then it is unlikely that Australia will be anything more than an average team living in the shadow of the mighty teams of yesteryear.

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Comments

  1. says

    Couldn’t agree more. As much as I don’t really like Matthew Hayden, what he and Langer had to say was really interesting and gave an idea of all that is lacking in Australian cricket at present. A truly fantastic podcast.

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