Struggling Aussies face more pain
Michael Slater
13:00 AEST Wed Dec 14 2011

In bat with Slats
Michael Slater is a former opening batsman for Australia and now well respected member of the Wide World of Sports cricket commentary team.
Michael Slater
  Have your say on Australia

I have my doubts that Australia can beat India, which just doesn’t sound right coming from me, because I’m as parochial as anyone when it comes to Australia playing at home. It is a challenge for any team coming here to play, but at the moment we give too much back to the opposition and too quickly. With just a fortnight between Tests, I don’t think there’s enough time to turn things around, but I hope I'm wrong.

We keep thinking that we have bottomed out and then we go to another level below. Our effort in the Second Test against New Zealand was as bad as the 47 they made in Cape Town. Those bad totals can happen every now and then, but we’re seeing them all too often.

What is to blame? Well, it’s a sprinkling of everything. The shorter forms of the game have had an impact on the modern day player wanting to hit the ball all the time, but they need to remember that being aggressive doesn’t mean you have to smack every ball. You just have to be very positive in your intent, and that could be just a very positive ‘leave’ when the ball’s swinging around.

In the end, Phil Hughes’ technical problems were glaring and he didn’t seem willing to do his homework and change. Inexperience also seemed a factor in the dismissals of others around him as well, but a majority of the top order will remain for now because the last thing the new selectors will want to do is hit the panic button before a big series like what India presents.

There’s undoubtedly an ageing issue. Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey are struggling. They come with fitness, experience and greatness, but are we trying to hang on to these older boys at the detriment of moving forward? I’m just starting to think that we’re stagnating more because we are trying to keep Ponting going. If we’re going so badly, are we not better off cutting free of what we had and really start to build for the future?

It’s a very difficult predicament for the selectors, because they are asking – quite rightfully – “who’s better than Ponting and who’s better than Hussey; and if there is someone, where do we bat that person?” The only person whose name constantly bobs up is Ed Cowan’s and he’s an opener. Shane Watson returns for Boxing Day and we have to stick with David Warner, so where does Cowan go? The fit just isn’t there.

On a much more positive note, our bowling is definitely headed in the right direction. Peter Siddle has lifted to another level, James Pattinson is a real star in the making, Ryan Harris is a dynamite bowler when he’s going (and he should come straight back in if fit) and Nathan Lyon is improving all the time. Then you have Mitchell Starc, who can threaten and might still play on Boxing Day should the selectors think Harris hasn’t bowled enough.

On paper we still look strong, but it’s the mental lapses that are a real concern. If I had to say one thing to our cricketers ahead of the Boxing Day Test, I’d offer this – play quality cricket shots. That mantra made it simple for me. I’m not saying it’s the right (or only) mantra, but once the bowler releases the ball, you’ve got to play the best shot you can and that may be letting it go through to the keeper. Thinking about that one thing – quality – just eliminated any self-doubt for me and eliminated any pre-meditation. It put me back into a very instinctive mode. They might also just want to hear the word ‘relax’. You can work too hard away from the field.

Maybe the X-Factor to Australia’s chances is the Boxing Day Test itself? There are few better stages in the game – in fact in any sport around the world – and perhaps it will be the catalyst for the Aussies to lift their game. They’re playing against some real stars, in Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar – so maybe the occasion, playing in front of a huge MCG crowd, will spark them into action. Let's hope so.

My First XI: Shane Watson, David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Nathan Lyon.

What changes would you make to the Australia team?
Do Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey deserve their spots?
Can Australia beat India?

User comments
As am englishmen in Oz its sad to see the great aussie team falling apart. Cricket needs strong teams right now or england are just going to rule the roost for years. Cant see the next ashes series being competative - come on Aussie selectors get the best team on the park and leave the interstate polotics behind
There are some absolute dropkicks writing on these sport forums. Great article Michael, really enjoyed your perspective. I think it's absolutely time for Hussey to go, Cowan to open with Warner, and Watson to seven as clearly, we need support down the order.
i read most comments here with sadness, aobviously theres a whole generation of the public who have grown up with a cricket team that rarely lost. And now there ignorance towards the current team is reflected. Haven't read many comments about the first test against NZ, but gee when they fail people are quick to find someone to blame. I thought the second test was a great contest between bat and ball, hello people the reason the first innings scores were low was because the ball was doing alot for both teams..this happens less and less this days, hence the games being dominated by batsmen all the time, i think the team is rebuilding well, with several future stars putting their hands up.. so in closing...MOST CRICKET TEAMS DON"T DOMINATE ALL THE TIME, learn it and get used to it
my starting 11 and reasons why = warner(brilliant century in hobart), cowan(making centuries), watson(first drop for now, and used as part time bowler), ponting(give him two tests to see how it goes), clarke (captain), hussey(give him two tests to see how it goes), haddin (still good gloveman), siddle (improving bowler), paterson(star bowler in making), harris(takes wickets, brilliant avg), lyon (improving spin).... christian (12th man, replace watson if not fit) ..... marsh needs time to recover but ready replacement if batsmen fails. hughes is technically struggling and needs a few seasons in shield. kawaja doesnt make big scores needs time at shield level. starc is unlucky omission.
why don't the selectors just make the teams up from Melbourne and Sydney Then when they stuff up we know who to blame
It appears NSW(cricket) is like VICTORIA(AFL) they have to run the show and only select local players from NSW and nearby and not giving up and coming players from other states the same opportunity as they give to locals I hope the money this generates is shared by all Australian states or is this another government blooper As for the dated selectors Your cannot make a silk purse out of a pigs ear
Cowan warner marsh watson clarke christan wade siddle cummins pattinson harris (lyon), four quicks at the WACA.
Whats the point of dropping 3 experienced players all at once..... you drop ponting, hussey, haddin then what are u left with...... a team with no experience no guidenece on how they should be playing..... hitting the trigger button aint gunna help the cause but in saying that out of the 3 haddin should be gone he needs a seriuos think about his batting style...
The funny thing about rebuilding is that it takes time....hello. There is absolutely no reason to panic at this stage. Keep Ponting and Hussey in the team for at least the first 2 or 3 games of the series, if they score runs awesome, if they don't score runs they will both do the right thing and retire at the end of the series. I think you will then see the whole team fire up and play some good cricket. Go Australia!!!
Well, for those who are thinking that we have ANY chance against India in the up-coming tests needs their head read! Australian's performance in Tassie against NZ 2nd test was truely woeful. As we saw, in the first innings, NZ all out for 150, and yet, we still can't win. As for Ricky Ponting, well, hopeless! With Australia's form these days how the hell are we going to bet India? No chance. I am with LMFAO, come on India. I am a true blue Aussie but will be cheering on India, at least we'll see some first class cricket from them!

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