You are never as good as you think… or as bad.
The Australian cricket team face a crucial 8-10 months before the Ashes Series in England. The young bowling brigade have been impressive with their persistent full and patient lines. What will excite coach Mickey Arthur, is the level of growth still to be had in the bowling attack. Pattinson, Cummins and Starc all have considerable growth left in them. Pattinson and Cummins look to be the most promising in Australia’s rejuvenated bowling stocks. Both youngsters have a nice understanding of when to be aggressive and when to be patient with their line and length.
However, the story of the Australian summer is the comeback of Hilfenhouse and the consistency from the “woodchopper” Siddle. Both have had their critics. In the past, Hilfenhouse was to predictable outside off-stump and lacked pace to trouble the world class batsmen from England. Meanwhile, Siddle has always had a brave heart but not always a smart cricketing brain as he would more often than not bowl to short for too long. Yet, over the space of a year, both warhorses have become two vital cogs in the bowling attack. Thankfully, Johnson has fallen off the map as a result.
Even though Australia is in a far stronger position than this time last year, cracks still remain in the Australian lineup. Dave Warner showed he has the strokes but what about some consistency? It still remains to be seen if Warner can counter the premium bowlers of the world, like, Stein from South Africa and Jimmy Anderson from England. His batting partner, Ed Cowan, was admirable over the summer. His mental toughness must be applauded. Yet, is he the long-term answer to Australia’s batting order? I don’t think so. Cowan shows application but he lacks the class and large array of strokes to be a consistent run scorer at the top of the order. Both Australian openers have some test qualities but too many deficiencies to become durable test openers.
The panic in the media has been directed at the number three spot in the batting order. Historically, the number three position has been the most reliable position in the Australian team- from Bradman to Ponting- the prestigious “first-drop” has never been a problem for the selectors. Yet, here we stand with a problem that needs to be solved well before the Ashes Series next year. Shaun Marsh endured a miserable summer by failing in every innings against India. Yet, the Australian public should not panic nor drop off Marsh too soon. Marsh’s problems began on the selection table. He should have never been selected for the Melbourne Test Match. He just recovered from injury and lacked meaningful match practise. Somehow a quick swash-buckle innings in a Twenty20 earned him a spot back in the XI. The selectors let him down and as a result he is out of the one day series. There was no need rushing Marsh back in for the first test in Melbourne. From the first ball he faced he looked disorganised and most importantly, underprepared. Marsh is a class act and should not be thrown out with the dogs so quickly.
The Australian selectors were willing to persist with Ponting’s miserable misfortunes for two years. Marsh deserves the same faith shown by the selectors.
Ponting’s miraculous return to form and Clarke’s stunning form and solid captaincy has covered the cracks that need to be addressed.
If Australia fail in next year’s all important Ashes Series, the selectors’ failure to address the top order issues, will be the reason.