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India has just had eight test matches straight at home and is in serious touch. Australia, on the other hand, has been whooped by South Africa then taken the cake from a very mediocre Pakistani team.
At the start of the 2016/17 season, I was hoping Australia was going to get smashed this summer and force a massive shake up of our team and administration. One out of two ain’t bad. While Pat Howard may have survived, the first XI felt the axe swing heavily. I thought that the team to tour India would look vastly different to the one that got the nod in Perth, but I didn’t expect the chop to happen after two matches. I was worried we would limp through the summer and throw debutants like fresh meat to the wolves in the subcontinent.
We have been lucky to find a couple of guys who look built for test cricket in Renshaw and Handscomb. It’s great that these two have now both scored hundreds and would feel like they belong in and around the Australian Test Team.
While I understand the conversation around Renshaw holding his place at the top, I would have told him straight after his 184 that he has booked his ticket to India and will open with Warner. That confidence shown by selectors can be the difference in the headspace for a young bloke trying to succeed, to get over the line.
Handscomb would have been in this squad even if he didn’t get a chance at home this summer. His reputation for good footwork against spin almost had him earmarked for Sri Lanka.
While it hasn’t been confirmed as I write this, it looks like Khawaja is about to get shafted. I know his first two matches on the subcontinent were bloody average, but outside of Steve Smith, who impressed in those first two Tests against Sri Lanka?
Khawaja said his piece to the media, and then came out and backed it up with the blade, making runs for fun. I think he deserves a chance to show that he has absorbed his lessons from Sri Lanka and can make runs in those conditions.
Unfortunately, we just don’t have the bowling attack to play six specialist batsmen. I have been vocal in my view that we need to score big first innings runs, or we are done by the end of day 2. But I have come to concede that no combination of 4 specialist bowlers will survive the overs required to see out an Indian declaration, let alone rip through 20 wickets.
While a series win is about as likely as Leicester City, the Cubs, Sharks n Dogs winning their respective comps last year, I think there are very different barometers for success than a straight up series win.
For me, the very first thing is a minimum of 500 first innings runs. Until we can do that, the rest of the test and the series is pointless. India has Ashwin and Jadeja batting at eight and nine, both with test averages in the mid 30’s. We can’t even find a number six that can do that. The cherry on top is that they just so happen to be the number one and two ranked bowlers in the world. When you bat that deep and throw in Kohli punching out double centuries at will, 500 is a par score. England managed to score 500+ and still lost by an innings. Im sorry to say, but they are a better team than us in those conditions.
The second thing i want to see is individuals looking to grab themselves a piece of history. A Dean Jones like double century, a Matty Hayden like series, a Michael Clarke like 151 on debut. Someone that decides to stand up and say, nope, not today… It could be any of them; we know they have the talent, but can they put it together under pressure, on the day?
Good luck to the boys, but unfortunately like most, I’m predicting an absolute pasting. 3-0 to India and I don’t know where the draw will come from. March is the driest month through most of India, but start your rain dance anyway. I think Lyon will go for 200 in one innings if you can find a market for it. Just looking at Australia I’d take Starc as leading wicket taker, and it’s hard to go past Smith to top the runs, but I’d have a good look at Handscomb too.