During the 90s and the first half of the last decade one oft-used adjective to describe the Australian cricket team was ‘invincible’. The Australian team of those days had the ability to intimidate the opposition and could never be considered pushovers anywhere in the world, including the ‘sub-continent’. However, with the retirement of some of the greats over a period of time, the Australian team has struggled to maintain the reputation that they had achieved and defended for at least two decades.
The Australian team has been going through a period of transition and it takes time and patience to replace players of the caliber of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Steve Waugh and Michael Hussey. However, the decline in their quality of cricket in all aspects is shocking and should set the alarm bells ringing in Australia’s cricketing set up.
Australia’s declining standard of cricket is evident in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Not much was expected from this team that comprises inexperienced players who are not very familiar with the sub-continental conditions. However, the sort of cricket that the Aussies have played so far in the series displays no characteristic of the Aussies who toured the sub-continent in the past.
Although it would be extremely unfair to expect this set of players to perform like their predecessors, the one thing that has been lacking completely is their fighting spirit. Nobody expects Nathan Lyon or Xavier Doherty, let alone Glenn Maxwell, to have the same kind of impact that Shane Warne had in these conditions. However, history is replete with players who have made up with hard work and perseverance what they lacked in talent.
This set of Australian spinners look not only inadequate to exploit the conditions in the sub-continent, but have also not been consistent with their line and length, which if maintained over a period of time, can frustrate the batsmen into doing something silly. This, coupled with some foolish decisions like dropping Nathan Lyon, their best spinner in display in the first Test, has resulted in Australia looking like a shadow of the side they used to be in their previous tours.
Spin bowling, with the exception of the legendary Shane Warne, has never been Australia’s strong point but the dismal show of the batsmen in this series has been the main concern for the Aussies. The recent retirement of Michael Hussey has harmed their chances even more. Ed Cowan and Phillip Hughes have looked technically inept to succeed in these conditions and chances of them performing any better in the upcoming Tests are next to none. They will possibly bring in Usman Khwaja for the next Test but his inclusion also does not guarantee any change in Australia’s fortunes.
This series so far has been a failure for Australia in all respects and India’s mood to set things right after the drubbing they were handed by the touring English side has not done Australia’s chances any good. However, the one thing that has stung cricket lovers all across the world is the meek surrender that has been evident in both the Tests so far and this is uncharacteristic to what is expected from an Australian team in any condition against any opposition.