By Madhu Kshirsagar, 25 August 2015
The hubris emanating from the Australian camp before the Ashes series was very interesting to see. Their overconfidence in their assumption that the Ashes was well and truly done and dusted before the start of the tour was amusing – their underestimation of the English side was at once comical and staggering.
The Australian bowlers not only bowled badly throughout the series, and most definitely when it mattered, but also batted astonishingly badly for most of the series. Being bundled out for 60 runs in the first inning of the Trent Bridge Test beggars belief. The looked like a team completely devoid of a plan and had badly overestimated their own prowess in unfamiliar conditions. They failed to adapt to English conditions again, and just went about their merry arrogant way to wing it, and fell flat on their collective faces.
The shot selections from senior players were shocking to say the least, and the bowlers did not have a clue how to swing the Duke cricket balls used in England – again! All this was known – the conditions; the opponents and their strengths and weaknesses were well and truly dissected – and yet they went about things in the most cavalier fashion, assuming what worked for them in Australia would work for them in England.
Failing to plan is planning to fail; and the Australian cricket team has proven that once again on their tour to Motherland.
It has been well documented that Australian batting struggles when the ball is moving, swinging and seaming. And also when the ball is turning. Well, I guess they struggle pretty much all the time when they tour! To make it worse Australian bowlers can’t swing the ball in the same fashion nor can they bowl good quality spin. Therein lies the problem for Australia in winning outside the country.
At home they have bouncy wickets and a battery of fast bowlers who will tear the opponents’ heads off with their ‘chin music’. But that brand of bowling does not work overseas, other than perhaps in South Africa or West Indies.
So, what does all this tell us? Every country plays well at home and plays badly in alien conditions. Australia is no exception. They generally huff and puff, and throw a range of non-cricketing artillery at the opposition to salvage a situation; but when cricketing skills are required to be summoned, they are no better than the next average Test playing team.
Michael Clark became a casualty of the English tour. He did not have a single innings of any substance to show from the entire series. His form has been poor for a long time now and no informed cricket follower would have expected him to turn it around in England.
Darren Lehmann seems to have escaped the axe; he seems to be a favourite among the players, maybe because he acts as a friend of everyone. Planning, preparation and execution of strategy for this Ashes series was atrocious and he has to take a big share of the blame. No use blaming the selectors!
The art of playing Test cricket is perhaps a dying one. Too much instant cricket is taking its toll on Test cricket. The batsmen bat in a cavalier fashion, and the bowlers bowl too defensively. Aggression should be in attitude of proper shot selection. Patience, resilience and the art of not offering a shot are imperative for Test batting; not seen much these days thanks to slam bang, thoughtless approach of T20.
England on the other hand played well when it mattered. England does not have a great batting order itself, but Australia’s ineffective bowling in the conditions made it easier for them to put up good scores. When it came to bowling, again they were very effective when it mattered and even without Anderson for a good part of the series, they were still a potent bowling unit against a mindless batting side.
One hopes that Australia has learnt its lesson from this tour – but then again it the same lesson from every English tour; and they have shown no signs of wanting to learn.
The only lesson for us as followers of cricket is that all countries play well at home and struggle abroad. There is no incentive for them to change as a collective unit. Yes, there will be individual performances abroad by a few better players; but except for a sporadic win overseas, most teams will continue to be happy with home domination.
That is where the bread is buttered the thickest.