VEDANT SHARMA | 26 NOVEMBER, 2018
The Australian team is struggling, but why?
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Australian men’s cricket team is perhaps hoping for a comeback, as the last eight months have been particularly disastrous for the side.
Things took a downward spiral ever since the ball-tampering incident against South Africa in a test series. Since then, things haven’t looked up, including the exit of two of their best batsmen and coach. From being one of the most formidable cricketing teams on the planet, the Aussies now find themselves on the other end of the cricketing spectrum, with pundit and audiences lamenting over the ‘downfall of the Australian men’s team.’
But having watched Australian Cricket closely over the years, can two players and a head coach make that big an impact? The team which used to have 11 match-winners on-field and four in the dugout has switched the table to two? The team which has never been short of talent has started to look like it’s struggling?
A lot of questions, analysis and theories have come up since Steve Smith and David Warner were sidelined. The media till now has spun a predictable narrative, equating the Australian Men's team performance with Warner and Smith's exit. But how can a team fall apart with just two batsmen leaving?
A quick look at the stats elucidates the scenario:
The above scenario more or less tells the story of where Australian cricket is headed. The team which was once filled with hunger has started to play defensively; the team which was known to win games and series overseas has started to lose even at their own fortress; and that very same team which once used to win games comprehensively has also lost to minnows.
So what's going on?
The loss of two specialist leaders and batsmen has dealt the Aussies a severe blow, no question about that. Further, their approach towards the game has also changed over the past few months; the shot selection, hitting the deck, team selection, and many more aspects haven't been in place since early this year.
Few points of criticism against their batting coach has already been in the news. His authoritativeness isn't letting the players express themselves freely which eventually is impacting the team at large.
On the other hand, the captaincy has also created fissures, with Aaron Finch taking the captaincy baton from Tim Paine in shorter formats of the game. The captaincy retreat also led to Paine's exit from the shorter formats. However, interestingly, Paine is still playing Test cricket as captain, but is this making a huge impact on the team as a whole?
In the current situation, the Australian team is looking for a leader who emulates the likes of Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, and Michael Clarke - one who is capable of getting the best from players. With Paine not involved in the scheme of things in shorter formats, and coming in as a leader in the longest format, he isn't able to make the impact that is needed at this stage. On the other hand, Finch who is handling the leadership has just made his debut in Test cricket.
With one leader not taking up the duties in all three formats of the game, like the past greats of Australia have done – the team as a whole is struggling.
What can be done now?
If the Australian team is even looking at emerging as contenders to lift the World Cup in 2019, it's important for them to start believing in their own ability and to play as a unit. The Australian management should back their players and give them a longer run.
There also needs to be clarity regarding the expected roles in the team as once Steve Smith and David Warner are back, two of the current players will have to sit out. So do they know that? If not, how important it is for them to know?
The main strength of this team has always been to put all struggles aside and perform has one cohesive unit, and that strength has also become the need of the hour. That said, can the men-in-yellow bounce back and deliver what is expected out of them?