Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Australia on the Road to Redemption

A comprehensive Argus review, a bunch of talented young batsmen and spin bowlers arriving in bulk. All telling signs of Australia’s burning desire to erase their 2010 season misery. After sinking to an all time low at number five in the ICC Test rankings, the ramifications undertaken by the ‘baggy greens’ seem to come across as a strong warning signal to the top teams.
To see an Australian line up with two specialist spinners is a rare sight, however, Michael Clarke’s men took the liberty of employing a two spin attack in the warm up match against Sri Lanka Board XI at Colombo. The inclusion of Michael Beer and Nathan Lyon, both in the fledging years of their first class careers, came as a pleasant surprise. Not many would have expected Australia to shift from their rather traditional strategy of playing four seamers and one specialist spinner but the change clearly indicates that this team and its management is now thinking differently.
Change is surely the way forward for a team that has slumped in recent times and what is evident is that this Australian team is learning from its mistakes and the criticism it has received. Before the World Cup, and during it, there was enough evidence to suggest that the men from down under were certainly under achieving in the spin department and worse were not trying to change that. Nathan Hauritz would never be accompanied by another specialist spinner, even in conditions conducive to spin. This new breed though seemed to want to make that extra effort by trying out their spin armory before the Test series commences in Sri Lanka. Such efforts have wielded exceptional results in the form of a five wicket haul for debutant Lyon.
Apart from the will to change, a major positive for Australia is the influx of young talent that seems to be gearing up to replace a Michael Hussey or a Ricky Ponting. Clarke and the panel of selectors have a bit of a headache at the moment, that of awarding the number six slot to Usman Khawaja or Shaun Marsh. This though is not the sort of a headache that you would want to do away with by popping an Asprin. In fact a selector longs for such a classic dilemma, simply because it underlines the fact that team is moving towards success and is building a plush reserve. Just to throw in a few numbers Khawaja who already made his Test debut before this tour has scored 2604 first class runs in 36 matches including a highest of 214. Marsh on the other hand has been in the reckoning for a long time but hadn’t got his shot in Tests, despite boasting of 3658 first class runs and an ODI average of 36.58. Khawaja’s form displayed by his knock of 101 in the practice match landed him a spot in the playing XI in the 1st Test. That spot though was quickly taken away by Marsh who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and put in a better performance in the 2nd Test and hence played the 3rd one replacing Khawaja. This surely epitomizes the future of Australian cricket that has a bent towards performance.
Instant results may not show, they never really do especially when a team is in the transition phase. What is evident though is the fact that Australia is certainly thinking long term and is implementing the right methods. The Argus review stresses on greater accountability and the need for channelizing resources towards success in the longest format. Trent Copeland in a way is an example of the success of the Argus review that stresses on performance, after taking a five wicket haul in the practice match and being picked in the Test squad despite not having a Cricket Australia contract. Clearly the Australians are hungry to reclaim the number one Test spot and are ready to patiently chalk out a side that is fit to do just that. It would be safe to say that with the commitment Australians are showing towards Test cricket, redemption is certainly on the cards soon.
Shashreek Roy for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Shashreek on Twitter @shashreek

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