Some 230 Australian cricketers were unemployed since the end of June when their contracts had expired. After fighting for months, both men and women cricketers against the Cricket Australia over the bruising and protracting pay dispute, the players finally won the battle when the management agreed to retain the revenue sharing model and established a five-year agreement with the Australian cricketers worth an estimated Aus$500 million (US$396 million). When the row had turned the relationship between Cricket Australia and the cricketers, bitter, there was no clearance if the upcoming tour of Bangladesh and the Ashes that are scheduled for later in the year would be played or not.
The new Bangladesh!
With the signing of the MoU paved way for Australia’s tour of Bangladesh to proceed later this month. Then there is a trip to India for a limited-overs series and then the most awaited home Ashes to follow this summer. While Australia have played enough cricket, especially Tests, against the countries such as England and India, they have a negligible experience of four Tests against Bangladesh. Australia, who have not played a Test in Bangladesh since 2006, was initially scheduled to tour Bangladesh in 2015 for two-Test series. However, Cricket Australia had postponed the tour due to security reasons before they refused to send their Under-19 team to participate in the U-19 Cricket world Cup that was hosted by Bangladesh in 2016.
India, South Africa, New Zealand and other higher-ranked countries, except Australia, have toured Bangladesh for a full-fledged series recently. In 2015, Bangladesh registered four consecutive ODI series victories at home that were inclusive of wins over India, Pakistan and South Africa. In 2016 Asia Cup, Bangladesh made it to the final before losing to India and this year, they qualified for the semi-final of ICC Champions Trophy where they again lost to India. However, qualifying for the last stages of these tournaments is nothing but an achievement for Bangladesh. The dynamic head-coach Chandika Hathurusingha has galvanised the Tigers into a bunch of match winners in limited-overs cricket,
The dynamic head-coach Chandika Hathurusingha has galvanised the Tigers into a bunch of match winners in limited-overs cricket and he is not only satisfied with the improvements in limited-overs format but wishes to excel in five-day matches in the similar fashion as well.
And the Sri Lankan dynamo did it.
Bangladesh, who made their Test debut in 2000, despite ranking as low as No. 9 currently have instigated their signs of improvement. Bangladesh beat England convincingly in their backyard last year. Their New Zealand series and the one-off Test in India did not go too well, but they made their 100th Test memorable with a victory in Sri Lanka.
Australia opt spin over pace
When the Australian cricketers had stopped training with the team during their unemployment phase, Bangladesh had started their preparation for the two Tests against Australia right from June 10 with their gruelling and grilling training programme in Dhaka.
Meanwhile, the Australians are getting back to their usual training routine as they have non-stop cricket scheduled for them in this year. Two months ago, when Mitchell Starc suffered another injury, the selectors had suggested an extra bowler will be needed when the squad would be announced. Apparently, the selection was supposed to be made on the basis of Australia A’s performance in their tri-series in South Africa that also included India. Bowlers such as Jackson Bird, Chadd Sayers and Mitchell Swepson would lead the attack and one of those would be named Starc’s replacement for the Bangladesh tour. Due to the pay dispute, Australia A was pulled out of the tour, making way for Afghanistan to send their A team. For the first time in more than 10 years, Australia have opted spin over pace when they roped in Swepson, ahead of Bird, for the Bangladesh tour that is expected to favour slow bowlers. The other spinners in the team are Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar and all-rounder can throw some of his off-breaks to trouble the batsmen.
However, Bird got lucky when James Pattinson complained of niggle in his back and that ruled him out and Bird entered the 14-man squad. He has joined the pace attack of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
While the batting is concerned, no player from the current squad has an experience of playing the red ball game in Bangladesh. If there is something positive, their skipper Smith averages more than 50 in Asia. His deputy, David Warner, has not had the greatest of time in Asia in Tests where he averages around 30, has a vast amount of experience in playing on the slower pitches. He has excelled there in limited-overs; it is a matter of time he rectifies his technique and he will certainly deliver on the Asian soils also in Test cricket. In his last two series – against India and Sri Lanka – he did not score a hundred and that might be stressful for the side.
Despite not playing a Test on the India tour, Usman Khawaja has been retained in the squad ahead of veteran Western Australia batsman Shaun Marsh. Although Marsh averaged 18.81 in eight innings during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, his understanding of the Asian pitches could have come handy for Australia on this crucial tour. He was included in a Test out of the three matches on the Sri Lankan tour and he recorded scores of 130 and 23.
Talking about the other batsmen – Renshaw, Handcomb and Cartwright – are all new. While Handscomb and Renshaw now have a handful of Test experience, Cartwright is yet to make his debut.
Considering, Australia’s poor records on the sub-continent in the last few years, this particular tour will be a huge task for Steven Smith and his boys. Owing to their four consecutive series losses in Asia, Bangladesh coach is confident that the Tigers can white-wash the visitors in the two Tests. Smith and Co. will be aware of these disastrous records and they will surely leave no stone unturned to turn tables around for them in Asia. If rain gods don’t play the spoilsport, it is going to be one hell of a series!