Australia are in a mess……
Humbled 0-5 by South Africa, humiliated 0-2 by New Zealand, knocked out of the Champions Trophy in the group stages of the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017, lost 1-4 to India and now trailing 0-3 in the five-match series against England, World Champions Australia are looking down the barrel when it comes to finding their ODI form in overseas conditions. Since winning the series against the Sri Lankans in 2016 in the Emerald Isle, the side have registered just one win in 16 games, a record that would embarrass any side, forget the defending champions.
Buoyed by Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales’ hundreds, the Australians allowed the English side to notch up the highest ODI total of 481 in the third ODI of the ongoing series. As expected, the team was unable to chase the target down, and with losses in the first two encounters as well, they managed to lose yet another series in the format.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) June 19, 2018
Since the completion of the World Cup in 2015, Australia have won 27 of their 58 matches, with only 13 wins away from home. Though they had managed to keep their dominating performance at home intact, a series loss to England at home (their first since 2010) gave rise to a deeper problem, with the team sinking to the abyss in the 50-over format across all conditions. Australia, with a win percentage of 46.5 since the World Cup have the second worse success rate as defending champions between tournaments. India, between 1983 and 1987, are the worst as they won only 44-percent games between the two editions.
So what exactly is ailing the Australian team?
Inconsistencies and the lack of rigidity in supporting talent have been a major reason for the unsettled Australian squad. Since Michael Clarke laid hands on the World Cup trophy, 20 players have made their debut in the national team. Out of them, only Marcus Stoinis, Travis Head, Scott Boland and Adam Zampa have played more than 10 games. Head and Zampa are the only ones with more than 30 ODI matches under their belt.
— Sudeep gautam (@gsancus) June 20, 2018
In this interim, England have handed over ODI caps to 12 players, India to 15 (of which 7 are regulars in the side currently) and South Africa have asked 13 players to make their debut. The Australian team, by providing the players with hardly any opportunities to shine through are not only taking away their liberty to play their natural game but are also putting adequate pressure on the regulars, who have to constantly adapt and change according to the roles of the new players.
While a player like Chris Lynn does deserve a longer rope, others like Usman Khawaja and Moises Henriques have been plying their trade in domestic cricket. Cameron White was given a look-in for the second game of the England series earlier this year, but he was included in place of Zampa, which was a baffling move indeed.
The Australia side were already thin in their bowling arsenal, sans Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood and the removal of Zampa to accommodate White had made no sense whatsoever.
Come on Australia… it will be a great win from here! #engvaus 🙏🏻
— Dean Jones (@ProfDeano) June 19, 2018
However, the major area of concern has been their finishing and their poor form in the middle overs. Since the 2015 World Cup, the Aussies have made scores above 300 only 14 times, while India, South Africa and England have all managed more. England, lead the way with 30 scores of more than 300 in three years! Considering players like Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright, Glenn Maxwell, Stoinis and Head as all-rounders (and indirectly, in the same bracket as a Jacques Kallis or Gary Gobers) is not only a disgrace to the aforementioned legends but also, unfortunately, displays what the definition of an all-rounder is today.
Any player who can turn his arm over and grab a few wickets or any bowler who can smash a few sixes in the odd game is effortlessly labelled as an all-rounder in the present era. Hilton Cartwright for example, who has a List A average of 25 with the bat and an average of 40 with the ball is in no way an all-rounder but the Australian selectors, by selecting him as one, are only decreasing the batting depth. It is anyway better to play with 6 or 7 specialised batsmen and 4 or 5 specialised bowlers, instead of selecting “neither-here-nor-there” cricketers, who lack the ability win the game with either bat or ball.
The other aspect has undoubtedly been the constant injuries to bowling stalwarts Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins in the format. While they are a regular in the Tests, they invariably find ways to injure themselves in the limited overs. In fact, the three have played only 12 games for Australia, with the last being the 3rd ODI against England earlier the year. Before that game, they played together at Birmingham in 2017, a year when the trio together represented Australia only on eight occasions. In those 12 games that they have played together, the three scalped 99 wickets between themselves, which not only displayed how integral they were to the fortunes of the side but also put Australia and its fans in a reflective mood, leaving them to wonder at the ‘what ifs’.
With Steven Smith and David Warner only returning just a few months before the World Cup kicks off next year, it would be foolish to assume that the duo can get going after a year away from international cricket. Hence, the other nine members will have to be at their roaring best to allow Smith and Warner some cushion in finding back their mojo. However, as of now, the situation does look bleak.