“The main and probably the only cause for Australia’s struggle in this series can be attributed to the horrible performance of their top six batsmen”
Australia are not the same team anymore!
This sentence has become a cliché in recent times, especially since Steve Smith and David Warner were banned following the Sandpaper incident in Cape Town earlier this year. They have struggled to win, both at home and in overseas conditions ever since then. The victory at Perth against India came after a very long time but it wasn’t as convincing as it should have been.
They had levelled the series in Perth. But now, they are lagging behind once again after being beaten comprehensively by India in the Boxing Day Test match at the MCG. India’s lead of 2-1 in the series is now unassailable and if Australia don’t win the match at Sydney, this Indian team would go on to achieve what it hasn’t been able to achieve—a test series win in Australia—since their introduction to cricket.
So, what have been the reasons behind Australia’s struggles in recent times?
The main and probably the only cause can be attributed to the horrible performance of their top six batsmen. If the overall statistics of the Indian and Australian top six in this series is compared, the difference in class and level between the batsmen of both the teams will become very clear.
Table: Comparison of the batting statistics of Australia and India’s top six
From the above table, it becomes pretty clear how the broad disparity between the overall top six performances of the two teams has turned out to be a major factor for Australia’s struggles in this series. Their average of 25.55 as compared to India’s 33.60 is pretty low and the fact that none of them have been able to score a single century highlights the poor temperament of their batsmen.
Three of India’s top six batsmen—Mayank Agarwal (59.00), Cheteshwar Pujara (54.66) and Virat Kohli (43.16)—have averaged over 40 in this series so far, along with each of Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma averaging over 30. Australia, on the other hand, don’t have a single batsman averaging over 40 and only one batsman—Travis Head (36.16)—with an average of over 30. The next best are Marcus Harris, Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja with averages of 29.50, 29.16 and 27.83 respectively.
In fact, Aaron Finch, who had performed so well in the Test series against Pakistan in UAE, is averaging a dismal 16.16 in this series so far. So, that sums up how their batsmen have completely let them down.
In fact, Australia’s bowlers have tried their best to pull things back; both with their bowling and with their batting. However, it is not easy to compensate for the failures of the batsmen against such a world-class team with such a lethal pace bowling attack.
When the batting exploits of the Australian lower order, their top six and Indian lower order is compared in one frame, it reveals some interesting facts.
|Australian Top Six||3||920||25.55||41.20||6||0|
|Australian Lower Order (7-11)||3||508||21.16||41.16||1||0|
|Indian Lower order (7-11)||3||251||12.55||47.90||0||0|
Table: Comparison of batting statistics of Australian Top Six, their lower order and India’s lower order.
The above table reveals how well the Australian lower order has done in the series so far as compared to the Indian lower order. This weakness of the Indian tail was the main reason behind their series loss in England. It could have been the same case here, but Australia have failed to press on the advantage due to the failure of their top order once again. There is hardly any difference between the averages of their top six and the lower order. That sums up the sorry state of their batsman even more at present.
If we look at other departments, like the pace and spin bowling departments, we will get to understand how competitive they have been in the series.
Table: Comparison of Australia and India’s pace bowling statistics in Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2018-19
When we compare the pace bowling statistics of Australia and India, it appears that the Indian bowlers have done a lot better than their Australian counterparts. Both their bowling average and strike-rate is better than that of Australia’s but the statistics of the home side is not something that can be called poor by general standards. It’s just that the Indian bowlers have bowled exceptionally well. This might be called as one of the reasons for their failures but not so much to be called as the major reason.
However, it should be remembered that the better bowling statistics of the Indian pacers have also been influenced by the inability of the Australian batsmen to tackle them. The Australian pacers have fought neck and neck with their Indian counterparts but the temperament, grit and patience of the Indian batsmen have denied them the opportunity to reap the same rewards as that of the Indian pacers.
The difference in pace bowling standards, however, has been compensated by Australia’s classy spinner Nathan Lyon.
Table: Comparison of Australia and India’s spin bowling statistics in Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2018-19
The table above shows how Lyon has dominated the Indian batsmen in these conditions. His bowling was the main reason why they won the second Test match at Perth. He has taken more wickets than Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Hanuma Vihari and Murali Vijay combined and that sums up his class. His overall average and strike-rate of 28.47 and 67.3 are far better than the corresponding overall Indian numbers of 30.69 and 86.2.
So, all these statistical dives sum up how Australia have been competitive and even better in some departments than India, yet it has been their batting line up that has let them down massively in this series. Going into the match at Sydney, the selectors and the team management should take necessary steps to revamp the top order. Aaron Finch didn’t seem to be fit for this format in this series and the same has been the case with the Marsh brothers who have been inconsistent for a very long time. They have got long enough a rope and it’s now time to give chances to those who deserve.