Was it really that bad after all for Australia?

I know that in Australia losing an Ashes series 3-1 to England is seen as a bit of a disaster. Losing it at home in such spectacular style (like they did), is probably regarded as a major disaster.

At the time I didn’t think the future of Australian cricket was as bad as we were led to believe it was. They still had quality players like Watson, Clarke, Ponting, Hussey, Haddin, Harris and on his day (once every 12 months) Mitchell Johnson.

Obviously England were the better team, but the gap between the sides was probably slightly exaggerated by the fact that England were in top form, while Australia were a team with no confidence that descended into a shambles by Sydney.

The chopping and changing of players, the provisional 17 man squad, etc, all these thing obviously didn’t help, as has just been pointed out by Shane Watson in his new book.

Just a few months on and look at things now. Michael Clarke has settled in fairly well as captain, Australia are starting to climb the test rankings again, they have just won a test series on the sub continent, they are still the No.1 ranked ODI side in the world, they have a top class all rounder (something lacking in most other test teams) and Phil Hughes and Shaun Marsh are starting to settle in at test level.

In Sri Lanka the batting looked in good shape, but I’m not totally convinced by the attack. When Ryan Harris doesn’t play it looks fairly average, and Harris doesn’t have the greatest fitness record. Newcomers Nathan Lyon and Trent Copeland did ok, but neither of them really set the world on fire and I’m not sure they are the answer (although in fairness I didn’t see enough of the series to judge them, just their online stats). While Mitchell Johnson was his usual self, need I say more.

With that in mind, there is still plenty of improving to be done. But I do have to ask myself, was it ever really that bad?

Easy Start for Michael Clarke

As baptisms go, Michael Clarke’s first tour as full time captain of Australia couldn’t have gone much better.

The biggest problem with playing Bangladesh, or a side of similar standing is the prospect of making a mess of things against a side that you are expected to beat convincingly.

Thankfully for Clarke and Australia, that didn’t happen. Although for us poms, it would have been a good laugh had they done so.

I didn’t see the games, but I followed them by reading the reports and catching some of the highlights. The results clearly went well and I believe that the Aussies aren’t currently in that bad a place in ODI’s.

One thing that stood out too me straight away is that Clarke hasn’t tried to implement many changes. He has stuck with the bulk of the players and to the formula used by Australia over recent years.

I got the impression that he kept things simple, there was no sign of any ‘I’m the boss now’ message for Ricky Ponting, and he would appear to still be the main man that the batting is built around.

I think it would have been pointless for Clarke to start upsetting people like Ponting at this stage, the fact that he hasn’t tried to impose his authority in a heavy handed needless way shows good common sense and temperament to me.

There is probably plenty of cricketers who would have tried to publicly demote Ponting in some way just to show who is really in charge, Clarke appears to have been sensible and avoided going down that road.

The Aussie batting is looking strong again and they are in good nick with wicketkeepers also. To take two on tour, with a view to using one or both as batsmen shows how blessed they currently are with Brad Haddin and Tim Paine.

In the bowling department thay still have the experience of Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson and now big John Hastings seems to be establishing himself as the allrounder.

Steven Smith is also continuing with his development, I wonder if the long term plan for Smith is for him to be the spin option. Xavier Doherty got another chance and failed to make any major impact, that would probably be the main area of immeadiate concern to Clarke and the Aussie selectors.

Australia can’t keep chopping and changing in this department, if they don’t see Smith as the front line spinner then they surely have to stick with Doherty and give him a run in the side and a proper chance to prove himself.

But overall I think that the Aussie ODI team is in a decent place. Yes Lee, Hussey and Ponting will need replacing soon, but they have probably got a year or two left in them yet and that gives Australia valuable time to gradually blood their long term replacements.

Aussie 17 Man Squad Confusion

I have to admit I was just a touch surprised to hear that the Aussie sqaud for the 1st test is bigger than that of the entire English (test) touring squad, this would appear to be sending out mixed signals and the move could be interpretated in differing ways.

It could be viewed as a desperate attempt by Andrew Hilditch to buy himself some extra time to make some of the big decisions needed as he seems to be a man under some serious pressure at the moment, although this would surely be seen as a sign of weakness from him.

Naming Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson in the list seems to suggest that Hilditch is considering dropping Hussey or North. But in dropping either of them, surley Hilditch would just be finally admitting what a hell of a lot of people have been telling him for some time – and in doing so, probably weakening his position even further.

But there is a concern over Michael Clarke’s back again, so naming batting cover could be seen as a sensible decision.

The bowling department is also as equally confusing. There are 3 spinners and 5 seamers vying for the 4 spots. I would have to imagine that Johnson and Hilfenhaus are definate starters and that Bollinger has probably proved himself enough over the last 12 months to get recalled after his recent injury.

Nathan Hauritz would appear to be the man with most to worry about. He got hammered in India and now not only does he have all-rounder Steven Smith to compete with, but Xavier Doherty who performed well in the recent ODI series with Sri Lanka.

From an English point of view, I think Strauss would be only too happy to see Hauritz continue, England know full well what to expect from him and his confidence must be low at the moment. Smith is a bit unknown and I would imagine that England know little or nothing at all about Doherty.

One thing that all this does show is just how uncertain the whole Australian set-up is these days, when have we ever seen this sort of confusion before? This looks like the actions of a desperate man from Hilditch, it’s as if the recent run of defeats has scrambled peoples brains.

But could all this be wrongly building up England’s confidence though? Could the Aussies be lulling the English into thinking that they are all over the place at the moment and there for the taking?

If you look at things from a slightly different veiw point you could say that the much maligned Marcus North is actually in good form as he hit a century in the recent Indian tour, and that Australia were only a crooked Billy Bowden finger away from winning the 1st test of that same series. Crap teams don’t come that close to winning in India.

England would do well not to get sucked into this apparent confusion. If we think the Aussies are lurching from one disaster to another, we could be in for a shock.

Australian treadmill to resume again!

There is not too long to wait before the international calender is up and running again for Champions Trophy winners Australia, they travel to India to play 7 ODI’s starting on October 25th continuing with what must seem like a never ending run of playing cricket for Ricky Ponting and his team.

The India tour comes less than 3 weeks after the end of the Champions Trophy, a tournament they played on the back of a marathon tour of England which seen them first, play the World T20 at the start of the summer before the 5 test Ashes series, 7 ODI’s and also turn up for 2 Twenty20’s, both of which were abandoned for differing reasons.

After the India ODI series at least they can have a sustained period at home, when there though the workload continues with West Indies arriving for a 3 match test series starting on November 26th, followed by a 3 match test series against Pakistan over the festive period and then 5 ODI’s and ‘shock, horror, only one T20’ between Jan 22nd and Feb 5th before the small matter of resuming hostilites again with West Indies for just the 5 ODI’s and 2 T20’s between 7th Feb and 23rd Feb.

Three days after the last Windies game they play the first of two T20’s in New Zealand followed by another 5 ODI’s and 2 test matches, ending on March 31st. Next they travel to West Indies for the 2010 World Twenty20 starting at the end of April and running through the best part of May, then in June play an ODI in Dublin against Ireland en route back to England to play another 5 ODI’s against the English followed by 2 tests and 2 T20’s against Pakistan.

Although it’s not a day job and most people would give anything to swap places with these players, the workload is too much and good quality cricket must be getting diluted with lethargic ‘here we go again, I’m sick of the site of this team’ monotonous cricket.

The administrators at Cricket Australia must be filling their boots at the moment, over here we think Giles Clarke and his ECB mates are bad, even they could learn a new trick or two from Australia for setting this kind of a schedule.

With the way Ricky Ponting is batting at the moment you have to wonder what is to stop him coming back for the 2013 Ashes series, surely he will still be in the top six batsman in Australia even then. You just have to wonder will he feel like playing on at the end of this schedule, the prospect of a crack at England in Australia after the current marathon in 15 months time must be his main motivation and with this kind of mad scheduling perhaps a good time to call it quits.