It is understood that the surprise selection of the unknown entity named Michael Beer has raised quite a few eyebrows in the Australian media and also some of the veteran players. However, this entire outcry about sacking Ponting in the middle of the Ashes if he loses the one at WACA and the hype about recalling Warne out of retirement is nothing but a media farce and is becoming a mockery of Australian Cricket. Mr. Dean Jones is not helping the cause either by going on air claiming that Warne would be available for the Boxing Day test if awarded Captaincy. Apparently the innings defeat in the Adelaide has hit the nation pretty hard, but I sincerely don’t believe it’s time to panic to such extremes.
First of all you never change a leader in the middle of any series, barring of course an injury, and never in the middle of all important Ashes. Secondly the selectors need to stay behind the team and support a group of core players. Even if the media may be hyping the thing a bit too much, there is some fault of Greg Chappell & Co with their chop chop at will policy that they have exercised so far. One test is no mean to judge any player, especially when he’s coming off of an injury lay-off, yet they dropped Bollinger after just one outing. They are sending out mixed signals by first saying they would back up Johnson right after the Brisbane debacle, then dropping him from the 14 men squad, and now claiming that he was merely rested.
Captain Ponting is also making things worst as he can’t seem to make up his mind. His indecisiveness is evident as he changes field like musical chairs, almost after every ball, maybe that’s why he fails to demand for a core set of players. An unsettled dressing room doesn’t help his cause either. When chips are down, your best bet is to have your best players, who are in form, to play at the position where they can have maximum impact. Thus I strongly feel Hussey and Watson should bat at #5 and #6. Watson may be a decent opener but he much devastating at #6. Since Australia has only Phil Hughes as the specialist opener, they might try Haddin to open. He does that in ODIs and is in terrific form. Use Steve Smith to bat at #7. Some thinking outside the box might change their fortunes.
Unfortunately, in the bowling front they don’t have much options than sticking to the combination of Hilfenhaus-Johnson-Siddle-Harris (I would go with 4 men pace attack at Perth) and hope they bowl in partnerships. Warne is undoubtedly their best spinner for last 3 decades, but going back to him is not the option for future. The other thing that might help is if Mr. Greg & Co can shove that chopping knife away and give some breathing room to all the players. The biggest worry for Australia has to be lack of runs at #3 and #4. It is those runs that can provide the much required boost for the Australian attack and it might just look different when bowling with confidence of a 500 plus total behind them for once in this series.
The Australian media, in the meanwhile can take a chill-pill, and wait for things to unfold at WACA. They should avoid getting on the band wagon of writing their national team off yet. It is a huge mountain for Australia to climb from here on if they want to win the Ashes, but didn’t India face the same on Day 4 at Eden Gardens in 2000-01 Border-Gavaskar Trophy? Yes, it is a game of many consequences that would begin at Perth on Thursday, as it would decide fate of the series, some of the home team players, and their skipper. However let’s not rush into calling Shane Warne to bowl or Mathew Hayden to bat for the Boxing day test yet.
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav