Deja vu as Australia start tour in turmoil with Michael Clarke injured and David Warner dropped
Aussies arrive in India an unsettled side and England up next. Haven't they been here before?
Thursday 10 October 2013
Australia may have trouble keeping their eye on the ball as they begin their whistlestop tour of India today with a Twenty20 match in Rajkot. While the Indian public, no great fans of Test cricket, will be hanging from the rafters to catch a glimpse of the T20 thrash and the seven one-day internationals, the Aussies will be all too aware of the fact that England will be in action Down Under by the time they return home at the start of next month for the return Ashes series. It is already looking like not much has changed since the summer.
Australia may have won the rain-affected one-day series in England last month as some small-beer consolation for the Ashes defeat. And they come to India trying to displace the home side at the top of the ICC's one-day rankings. But Michael Clarke's team are not making the sort of progress they would like – or need to if they are to regain their status as formidable opposition.
Indeed, it is looking a lot like they have not moved on from where they were when they arrived in England in June – not least because Clarke himself is out of action, trying to recover from the same debilitating back injury that curtailed his involvement in the warm-up matches before the summer Ashes.
It was on the disastrous tour of India that the trouble first flared up in March, causing the batsman to miss a Test for the first time. That resulted in the promotion of vice-captain Shane Watson to captain – after he had been dropped for the previous Test for refusing to do his "homework" for the former coach Mickey Arthur.
George Bailey, the T20 captain, will be in charge for all the games, though the selectors will be hoping that Watson can be a central figure in the tour party. Given that his last score for his country was 143 at the Rose Bowl, and he has just helped Rajasthan Royals to reach the final of the T20 Champions Trophy, he is ideally suited to the role of mentor to a squad lacking experience – if he can shed his reputation for keeping himself to himself.
And it's back to the future – if he still has one – for David Warner, who began the tour of England with a suspension for punching Joe Root in a nightclub. The enfant terrible of Australian cricket appears intent on not growing up, as he has now been handed a suspended one-match ban by New South Wales after choosing to spend an afternoon at the races instead of turning out in a grade game for Randwick Petersham, as he is contractually obliged to do. If the Australians continue to follow the pattern of the summer, they will soon sack their coach and then lose the Test series before Christmas.
While Clarke has admitted that he might not be fit in time for the first Test against England in Brisbane on 21 November, the decision not to take Warner to India is almost as much of a concern. After all, the hard-hitting left-hander made his name in one-day cricket and has wide experience of playing in the Indian Premier League after five seasons with the Delhi Daredevils.
The Australia coach, Darren Lehmann, dropped him for the one-day series in England after the Ashes because of his lack of form in that format and told him to go back home and put some scores together for his state. So far, however, he has managed four and a duck in his two innings for the Blues in the Ryobi Cup.
Another sense of déjà vu comes with the recall of Brad Haddin behind the stumps in place of Matthew Wade. Haddin returned to the international fold for the recent Ashes and performed better than most, breaking the record for dismissals in an Ashes series. Wade, who is 10 years younger, was brought back in for the one-day series but registered two ducks with the bat. Haddin is sure to be picked for The Gabba, leaving the future of the promising Wade in doubt since his veteran rival has said he does not intend to retire until after the 2015 World Cup.
And it was a matter of turning back time, too, in the case of the spinners. Fawad Ahmed, the Pakistan-born leggie who was fast-tracked into the one-day squad in September following a tweaking of the law for immigrants in the Australian Parliament, has now been demoted again as the selectors once more turned to slow left-armer Xavier Doherty.
Lehmann himself has been left at home as well, with Steve Rixon moving up from his function as fielding coach to run the side. The coach is being rested even though he has only been in the job for four months, which is an indication of just how stressful it is being in charge of Australia these days.
India, who will be touring England next summer, have recalled Yuvraj Singh in an attempt to hang on to top spot in the rankings. The all-rounder's last one-day international was against England in January. The 31-year-old left-hander has forced his way back into the reckoning with a succession of big scores in domestic cricket.
Hot Spot is dismissed in DRS review Down Under
Hot Spot will not be available to help with decision-making during this winter's Ashes series after the Australian broadcaster Channel Nine chose not to use the technology.
Decisions will instead be analysed by the Eagle Eye ball-tracker – the Australian version of HawkEye – sound from the stump microphones and slow-motion replays when the Decision Review System is called for.
Warren Brennan, the inventor of Hot Spot, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "We're just moving on with things. Channel Nine have got a new deal with Cricket Australia, which I know has cost them a lot more money. I gather there had to be some restructuring of costs."
The England and Wales Cricket Board was not contacted in advance of the decision.
The cost of installing Hot Spot is around £6,000 a day for a four-camera system. The poor performance of the technology, especially during the summer's Ashes in England, was also a major consideration.
Hot Spot came under criticism during the Ashes series for various reasons, including the silicon-tape controversy. Before the fourth Test in Durham, a Channel Nine report alleged that a few England batsmen used silicon tape on the edge of their bats to evade Hot Spot – charges denied by England's captain, Alastair Cook, and the ECB.
Brennan then called for protective coatings to be removed from bats, and he has repeated his claims: "The point that I was trying to make was that it does significantly affect us. The testing that we've done is that when the coatings are on it does affect the Hot Spot signature.
"The disappointing thing is that Cricket Australia didn't engage at all with us to try and come on board and help with this situation. They just said: 'No, it's got nothing to do with us. It's Channel Nine's responsibility.'
"Cricket Australia is the only body that doesn't contribute to our costs for the DRS components. If bodies like Cricket Australia won't come on board and contribute to that, there's not really any point in us continuing."
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