Sport Cricket The start of Australian cricket’s long road back

The start of Australian cricket’s long road back

India cricket SCG
India's cricket heroes conquer Australia. Photo: Getty
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“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”  – F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s an ending but really, it’s just the beginning for Australian cricket’s long walk back to respectability.

Australia has lost its series against India, comprehensively beaten by an opponent at the peak of its powers and driven to fulfil its ambition to make history.

This is just the first chapter that has to be written by Australia’s re-engineered team, which is now trying to find its calling and self-belief.

“Compete with us. Smile with us. Fight on with us. Dream with us,” opined Australia’s cricketers with their “players’ pact” unveiled in October.

It was an act of reconciliation offered up by a once-cherished team that knew its public had fallen out of love.

Once uttered, those words had to be lived. For the most part – despite some early skirmishes between the captains – Australia lived up to its creed.

The Australians played with a sense of equanimity that has been alien to the spirit of the baggy green cap for generations.

True, nice guys make for likeable losers and the grumbles from the old guard about the lack of agro and attitude as the reason for defeat – as though a snarl and sledge can fix your batting yips – was the whinge of the warrior who can’t accept this is no longer his war to fight.

Tim Paine’s team was overworked and under-resourced, shorn of its star batsmen and toiling away with an exhausted bowling group that was being schooled by a determined, confident and focused opponent.

These are the days when those who choose to learn the lessons offered by the bitterness of defeat lay the foundations for future triumphs.

Langer Chappell Paine
Hard ask: Justin Langer, Greg Chappell and Tim Paine at the SCG. Photo: Getty

Australia’s batsmen simply need to work on technique and temperament.

Batsmen are getting starts. There were a remarkable 26 innings from Australian batsmen that ended with totals between 20 and 40 runs.

The Australians produced eight half-centuries but not a single centurion for the four-Test series (Marcus Harris’ 79 in the first innings in Sydney was the top Australian score), an unprecedented and ignominious stat for this team to carry.

The last time an Australian home team went through a four-Test series at home without a century-maker was 1882.

It doesn’t bear dwelling on.

Steve Smith and David Warner’s return in time for August’s Ashes campaign will not be enough to rectify the systemic weakness plaguing this Australian team.

With the prospect of a ravenous England being roared on by a raucous home crowd, Australia will need more than hit-and-hope as its first line of defence on what promises to be a punishing tour.

It’s clear that Australia’s faith in its pace bowling as a strike-force to be reckoned with also needs reappraisal.

India’s ability to produce huge totals in Melbourne and Sydney (7d-443 in Melbourne and 7d-622 in Sydney) was in sharp contrast to Australia’s inability to graft an innings any higher than 326 in Perth.

The fact Australia was unable to take 10 wickets in India’s first innings in two consecutive Tests must be addressed by selectors.

Pat Cummins is off the hook – he alone among the quicks was able to find something extra and remain a threat.

Mitchell Starc’s series has been a bust. He came into the summer as the new-ball strike bowler but his 13 wickets at 34.8 doesn’t justify the faith placed in him.

Starc hasn’t been good enough for long enough. And that needs to change.

Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant, and their teammates, will be immortalised in the pantheon of Indian cricket for conquering the final frontier – a series win on Australian shores.

They will also be long remembered by Australian fans who watched the series as a team of class and quality; a joy to watch.

A team that played with a mixture of ruthlessness and exuberance that was intimidating for its opponents and exhilarating for the tens of thousands of fans who came out to watch and support.

The Indian side has been everything Australian cricket should aspire to be.

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