Smith critical of Australian pitches
Australia's captain Steven Smith has criticised the nature of home pitches this summer, arguing that the Gabba and the WACA Ground in particular have work to do to ensure they regain their natural characteristics in the future.
Following the loss of the fifth and final ODI against India in Sydney, Smith noted the series' record tally of 3159 runs in a five-match limited-overs bout. He went on to state that Australian pitches needed to show more variety than had been the case this time around, when the Test matches against New Zealand and West Indies were also marked by dull surfaces, with the exception of a well-grassed Adelaide pitch for the inaugural day/night Test.
The man of the ODI series was India's prolific opener Rohit Sharma, but Smith reserved a special mention for his inexperienced bowlers. John Hastings, Kane Richardson and Scott Boland all shouldered a heavy load on wickets that offered precious little help, and were largely able to restrict India's talented top order to tallies within Australia's reach.
"It was quite remarkable wasn't it, to see over 3000 runs scored in five ODI matches," Smith said. "For me the most disappointing thing was the characteristics of our wickets. I'd like to see the Gabba and WACA produce the traditional fast and bouncy wickets that we're used to. I thought they were pretty slow and benign and it was very difficult for the bowlers.
"I was really proud of our bowlers throughout this series though, I thought they really stepped up at pivotal times, we've got quite a few bowlers out at the moment and quite a young, inexperienced attack and we were able to pull it back in every game including [the SCG], so I'm really proud of the performance of those guys."
Smith can at least be consoled by the fact that others at Cricket Australia are aware of the imbalance and eager to alter in for next season, when South Africa and Pakistan will be the touring teams. The CA team performance manager Pat Howard has said he will be working on more equitable surfaces for 2016-17.
"In an ideal world we've got some of the best fast bowlers in the world who like it hard, fast and bouncy and we're not getting that at the moment," Howard told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We're after the old fair balance between bat and ball and the unique characteristics [of each ground].
"And we do try and get the domestic cricket to try and mirror the Test stuff so we'll have to sit down and do that at the end of the year and make sure we get those better aligned. The balance probably hasn't been as good as we'd like this year."
There was somewhat more assistance for pace bowlers at the SCG on Saturday, and Smith bemoaned dropped catches and the scoring of only seven runs in the final two overs of Australia's innings as reasons for defeat. India, by contrast, held their chances and collared 22 from the last 10 balls of the match to squeak home.
"We got seven off the last two overs and we probably should have got a bit better than that, we were in a pretty good position with some wickets in the shed as well, so you probably want to score a few more off the last two overs," Smith said. "Having said that I think it was our fielding that cost us quite a lot. We dropped a couple of quite regulation chances and when you're dropping players like that they're going to come back and bite you."
Australia's prime solace from the match was a breakout century by Mitchell Marsh, even if his pursuit of three figures contributed to the late slowing of team momentum. Smith said the way Marsh started was most significant, taking a positive attitude and working the ball around despite a delicate match scenario. He has been more stilted at other times this season when granted batting opportunities.
"Anytime you get a hundred you get some confidence out of it and the most pleasing thing for me today was the way he started," Smith said. "He came out and was nice and positive from ball one, he hit the ball hard down the ground, he hit his sweepers, got himself in. We know when he gets himself in he's got incredible power and we saw that. Hopefully it's the start of something really special for Mitchell."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig