Australia tour of India 2012-13 March 6, 2013

Khawaja, Smith will be considered - Arthur


Australia coach Mickey Arthur has said Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith will both be strongly considered for the third Test in Mohali after the team's innings defeat in Hyderabad. However, Arthur also said the group of batsmen on tour in India was the best Australian cricket had to offer and it was important to provide them with as much experience as possible in different conditions to allow them to develop into more rounded Test players.

Australia's batting in Hyderabad was so poor that they couldn't even manage in both innings what Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay compiled in their 370-run partnership. Australia were back at the ground in Hyderabad on Wednesday for a centre-wicket training session on what should have been the fifth day of the Test and the batsmen spent plenty of time working against spin.

Arthur, Michael Clarke and new selector on duty Rod Marsh have a week to decide on the line-up for the third Test but having been flummoxed by spin in both Tests and the tour match, Phillip Hughes is the man whose position appears in most danger. With Clarke's move up the order now confirmed, if Smith or Khawaja was to play it would likely be at No. 5.

"Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith have got to come into the reckoning at some stage," Arthur said. "When we have more of the same it will probably give us the same result. We are certainly going to have to have a look at what is our best top-six combination. We'd be silly if we didn't think about them. Whether they both play, whether one plays, whether none plays I'm not 100% sure but they've got to come very much into our thinking."

Despite the potential for changes, Arthur believes the struggles of the batsmen in India does not change the fact that the selectors have assembled the best group available. Hughes is the leading run-scorer this Sheffield Shield season and at the age of 24 has accumulated 21 first-class centuries, Ed Cowan continually makes starts at Test level, David Warner is a potential match-winner and Shane Watson's ability is vast, but so is the drought since his last Test hundred.

"I see that for us as our greatest challenge, making these guys the best we can possibly be," Arthur said. "If you looked at how we went in Australia, Eddie Cowan is a fighter. He has continually done enough. Is he going to win us games? Not sure. We need more runs out of Shane Watson. Phillip Hughes came back into the side and was successful in conditions that he was used to. It was always going to be tough for him here.

"Davey Warner averaged 47 in our international Test series in Australia. It's a challenge for him playing outside. We've just got to get as much experience into these players as we possibly can, because I do think they're the best players. There's absolutely no doubt. I've looked at a lot of players. This is our best young crop of batsmen that we have. We've just got to make them the best they can possibly be and try to fast-track them.

"I think they're realising some harsh lessons about playing in India. When I stood up at the start of the tour and said to them 'this is going to be the toughest cricket you've ever played', they looked and said 'yeah yeah right'. They're now realising it and they're like leeches for information. They're shocked at how hard it is."

As part of their strategies against spin, Hughes and Warner both tried to sweep R Ashwin early in their second innings in Hyderabad and perished doing so. After the match, Clarke said he was disappointed at the amount of cross-batted shots that had cost batsmen their wickets early in their innings and Arthur said those two dismissals in particular had raised his ire.

"Our whole conversation around this second Test match was about playing with a vertical bat not a horizontal bat," Arthur said. "So when we lost two wickets to the sweep I wasn't best pleased, put it that way, our first two wickets. Especially as our briefing that morning had been 'I hope you all noticed about how Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay went about their business'.

"Until they learn the harsh lessons of getting out and possibly losing their place because of it, they're not going to realise it. When you're batting and there's a lot of fielders around the bat, there's a massive TV audience and you can't score a run, you feel as if you can't get away. When there's no fielder there it's very easy to think 'I'm going to play my cards here because if I get on there, I score'. I keep telling them there's a reason why there's no fielders there. They want you to hit there. You're putting yourself in danger."

But as well as the younger members of the batting order, Australia desperately need more from their vice-captain, Watson, whose top score so far in the Test series is 28. Watson's last Test century came when Australia last visited Mohali on the 2010 tour. While Watson might benefit from the return to a productive venue with more in it for the fast men, Arthur said he didn't feel that Watson had been in bad form.

"I don't think it's a technique thing at all," he said. "Every time he has gone to the wicket, he has looked brilliant. But he's been getting out for 20s. I just pray every time he goes to the wicket there's a big score because I think once he gets that one big score, that will unlock the shackles. We really need Shane Watson firing now. Michael Clarke needs a lot of support in the batting."

After the Hyderabad loss, Clarke said that he had no choice but to move up from No. 5 and Arthur said while Clarke's new position was not decided, he would be comfortable with the best player of spin at No. 3 or No. 4 in the Indian conditions.

"It has to happen and Michael [Clarke] and I have been discussing it often," Arthur said. "It was fine when he was at five and we had Michael Hussey at six, there was batting down. He likes batting five, he's got a great record batting at five but when it starts impacting on our first innings and he starts running out of partners, then we thought it was time for us to have a look at it and he ran out of partners in the first innings. I don't mind if he bats three in the subcontinent. I would like Michael four in conditions outside of the subcontinent. He's good enough to bat anywhere, that's a given."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 9, 2013, 17:02 GMT

    I do not see how Phillip Hughes can continue in the Australian team. He has had three separate chances now to cement his position but has failed each time. He has numerous major flaws in his technique which means he cannot play the swingibg ball, short fast ball or tthe spinning ball. The fact that he was leading run scorer in the Shield prior to his latest recall should have been deemed irrelevant as long as these technixal deficiencies exist. A Test batsman is of no use if he can only score runs on batsnen-friendly home pitches against a medium-paced ball that does not move; these are not the conditions usually encountered on tour and it's time the selectors recognised this.

  • Justin on March 8, 2013, 12:28 GMT

    Maybe the bigger issue is where people come into the line up. I may be wrong on this (im sure someone will unload a bunch of stats) but these new guys (Hughes, Marsh, Khawaja etc) should be coming into the team at 5 and 6 not 3. Its a bit disappointing that some of the senior players didnt move up the order at the end of their careers to allow the new guys to come in at 5 and 6. Clarke moving to 3 or 4 is a good move and should shield the less experienced players. I guess that Hughes is most likely to be dropped so Khawaja could get another shot. Good luck to him if he does. Smith has also shown promise but again hasnt done enough in the side to keep his place. Overall i dont thing we could do much worse that the last result.

  • Mariam on March 8, 2013, 11:00 GMT

    @Johnno Watson is the key to regaining the ashes. I agree he has under achieved and is under the pump but if he performs in England like last time then our chances go from 20% to 45 %. The POMs don't have an allrounder which is one of the big advantages we have got if he can perform like last time. If his body holds up ( the key) and he opens I'm backing him to perform. Besides what would you prefer Cowan or Hughes averaging 31 or Watson averaging 25 with the bat and 25 with the ball. Least we know Watson can do it. I like him and Warner at the top with Khawaja at 3 and Clarke at 4, that to me looks like a solid top 4 at least for the ashes.

  • Brenton on March 8, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    If there's one batsman who deserves a shelacking it's Watson. He's played in India a lot with IPL and a previous test tour, he's gotten starts but hasn't gone on. Warner needs a kick up the backside too as he's also gotten starts and played in the IPL a lot. Hughes has never played in India before and is also batting in a new position. If there's one batsman who deserves a break it's Hughes. Khawaja needs to come in at 5 in place of Watson or Warner.

  • Rahul on March 8, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    I don't think anyone is doubting that changes our needed to both our batting and bowling. For the batting it has to be Khawaja and for the bowling either Starc or Johnson plus Lyon shoudl come in. Worse thing about the last loss was that even the Indian commentators felt sorry, the body language from our players was terrible, no talk in the field, heads were down, the keeper was too quiet, no stare downs from the bowlers, no energy or presence at all. Where is the mental dissintegration?My side - Watson, Warner, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Henriques, Wade, Johnson, Pattinson, Doherty, Lyon.

  • Allan on March 8, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    No doubt that Khawaja has to come in and desreves to come in based on shield and Ryobi form. I'm wondering how often a visiting team has lost two consecutive tests in India after batting first?Everybody knows ( thanks Leonard ) that getting wickets is generally harder in India, and getting runs in India perhaps somewhat easier but requires considerable patience mostly. Unless Khawaja comes in I don't think we can muster a total to bowl with five recognised batsmen because that total must be 500. Six batsmen would be preferable but the selectors are comprimising between having an allrounder supporting the bowlers and hoping he also is going to make runs. Assuming the lads don't suddenly take 9-100 today and score 500 in the next dig, or even if they do, they should go into the next test with;

    Cowan Warner Hughes Khawaja Clarke Henriques Wade Johnson Starc Lyon Doherty

    I prefer another batsman in the above lineup but we are short of options in the current squad.

  • hayden on March 8, 2013, 2:03 GMT

    @Chicagoan76 mate lay off the aus social issues bashing!!! if aus did have what your inferring (which is not true!!!) then khawaja would not have a baggy green cap or a spot on the tour of india ala south african sides until 92!!!! but he does, so give it a rest!!! every post you make has some stupid hidden agenda painting us as racist. like ive told you before stick to following the white sox, as aussie cricket and australian social issues are not your strong suit!!! @Shaggy076 give me a reason for cosgrove being frequently ignored despite strong form? his waist line may be large but his form since moving to tassie (even in SA he wasnt too bad in a poor team) has warrented been given a shot espechally given the incosistent way the national side has gone about its batting over the same peiriod in time.

  • Brenton on March 8, 2013, 1:49 GMT

    What I say will probably not be very popular. Open with Hughes. He's an opening batsman, give him 10-15 overs of pace to get used to the conditions. He's never played in India before unlike the other batsman who should know better. Once Hughes gets to 20-30 he usually goes on to make 100. He hasn't faced pace at all during these tests and only had one warm up match. Drop Warner for the remaining India series. He has been just as bamboozled as Hughes against spin, but has looked poor against pace as well. Clarke 3, Watson 4, Khawaja 5, Henriques 6, Wade 7. Khawaja at least plays with a straight bat and has patience. When we go to England open with Warner/ Hughes and drop Cowan. Also, why are we not playing another tour match during this 10 day break?

  • Dummy4 on March 8, 2013, 1:09 GMT

    @ Beertjie . What is the difference between OZ & NZ? In Oz, North is going south; and in NZ,the South (Southee) is going north. ( provoked by your argument in favour of Marcus North)

  • Sirio on March 8, 2013, 0:37 GMT

    @ Chicagoan76: There are other factors in play here that shed a light on the broader Aussie society.

    I love that statement. I am an Aussie and feels bad for these things to happen to anybody let alone "a born Pakistani". He is talented and his time will come definitely. Remember "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".

    This lad has a potential. All what he has to do is to keep on practicing and perform when he gets a chance. Captain and coach and board will NOT give him a chance as they have given to other mediocre. He just have to capitalise on his day and value the Value of his wicket. No Rick Ponting getting him run out business etc. Just focus and he will be fine. He just have to prove it on day to day basis.

    My prediction is that he will be rested for the coming up test matches and Steve Smith will be given an undeserving chance because of the "other factors in play here that shed a light on the broader Aussie society"