Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day January 15, 2012

No reason for Australia to get carried away yet

They know that to regain the No. 1 Test ranking, they'll almost certainly need to beat England, a different proposition from a crumbling Indian outfit

There have been plenty of promising performances from Australia in this series. David Warner scored a 69-ball hundred. The captain, Michael Clarke, made an unbeaten triple-ton. Ricky Ponting broke his century drought in style. Ed Cowan has emerged as a solid opener. Ben Hilfenhaus has been reborn as a strike bowler. James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have all bowled well.

But arguably the most encouraging sign came after the innings victory at the WACA. The Border-Gavaskar Trophy had been won, continuing Clarke's record of not having lost a series as captain, but he was adamant that his men would keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. "We haven't achieved much at this stage," Clarke said.

He's right. Since Clarke took over as captain in April, Australia have won a Test series in Sri Lanka, drawn in South Africa, drawn with New Zealand at home, and beaten India. The comprehensive nature of their victories over India has been remarkable, but it cannot be ignored that their opponents have been in disarray.

Australia's goal under Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur is clear. They want to return Australia to the top of the Test rankings. It is a simple objective that will be anything but simple to achieve. It is also a task that, due to how far they have slipped down the ICC table, is unlikely to be possible until the 2013 Ashes. They rose one place by beating Sri Lanka but still sit fourth. Avoiding the snakes in their path and climbing every ladder won't be straightforward.

It is easy to get carried away with a handful of victories. But it's important to remember that this side was beaten by New Zealand in Hobart last month, and bowled out for 47 by South Africa in Cape Town in November. Clarke took those failures personally. He knows that complacence, even in the next Test in Adelaide, would carry the risk of undoing much of their good work.

The very best teams are insatiable and aim to crush their opponent at every opportunity. So far in this series, Australia have done that. Their rotating group of fast bowlers has worked together to suffocate India's experienced batting line-up, and bowled them out six times for an average total of 229.

Their batsman have demoralised India in the field. From the time Cowan went leg-before to Zaheer Khan in Sydney until the moment Cowan was bowled by Umesh Yadav in Perth, India took 1 for 836. The Australia batsmen displayed concentration and a determination to completely dismantle their opposition.

It is easy to get carried away with a handful of victories, but it's important to remember that this side was beaten by New Zealand in Hobart last month, and bowled out for 47 by South Africa in Cape Town in November

But there remains room for improvement. Shaun Marsh has scored just 14 of the 1601 runs Australia have racked up in the series. He needs runs in Adelaide, especially with the prospect of Shane Watson returning for the tour of the West Indies in April. A prolonged lean patch for Marsh would almost certainly make him the man squeezed out to accommodate Watson.

The vice-captain, Brad Haddin, must hear the rapturous applause every time men like Ponting and Warner walk out to bat and wonder where the Australian public's love has gone when he heads to the crease. His duck at the WACA continued his poor patch during a series in which he has been noted mainly for his batting failures and dropped catches. In a winning side, though, it is easy to ignore such disappointments.

Australia will win 4-0 or 3-0 - or in the event of a miraculous Indian turnaround, 3-1 - and head to the West Indies full of confidence. But they know how much work remains ahead in order to regain the No.1 ranking. To get there, they'll almost certainly need at some point to beat England, an altogether different proposition to a crumbling Indian outfit.

But the next Ashes series is a year and a half away, and the exciting squad that is developing under the watch of Clarke and Arthur has the feel of a group that can challenge England. Warner, Pattinson, Pat Cummins, a rejuvenated Hilfenhaus and Siddle - this is a side full of promise. Things can change quickly, but for now they appear to be a team on the way up.

If they do stay together and knock off England in 2013, Clarke can say his men have achieved something great. For now, they deserve to celebrate regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. But this time next week, their focus needs to be back on the job.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rob on January 18, 2012, 7:19 GMT

    @scoopster35: Exactly what I was thinking. In fact, you've inspired me. If you eat Boyc's hat, I will use David Boons sweaty box as a butter dish !!

  • rob on January 18, 2012, 6:15 GMT

    @OhhhMattyMatty: "absolutely nothing to fear". You said it twice in the space of a few lines man. In the words of one of your script writers, 'Methinks the lady doth protest too much'. Getting a bit worried are we Matty?

  • Andrew on January 17, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    @ Sanj747 - you've changed your parameters in the one arguement! To get to #1, you have to be more consistant than other sides & improve on your previous series results. England for example lost 1-0 to India the previous time they played in England. A 4-0 whitewash is a massive reversal.Australia have every bilateral test series bar one (the Ashes) now in their keeping. The reason why we have slipped is that despite drawing or winning in AWAY series (SL & Saffaland) the Ozzys performances were not as imposing (SL we won the previous series there 3nil). I do agree that to be a "great" number 1 team, you have to win everywhere. England losing in India won't mean they are not worthy #1s, just not great #1s!

  • David on January 17, 2012, 3:46 GMT

    Sanj747, if no team has yet had "a sustainable period of winning away first and then at home" does that mean no team is number one? That seems illogical. I think we can recognise England as number one, without saying they are as good as Australia or the Windies at their peaks.

  • pepsi on January 17, 2012, 3:38 GMT

    @donda Are you really suggesting that the aussie cricket side (or any sporting team) should not bother about winning... just go out and slog and then bowl lots of bouncers and half volleys so the opposition could score quickly also?

    How much cricket would you watch if australia "Entertained" their way to 8th on the ICC rankings?

  • Ray on January 17, 2012, 2:25 GMT

    exactly right, not much has been achieved, one of the concerns is that it is still a very old team, the new blood introduced (Cowan, Marsh etc) are closer to the end of their careers than the start. The selectors must introduce some youth, starting with the replacement of Haddin, and bringing back Khawaja, who did not get the chances that Marsh is getting.

  • Nick on January 16, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    This Indian series has been encouraging, but has papered over the batting and wicketkeeping cracks of the Australian team.

    To be number one, we need to find a good batting line up.

    The only convincing guys in the top 7 are Warner, Clarke and possibly Hussey or Ponting in the short term.

    Watson is an al rounder and should not bat higher than 5 or 6. He only has 2 hundreds (as many as Warner has scored in 5 tests).

    Hussey is an opener and should open and Ponting should bat at 3 - there needs to be top order experience to transition the new guys in. Pushing Ponting down the order so he can do a lap of honour is not good for the side. Ponting and Hussey need to step up and then step aside when someone in state cricket makes a compelling case.

    Haddin's keeping and batting are not good enough. Wade needs to come in. The Adelaide test is the perfect time to do it.

    My top 7: 1. Warner 2. M.Hussey 3. Ponting 4. Clarke 5. Khawaja 6. Watson 7. Wade

  • Ishan on January 16, 2012, 19:49 GMT

    I wonder if we can send India home, and call New Zealand over to play the final test. I'd definitely be more of a contest...and shall indeed be a fitting conclusion to a wonderful, but unfulfilling 2 match series.

  • Dummy4 on January 16, 2012, 17:25 GMT

    As long as India dont win comfortably in Australia, England and South Africa, India cannot be a realistic contender for the No.1 Spot. And the same argument holds good for all these three teams as well. As long as they dont win convincingly in the sub continent, they cannot really be considered No.1. The world still awaits its most dominant cricket team since the decline of West Indies and fading away of the Aussies... England have a made head start now beating Aus fair and square in their own back yard and Aus seem to be building a nice young team with plenty of bench strength... Hope more teams become competitive and make this magnificent game interesting...

  • Bob on January 16, 2012, 16:13 GMT

    Speaking as an England supporter, I have to admit that I see the potential in this current Aussie side and the good players who are, for one reason or another, not in the team. It certainly augurs well for the future. However, as the article says, they haven't yet been tested to any degree, although I guess it was hoped that the Indians might provide sterner opposition than they have. They may well have the potential to get back to number one in the ICC Test Table, but that is largely a matter of luck, such as that which found India in that position. Whether this current crop will ever emulate the success of the eighties squad I find extremely doubtful but in a few years time I can see the number one position changing hands fairly regularly with England, Sth Sfrica and Australia battling it out.

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